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How Can I Forgive You?: The Courage To Forgive, the Freedom Not To Hardcover – February 3, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Abrahms Spring, a clinical psychologist, follows up her bestselling After the Affair with this new self-help manual that aims to provide a better way to forgive or not forgive others. With the assistance of her husband, and in clear, insightful writing, Abrahms Spring draws on many case studies to fully analyze four categories of forgiveness: cheap forgiveness, refusing to forgive, acceptance and genuine forgiveness. The author is convinced that morally and spiritually a person is no more required to forgive an unrepentant offender than he or she is to love him. When someone who has been truly wronged and forgives too easily (cheap forgiveness), that person is not acting in their own best interest, but rather preserving a relationship at any cost. An absolute refusal to forgive Abrahms, Spring posits, is also harmful to the injured person. Although punishing the offender may provide a sense of power, it also fosters negativity and self-isolation. The author advises that when genuine forgiveness is impossible, because the injury is too great or the offender will not apologize, a better decision than holding onto anger is to work through the injury, or acceptance. This healing process will lead to emotional resolution and the ability to move on with one's life. Genuine forgiveness, Abrahms Spring maintains, occurs when both parties negotiate a process during which the hurt person expresses his or her pain, and the offender apologizes and takes responsibility for his or her poor behavior. In the end, this is a thoughtful exposition on the nuanced role of forgiveness in relationships that goes beyond the average self-help book.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

“Spring really shines.... Armed with her insights, offenders and those they’ve offended have hope of recovery.” (Bellingham Herald)

“A truly stellar book putting forgiveness in a new, revealing light and provides clear steps to turn wounds into wisdom.” (Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., author of Minding the Body, Mending the Mind)

“This book is a treasure trove for anyone who has ever felt betrayed or hurt by a personal relationship.” (Peggy Papp, author of Couples on the Fault Line: New Directions for Therapists)

“Clear, insightful…a thoughtful exposition on the nuanced role of forgiveness in relationships that goes beyond the average self-help book.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A fresh and original approach to an ancient challenge.” (Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., author of Getting the Love You Want)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First edition (February 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060009306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060009304
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #426,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is fantastic. Instead of the typical "forgive or don't forgive" as being your only two options, it gives you a way to deal with, get over, and release yourself from past hurts. It's not always possible to forgive someone who's hurt you if they haven't shown any effort to repair the damage, and choosing not to forgive them simply poisons your life. This book teaches another alternative, acceptance, and walks you through the exercises needed to "get over" past hurts. One thing I really like is that it also helps you re-examine the things that have happened to you and look at them in an honest, broader scope. Bottom line--I think it's going to dramatically help me heal the numerous past hurts I've been hanging onto once I go through each exercise, and I'd highly recommend it!
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be very supportive of multiple situations that would require forgiveness, but it was primarily targeted at people dealing with post-affair syndrome. There were a lot of case examples to help you feel like you weren't alone, but it edged on being too many stories and not enough help. The help comes a little later in the book. The best part about this book was simply guiding you to identify what you need from the hurting party in order to grant forgiveness. There are a lot of tips for both parties in a situation, so this is a good choice for people on both ends of an affair, but I do suggest reading "After the Affair" first because the author makes a lot of references.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr. Janis Abrahms Spring has written a wonderful book here. She talks about refusing to forgive, which breeds bitterness, and Cheap Forgiveness, which is "an inauthentic act of peacekeeping that resolves nothing." This is usually comes about when the hurt party is fearful about losing a relationship with someone who hurt them, or where the hurt person believes quick forgiveness is what's required by their spiritual beliefs. Ultimately, Cheap Forgiveness is a position of weakness. It doesn't build trust in the relationship or heal the hurt person. It just sweeps the offense under the rug.

Genuine Forgiveness, according to Dr. Spring, is the most fulfilling type of forgiveness but requires the participation of both the hurt party and the offender. It's a transaction, and is conditional on repentance and restitution on the part of the offender. In other words, the offender has to acknowledge the pain the hurt party felt, apologize genuinely, non-defensively and responsibly, and work hard to regain the trust of the hurt person. Only then can the hurt party offer the offender Genuine Forgiveness -- a vital building block for future relationship between the two.

But sometimes the offender is not available to participate in forgiveness. She might be dead, or he might be unwilling to admit that there was a wrong committed or deny that he has any responsibility. What then? Dr. Spring offers a third way -- a beautiful, thoughtful, helpful third way -- Acceptance. This is a path toward healing which the hurt party can travel alone. In her book, Dr. Spring suggests ten steps to get to Acceptance of the offense. By working through each of these steps, a person can learn and grow beyond the pain, beyond the hurt, and move on.
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Format: Hardcover
Having just emerged from a Kafkaesque nightmare where I was harassed, slandered and chased out of an intentional community by a sociopathic bully, Dr. Spring's insights are a balm to a tender soul.
Having been the target of overt campaign of "shaming, shunning and ostracization" I struggled with many conflicting feelings. The injustice fed into fury and I plummeted into a spiralling anger, resentfulness and obsessional thinking.
I resisted the facile advice of letting go or forgiving the offender. If only I could bring this man to justice, then I would feel better. When I heard Dr. Spring interviewed on NPR by Diane Rehm I recognized that my desire to "out" my offender would never lead to liberation and healing. I was entrapped in the quicksand of self-isolation and negativity.
After reading this book I was able to reconnect with my "inner goodness" and come to that place of "Radical Acceptance." I suspect that I will always feel some pain around this incident in my life, however, by embracing acceptance and the grief this process evokes, I am free to move on and persevere with the aspects of life that nourish me. I will never allow anyone intervene between my heart and my inner goodness.
For anyone who has been harmed intentionally or unconsciously by an abuser, bully or offender, this work is manna to the soul.
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Format: Paperback
After reading this author's "After the Affair" several times, this book is a great next step. She gives solid information, with good direction, without being judgemental. Her case histories are also helpful and poignant.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent self-help advice about dealing with betrayal from others. It tells you how you can choose alternatives in responding to betrayal other than total forgiveness. Importantly, a person must accept what has happened (i.e., the betrayal), analyze the situation, recognize and choose from alternatives about dealing with the betrayal, and "move on." Revenge or retribution, a natural impulse, is shown to just be counter-productive and prolong the emotional pain. I have found the information in this book very helpful in my own life.
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