Twenty-eighth year. Since early 1985 I have been thinking about the topic of forgiveness. I have thought about it in the area of psychology, then more specifically in developmental, clinical, and counseling psychology. Then I have thought about it more broadly in the areas of psychiatry, social work, law, education, and philosophy.
The journey has brought me into the restorative justice movement, the peace movement, the battlefield, the clinician’s office, and the classroom. It has brought me to the Balkans, Belfast, Brazil, Bogota, Dublin, Firenza, Liberia, Padua, Roma, and beyond.
I have written so much on the topic that I cannot keep track of it all—articles for publications in Jerusalem, South Africa, Australia, Rome, America.
No publication, no thought, no application to hurting lives is higher than my most recent book, The Forgiving Life. Here is why: I wrote it from the heart, a heart that has close to three decades of experience with the term forgiveness.
I have come to realize that forgiveness is so much more than a merciful act toward someone who was unfair. To forgive is to embrace, embody, and then to personify forgiveness in one’s life–and then to others’ lives. To forgive is to touch the lives of the hurting, including the one who hurt you. Forgiveness is actually cultivating a life of mercy and then to leave a legacy of love in the world, a world that sometimes attacks and tries to kill love. The love I consider here is not, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “sentimental bosh.” No, it is the kind of love that is strong and in service to others. It is the kind of love that abides in the heart and does not come out only on special occasions. It is the kind of love that becomes part of a person.
The Forgiving Life is basically a Socratic Dialogue, in the spirit of Plato’s writings, in which two good-willed people grapple with the notion of forgiveness until they understand it as best they are able today. The dialogue is between Sophia, who has a lot of forgiveness miles on her, and the feisty Inez who wishes to cast off the shackles of fear and anger.
The dialogue has allowed me to go considerably more deeply into the topic of forgiveness than ever I have done before. The dialogue, at the same time, makes it my most accessible work, available to anyone who wishes to spend a bit of time with this life-giving topic of forgiveness, and perhaps to allow that topic to transform one’s life.
I am indebted to Plato for showing me the way to accessibility. I am indebted to Aristotle for showing me what the moral virtues are, including forgiveness. Thank you, gentlemen. I hope you are proud that your ideas, from over 3,500 years ago, are living, although imperfectly, in my heart as I pass on your legacy in the hope of passing on a legacy of love and forgiveness to others.