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Forgiving & Not Forgiving: A New Approach to Resolving Intimate Betrayal Hardcover – August 3, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
In a stimulating book that seeks to challenge the common wisdom, psychotherapist Safer (Beyond Motherhood: Choosing a Life Without Children) examines our Judeo-Christian concept of forgiveness. Though positioned for general readers, the tone and style of this book are more thoughtful than prescriptive; it will most likely find its market among mental health professionals and others with the background to absorb Safer's sophisticated arguments. The "intimate betrayals" involve hurtful behavior by family, lovers and friends, and exclude actions by strangers. Though marital infidelity is included, the majority of examples are of breaches between parents and children, some of which are quite disturbing. Forgiveness, Safer says, is not a "natural" reaction to damaging behaviors, though it's a cornerstone of our society. Drawing on her 25-year practice, she describes traumatic acts of family brutality, incest, alcoholism and compulsive gambling. She analyzes how the individuals involved have resolved their betrayals, evaluating each approach in relation to religious thought, as explained by a Jewish Reform rabbi and a Catholic priest. In essence, Safer is suggesting that a reasoned process for coming to terms with wrongdoing is more appropriate than the kind of blanket forgiveness that's prevalent today. The end result may not be forgiveness, but the value, she says, is in thorough examination and increased self-knowledge. The required steps in the process are "re-engaging" (with the betrayer, the act, the ensuing emotions and reactions) and "recognizing" the significance of the ordeal, which allow "reinterpretation" of the motives of both parties. Agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh of the Virginia Barber Literary Agency. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Safer, a therapist with more than 25 years of experience, claims that sometimes the only way to achieve inner peace is by going against the prevalent Judeo-Christian belief that forgiving your enemies is unequivocally the right thing to do. She distinguishes between true and false forgiveness and, rather than accepting that dichotomy, creates a new category she calls thoughtful unforgiveness. She points out that if you lie to yourself about having forgiven someone when you really haven't, you're going to cause yourself far more psychic pain than if you acknowledge that you are not yet ready to forgive. While this is not a particularly amazing bit of news, libraries that have collected some of the recent titles lauding forgiveness as a panacea may wish to add this book as an alternative viewpoint.APamela A. Matthews, Gettysburg Coll. Lib., PA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Every Yom Kippor, I lead a forgiveness meditation at my synagogue. I usually precede it with some comments on forgiveness and on meditation. After reading this book, I plan to add another dimension -- a meditation on NOT forgiving.
Safer cuts through this nonsense with a scapel, and reassures the injured parties that it may be necessary to withhold forgiveness in order for the intimate betrayal to heal. She skewers those who would offer "helpful advice" which consists of "forgive and forget" and its lemma, "Get on with your life."
Unfortunately, she relies upon a retrograde Catholic Priest, a former Lutheran minister, Richard Neuhaus, who gives his own warped interpretation of what the Christian doctrine of forgiveness is all about. Neuhaus says that anything less than absolute forgiveness is worthy of damnation. He has yet to forgive any of those who critique his own rigid theological inerrancies. Neuhaus states "It is morally imperative to forgive in all circumstances." Res ipsa loquitur.
Fortuunately, she is able to demolish this demonical straw boss of a Neuhaus, and the remainder of the book sings with joy, hope and freedom. True forgiveness looks at the betrayal, candidly weighs what is necessary to make the injured party whole, and acts accordingly. False forgiveness, doubles the injury without the necessary healing. Advising an other to forgive in order to relieve one's own conscience is the true evil, and for this Neuhaus is justly condemned. If I have not been injured, then how can I order an other to forgive? Total and unconditional forgiveness of an intimate betrayal does not come easy. When it is possible, the rewards are plentiful. Been there, done that! But a forgiveness that is incomplete beats hatred of self, and revenge towards others. And few have the fortitude of Job. And those of us that are yet unable to completely, totally, and without reservation, forgive the betrayer, may not be saints, but we are not the sinner who betrayed us.
Safer's life journey is not complete, yet she offers us a ride as she moves to a better place.