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Real Problems, Practical Strategies, Clunky Semantics
on August 25, 2013
I appreciate what Spring set out to accomplish with this book, but many of her arguments boil down to thin semantics. In her logic, the only way to not forgive and avoid "dysfunctional" behavior is through "acceptance."
She explains that "acceptance" and "forgiveness" are different things. I don't believe they are. What I understand forgiveness to be is this: 1."Giving up" (getting back to the etymology of the word "forgive") the right to hate and escalating retribution (step 2 in Spring's "acceptance" process) and 2. Recognizing the humanity and fallibility of the other person (step 5 in Spring's "acceptance" process). As long as those two are covered, for me it's forgiveness. Spring can call it what she likes, but I disagree. You don't have to continue the relationship or absolve the guilt of the other person to forgive this way (which she points out, but for some unknown reason thinks this doesn't count as forgiveness).
What she calls "genuine forgiveness" I would call rapprochement, or restoration of harmony. Contrary to Spring's concept, I believe that forgiveness does not need to be interrelational. The establishment of harmony, however, does. One may not choose to reconcile to the violator in the establishment of harmony, but you have allowed him to "make amends" and come to amiable terms with you (you can at least wish well for him). You may never trust him again, but you have released him of his debt.
For me, the true gem of this book lies not in the chapters about healthy responses to offense, but in the chapters about the dysfunctional. Cheap forgiveness is a danger I never previously considered, and Spring offers compelling examples as well as powerful strategies to avoid such self-belittling impulses. I recommend the book, if only for this section.
Also, don't listen to the reviewers complaining about the so-called "sexist" pronoun shorthand for victim and offender ("she" and "he," respectively). It makes the book very readable.