forgiveness

Posted by on Dec 1, 2016 in | 0 comments

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  • The church, confession, forgiveness and male sexual abuse: from an interview with Patrick O’Leary

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    Extract:

    As a therapist and a researcher in the area of male sexual abuse, the question of forgiveness is a pertinent one, although I see this more clearly now, than I once did. In the past, due to my own experiences of growing up Catholic in a school in which those hearing young men’s confessions were also subjecting them to violence and abuse, I was not always open to the possible significance of forgiveness in other men’s lives. In therapy contexts I would have been more likely to explore other areas of the conversation rather than open space for discussion about the meaning of forgiveness to the particular person concerned. I would have more easily adopted a position of condemnation towards the perpetrator of abuse rather than see the possible relevance or helpfulness of forgiveness. I would have been more open to survivors expressing outrage than exploring notions of forgiveness.

    In recent years, however, I have come to see that for some survivors of abuse, forgiveness can be one of the few options available to them to move their lives forward. This seems particularly true for those who feel they have no option but to live in close relationship with the perpetrator of the abuse, or those for whom their entire social networks and family will continue to be in relationship with the person who was responsible for the abuse they experienced. I have come to realise that some of the people consulting me do not have the same sort of options as I do to sit in condemnation of the perpetrator of the abuse they experienced. This has been a bit of a wake-up call to me, as I have come to see how limiting it can be for a counsellor to take an absolute stand in relation to forgiveness.

  • Re-thinking deathbed forgiveness rituals— Lorraine Hedtke

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    In this article, I want to question how forgiveness has been described in recent medical models of death and bereavement. I believe that these models have at times promoted unnecessary deathbed conversations in which awkward attempts to rush the process of forgiveness may serve only to further distance us from our connections with our deceased loved ones. I also want to offer some alternatives to commonly held assumptions in the discourse of forgiveness. To begin though, I will consider some of the common modernist understandings of forgiveness that influence work with people who are dying.

  • Coming to terms with the events of September 11th: an interview with Kenneth V. Hardy

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    Extract:

    With the city in which you live still struggling to come to terms with the deaths of 3,000 people on September 11th, and with military retaliation still occurring in Afghanistan, in some ways it seems a strange time to be talking about forgiveness. Living and working as you do in New York City, perhaps we could begin by talking a little about your experience of September 11th and subsequent events …

    Not long ago I wrote a short piece about September 11th entitled ‘After dusk and before dawn’. It seems to me that we are at a critical time in this country and that actually it is very relevant to be talking about broader issues such as forgiveness, compassion, and how we come to terms with injustice, privilege and loss of life.

    Personally, I found the events of September 11th profoundly emotional and difficult to come to terms with. Living and working in New York City, we had a close-up view of the devastating events of that day. Here at the Ackerman Institute of the Family, many of us continue to be involved in working with firemen and with the police, and some of us were intimately involved in responding to the events of the day itself. We continue to meet together and talk about what is involved in this work and we remain in touch with the ongoing experience of families who have lost loved ones. Three thousand people died on that day and this means that the lives of three thousand families and countless friends and other relatives can never be the same. That is a grief of vast proportions.

  • The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness— Book Review by Ruth Pluznick

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    Editor’s note: We approached Ruth Pluznick to write a review of Simon Weisenthal’s book, ‘The Sunflower: On the possibilities and limits of forgiveness’ because we believe its subject matter directly relates to the issue of responding to trauma. Responses to trauma do not only involve questions of healing, but also questions of justice. Both the content and style of this book seem highly relevant to our field and Ruth makes some of these links at the end of her review. While Ruth was writing this piece, Simon Wiesenthal died at the age of 96. It seems all the more appropriate to include this review of his book in these pages.

  • Women’s outrage and the pressure to forgive: an interview with Jussey Verco

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    Extract:

    Because of the ways in which forgiveness is spoken about in the broader Christian-influenced culture and also in the mental health field, survivors of childhood sexual abuse are often placed under strong pressure to forgive the person who perpetrated abuse against them. Many women report that when they have accessed a group or counselling, that there has been an emphasis on forgiving the perpetrator and that this step is seen as necessary for healing.

    As a worker, I am conscious that everyone goes through their own unique process in relation to coming to terms with the effects of sexual abuse. For a small number of women with whom I have worked, forgiveness has played an important part in their healing process and for them, the pressure to forgive may not have negative consequences. It may have been a process of their own choosing.

