Customer Reviews: How Can I Forgive You?: The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To
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on April 8, 2004
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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on January 6, 2006
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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on March 7, 2007
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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on February 19, 2004
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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on January 12, 2007
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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on November 5, 2006
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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on September 24, 2013
I have been a state court trial judge for almost 17 years, trying all types of felony cases, rape, capital murder,kidnapping, assault, arson you name it.

In that time I have seem victims and victim's families trying to cope with horrible things that have been done to them. Often, the worst thing done to them is our Christian guilt trip that they are obliged to forgive the criminal that committed some terrible crime against them. 90% of the time, the criminal refuses to apologize, say he is sorry, or ask for forgiveness. I have seen families destroyed because they think they have to forgive some monster for killing their child.

So a few years ago I discovered "How Can I Forgive You?" book and it made a lot of since. Some people do not want, ask, or deserve to be forgiven. I, as the judge, am not in the forgiveness business that is for God. So, I purchased some of these books and when my heart tells me (as it did today)that somebody is really is in pain over this, I give them this book. I hope it helps. A murder victim's son told me she had been trying to forgive the killer for 3 years but after reading this book she was at peace.

I don't see a lot of peace in my profession but maybe in a small way this book has brought some people a little of it.
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on May 15, 2013
I have been struggling with my husband's infidelity for 18 months now. This is round #2.

Round #1 was physical infidelity 25 years ago when he was away for many months for work. I only learned of it when I was diagnosed with STDs several months later. Even then initially he denied it and suggested I was the unfaithful one.

Round #2 is emotional infideltiy with a woman he works with. He refused to believe there was an issue with this 'friendship'. Two counselors told him it was an inappropriate relationship. Rather than end it he stopped seeing both counselors. It ended only after he found out this woman was also pursuing another married man in the building.

Once I discovered her texts and photos and asked her why she was contacting my spouse nights, holidays and weekends, she escalated to driving up and down our street, shining her headlights into my home at night, calling the house, and increasing the numbers of texts and photos she sent to my husband. She went as far as taking mail I've sent him (a federal crime, yes I've opened an investigation with the postal inspector). Her attempts to demean me and destabilize our relationship were nothing short of a serious emotional disorder. Of course, it isn't entirely her fault. My husband was thoroughly enjoying the attention he was receiving and reciprocating until he realized what he had gotten himself into.

With the help of an outstanding counselor, I'm putting my life back together, piece by piece. I thought so highly of this book I wrote the author to thank her.

Learning that how I dealt with round #1 was unhealthy for me and having the author explain there are two different types of healthy forgiveness was a godsend. I was struggling with forgiveness and thought it wouldn't be possible for me. I now know I can do it and feel at peace about it.

There are some critical reviews for suggesting the other partner may have some responsibility. Early on in my healing I would have been upset to have been told that. There is some truth to it though. In most cases if you're willing to honestly look at yourself and your faults, you may realize you made room for someone else, maybe not intentionally, but it was there nonetheless.

For everyone out there dealing with this, you have my sympathy and understanding. It's not an easy road. If you had asked me a year ago if I was going to make it I would have responded with "I don't know". Today the answer is ABSOLUTELY! I've read many books. How Can I Forgive You was one of the most helpful for me. You can recover from this and be happy. Trust me.
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on March 18, 2015
OUTSTANDING. I have been stuck trying to forgive my husband and as I read this book. This book warns against "cheap forgiveness" (sweeping the problem under the rug) and gets into the heart of how different types of people handle pain and anger, where it comes from and what to do about it. In this book I not only understood myself better but also my husband, my mother, children and others and how they handle their feelings.
I have read numerous books and have even done some counseling in my earlier years and rarely get excited about a book. However, this is definitely one of the most helpful and on target books I have seen. It is well-written in that it is simple, straightforward and very easy to read. Many people in 12-step programs would benefit, and even more if they are not. You will likely find and understand yourself in this book as well as those you love, including the person/people who hurt you. This book will help you heal yourself and your current (and future) relationships, including with the person who hurt you, whether you decide to work things out with them or move on and let them go, I am buying additional copies of this one for my children.

I was so confused and stuck and so glad I picked this up. I thank the authors for helping me find some peace during one of the most difficult and painful times in my life.
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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.
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