Tap into the power of the Divine. Learn how to forgive—and be forgiven.
Everyone knows that forgiveness is a virtue and a key to emotional, spiritual and even physical well-being. But learning how to actually forgive—or to accept forgiveness, as the case may be—is a sacred art few of us have mastered.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Writing from personal experience and her broad knowledge of many faith traditions, Marcia Ford offers a new perspective on forgiveness and reconciliation, an approach rooted in the Spirit that can be learned by anyone no matter how deep the hurt. Through real-life examples, penetrating reflections, scriptural references and practical suggestions, Ford outlines the steps that one by one can help you to forgive, including:
Coming to terms with anger, bitterness and resentment
Understanding the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation
Taking the initiative, even when you’re the one who’s been wronged
Strategies for listening “with the heart” in emotionally charged situations
Knowing when to forgive and forget—and when to forgive and take action
Ways of allowing the power of the Divine to work through you
Finding compassion for others—and for yourself
… and much more
“Worth a hundred other books on prayer and spirituality. Do we want to experience God? There is no better way to start than by forgiving the friend or relative who has hurt us.”
—Robert Ellsberg, author of The Saints’ Guide to Happiness
“I thought I knew everything there was to know about forgiveness, until I read this book.”
—Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins, editor of Yom Kippur Readings: Inspiration, Information and Contemplation and Rosh Hashanah Readings: Inspiration, Information and Contemplation
“I dare a person to finish this book without reflecting on someone due—or overdue—forgiveness. With poignant personal and spiritual examples, Ford guides readers on the path to make this closure happen.”
—Carol Fitzgerald, founder, faithfulreader.com
“A gentle and wise reminder to forgive where you can, and an accessible guide to help when you can’t.”
—Frederic Luskin, PhD, director, Stanford Forgiveness Project, and author of Forgive for Good
“With wit, clarity and candor, Marcia Ford unravels the knots and tangles of complex subjects [with] insights often gained from personal experience.... Affirming and humbling ... evokes a welcome sense of relief, gratitude and hope.”
—Palmer Jones, director, explorefaith.org
This is really a book to savor. Marcia makes these tough challenges of forgiving seem possible and makes me believe I’m ready to find God’s grace.
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MARCIA FORD BIO
Marcia Ford is a former editor of Christian Retailing magazine, an Explorefaith.org columnist and frequent contributor to Publishers Weekly. The author of eighteen books, including Finding Hope: Cultivating God's Gift of a Hopeful Spirit (SkyLight Paths); Memoir of a Misfit and Traditions of the Ancients, she was the religion editor of The Asbury Park Press for ten years. She is also a former editor with Charisma and Ministries Today magazines and the ibelieve.com website. Her other books include Meditations for Misfits; 101 Most Powerful Promises of the Bible and Restless Pilgrim: The Spiritual Journey of Bob Dylan (with Scott Marshall).
Q&A WITH MARCIA FORD
With so many books on the market about forgiveness, what sets yours apart from the others?
There are many excellent books on forgiveness, and I list nearly two dozen at the end of my book. Some are based on clinical experience, others on personal experience, and others on biblical insights. What I felt was needed was a book that pulled all of that together to help dispel the many misunderstandings about forgiveness that I’ve heard people express. I also thought a healthy dose of appropriate humor would help the discussion greatly.
What, then, do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of forgiveness?
Actually, there are two that are tied for the top spot on the list of myths with regard to forgiveness. One is that forgiveness means reconciliation. That is simply not true. You can genuinely forgive another person without feeling forced to continue a relationship with him or her. Another myth is that forgiving others gives them psychological power over you. Also not true. Forgiving means taking the high road; it empowers rather than weakens you.
What are some reasons people hesitate to extend forgiveness to people who have hurt them?
Here are just a few: They find it embarrassing. It hurts their pride. They get some kind of payoff for withholding forgiveness. They don’t understand how a lack of forgiveness hurts them. They have no awareness of the freedom that forgiveness brings. There are so many more reasons; it’s sad, because these misunderstandings only serve to make people bitter.
What particular struggles have you had in forgiving others?
Thankfully, very few. I discovered the positive power of forgiveness as a young adult and never forgot the lessons it taught me. That made me more aware of the evidences of unforgiveness that I saw all around me, and my bewilderment over that lack of forgiveness prompted me to listen, pay attention, and try to figure out what the problem was—or rather, what the problems were.
In your book, you offer some compelling examples of forgiveness in the world. Tell us briefly about several of those stories.
One that comes immediately to mind is the overwhelming expression of forgiveness from the Amish community following the school shooting there, which happened after The Sacred Art of Forgiveness was published. Another example I write about in the book is the 1994 civil war in Rwanda, in which unimaginable atrocities were committed by both the Hutus and the Tutsis—and how small but significant gestures of forgiveness in the aftermath helped bring about a measure of healing.
You tell your readers that there are times when they need to ignore the adage “forgive and forget.” What do you mean by that?
Sometimes we need to “forgive and remember” so we never allow others to abuse us again. In any tragic or traumatic situation involving atrocities or abuse, “forgive and remember” serves as a much more effective motto.
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- Throughout the book, Ford looks at some common sayings about forgiveness. What are some sayings that you don’t understand or don’t agree with? Why do you feel the way you do about them?
- Sometimes forgiveness seems impossible, yet Ford tells stories of people who forgave offenders who committed acts like murder. How do you think you would respond if you were in a similar situation? Where do you think the power to forgive to that degree comes from?
- One of our greatest challenges is learning to forgive ourselves. Why do you think that is? What is it that has kept you from forgiving yourself, either now or in the past? What would you say to others to help them forgive themselves?
- Ford calls a forgiving spirit a sign of maturity. What do you see as the relationship between being a forgiving person and being a mature person?
- Jesus told Peter, one of his disciples, that we are required to forgive a person not seven times, as Peter suggested, but “seventy times seven.” Many scholars have commented on what Jesus meant by that, but what does it mean to you personally? How are we to interpret his words and apply them to our lives in the twenty-first century?
- In chapter three, Ford writes about the regret people may experience as the years go by and they remain estranged from someone they should have forgiven or sought forgiveness from. Look forward to the years ahead—what regrets do you think you may experience, and what can you do today to avoid those regrets?
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