    However, for most women with whom I’ve worked, the pressure to forgive can be oppressive. For many women survivors, there has been no acknowledgement of guilt or even of any wrongdoing by the person who perpetrated the abuse. In many situations the women have not been believed or have been viewed as in some ways culpable for the abuse to which they were subjected.

  • Almost twenty years on … reflecting on ‘Father Daughter Rape’ — Elizabeth (Biff) Ward

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    In 1984, Biff Ward wrote ‘Father Daughter Rape’ (The Women’s Press) one of the first books to address the issue of childhood sexual abuse. In this short reflection she looks back at the writing of this book and the question of forgiveness.

  • Not in our names: The work of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation: an interview with Renny Cushing

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    Extract:

    Perhaps it would be appropriate to start with the title of your group. Can you explain the role of your group and why you are emphasising reconciliation …

    Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation is a national organisation of people who’ve lost someone to murder and who oppose the death penalty. Our opposition to the death penalty is victim-centred and victim-focussed. We are determined to refute the commonly held beliefs that all victims want the death penalty, and that we somehow need the death penalty in order to overcome our trauma and grief. We are trying to point out that actually there are thousands of people in this country who have lost somebody to murder who don’t think that a ritual killing by the state is going to accomplish anything, other than a further loss of life. We primarily oppose the death penalty, not so much because we’re concerned about what it does to killers, but because of what it does to us as victims. We believe it hinders the healing process and makes us become complicit in further killing.

  • Self-forgiveness— Sue Jackson

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    Extract:

    Some years ago a young woman came to see me in great distress. She was pale and thin, her skin was grey and she had dark circles under her eyes. She looked very small in her oversized coat. ‘Janet’ explained that she had come under duress. Her parents, siblings and General Practitioner were all extremely worried about her and it was for this reason that she had finally picked up the phone and arranged an appointment with a therapist.

    Janet outlined her situation in the following terms:

    Two weeks previously, on a Friday night, she was travelling home from Melbourne to the country, to spend the weekend with her parents. She had had a few drinks after work with some friends, but had not stopped for dinner. Halfway home, she fell asleep at the wheel. The car drifted to the wrong side of the road, where it collided with another car travelling in the opposite direction. Both the young driver and his girlfriend in the other car were killed instantly. Janet, who only awoke at the point of impact, emerged uninjured.

  • Forgiveness and child sexual abuse: A matrix of meanings— Alan Jenkins, Maxine Joy & Rob Hall

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    Extract:

    he concept of forgiveness, along with notions of apology and atonement for wrongs, can constitute highly significant preoccupations for individuals and communities whose lives have been affected by abuse. People who have been abused, those who have acted abusively and members of their families and broader communities may all have concerns and hopes about forgiveness and atonement. In the aftermath of sexual abuse, concerns about forgiveness may range from, ‘I’ll never forgive’ to ‘Why can’t I forgive?’ and these concerns may be met with preoccupations like, ‘I’ve said I’m sorry, surely it’s time for her to forgive me’ and ‘You must learn to forgive and forget’.

  • Forgiveness linked to justice: an interview with Charles Waldegrave

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    Extract:

    Could we begin by considering your own relationship with the question of forgiveness? Has your thinking around the issue of forgiveness remained constant, or has it changed over time?

    Over the years, there has been considerable debate at The Family Centre about the issue of forgiveness. Between the different cultural and gender groupings in our workplace we have had many discussions about forgiveness and its place in our work and lives. In the past I would speak positively about the concept of forgiveness. I do not consider Christianity as in any way superior to other faiths. It does happen however to be the religion of my culture. Some things we do badly, like the ownership of truth. Some things I think we do well, and the concept of forgiveness is a good example of this.

    And yet, when I used to speak about my views on the significance and importance of forgiveness, this frequently led to considerable debate. It has been through these debates and conversations that I have come to see more clearly the particular implications that it can have when I as a white man speak on matters of forgiveness. When issues of forgiveness are being discussed, it makes a considerable difference who is speaking. When Maori or Pacific women talk about the hazards and possibilities of forgiveness, it evokes very different images than when white men such as myself have the same conversation. Not only have I been alerted to this, but when in the past I have spoken about forgiveness, the Maori and Pacific people with whom I work have reminded me that in some circumstances, if you forgive quickly, you don’t allow space for justice to be done.

  • The healing of memories— Fr. Michael Lapsley

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    Fr Michael Lapsley was born in New Zealand and trained as a priest in Australia before moving to South Africa. He was expelled from South Africa and went on to become an ANC chaplain while living in both Lesotho and Zimbabwe. In 1990, while in Zimbabwe, he opened a letter bomb and lost both his hands and one eye in the subsequent explosion. He now lives and works in Capetown as the Director of the Institute for the Healing of Memories. The following interview took place in Capetown. Cheryl White, Jane Speedy & David Denborough were the interviewers.

  • Enabling forgiveness and reconciliation in family therapy— Karl Tomm

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    Interpersonal conflicts are almost inevitable within families. The closeness and intensity of family relationships along with differences among family members in knowledge, desires, values, abilities, etc., account for much of this turmoil. Family members are often deeply hurt in the course of their conflicts and sometimes there is a significant breach of trust. Occasionally a family member will consider a certain offence unforgivable and will not seek reconciliation. Usually, however, family members try to recover a sense of personal and relationship wellbeing by endeavoring to forgive and reconcile. This can be a long and arduous process. Therapists are often consulted to facilitate such healing. My purpose in writing this paper is to share my understanding of some of the complexities involved.2 The perspective that I adopt is a social constructionist or ‘bringforthist’ stance. I assume that through caring conversation, it is possible to bring forth preferred ways of thinking and interacting that can lead to forgiveness and reconciliation.

  • Seeking safety and acknowledgement: women who have experienced domestic violence— WOWSafe

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    This piece was created from an interview (conducted by Dulwich Centre Publications’ staff writer, David Denborough) with WOWSafe – Women of the West for Safe Families, which is an organisation of women in Adelaide, South Australia, who have personally survived men’s violence in the home and now campaign in order to prevent it in the lives of others.

  • Prisons and the question of forgiveness— David Denborough

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    Extract:

    At present, prisons are upheld as our society’s response to those who have done the most harm to others. Those who have killed, hurt, assaulted, raped are supposed to be imprisoned. Also imprisoned are those who have committed property offences – most of which are directly related to poverty and the use of certain drugs which are deemed illegal.

    To sincerely think about prisons involves trying to come to terms with the profound class and race-based injustices that our legal system creates and maintains. It is also to face the question of what to do with those whose acts seriously harm others, those who terrorise, assault and kill. During my years of working within prisons, I met with many men who had committed what I consider to be horrific crimes – callous, violent, cruel acts. I also met many lovely men brutalised by generational poverty, racism and/or ill-treatment.

  • On forgiving the church, families, science and those who remain silent— Esben Esther Pirelli Benestad

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    Extract:

    Some years ago I was invited with my wife and fellow sexologist Elsa Almaas to view the movie ‘The Priest’ and then to go up on the stage to comment on it. The movie described a homosexual Catholic priest, the clerical judgements he was subject to, and the resulting personal torments. Most of the audience remained in the movie theatre to listen and to take part in the discussion. On the podium, in addition to the two of us, were a Catholic priest and a Lutheran priest.

    Both priests commended the movie. The Catholic then went on to make some general remarks on his belief that the discussion on Christian Theology and homosexuality had to develop amongst theologians themselves, and therefore public conversations, such as the one we were engaged in, could only offer limited potential for meaningful change.

  • Coming to terms with the everyday violence of our culture— Monica McGoldrick

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    Extract:

    In the culture in which I live, as with many cultures, violence is a part of so many people’s everyday lives. It is therefore an issue that finds its way into therapists’ offices and homes. In my therapeutic work, whenever we are talking about issues of violence, the question of forgiveness is also present.

    The most common situation that plays itself out in my work concerns working with the survivors of men’s violence. When I work with a woman who has been abused by someone else, I first of all try to find ways in which she can feel whole within her own skin. I try to find ways in which she no longer has to define herself as the victim of another person’s actions. Sometimes this involves finding ways that the woman who has been victimised can forgive herself for what she has been recruited into believing was her own culpability.

2,021 Comments

  1. Thank you to Tileah for a wonderful presentation. I love hearing the word “yarn” used in this powerful way (Americans also have that term). The practice of “translating”, of shifting concepts into language that can be more usefully heard, is very powerful. As coaches we can make good use of this to help clients uncover their hidden or forgotten resources.

  2. These stories are amazing examples of what we can discover when we hold onto our “beginner’s mind” and remember that the other person (client, patient) has the information and understanding, not us. We talk a lot in leadership development about “co-creating” and I think this is a beautiful example of two very complementary roles: the person who has the story and the person who helps to explore and shape it.

  3. I like the idea of narrative – there is something about giving people the power to create a narrative, rather than simply appearing in a story told by someone else. Within the narrative metaphor, I especially enjoy the fabric metaphor – the idea of strands. These may touch each other, or not, may go well together in tone or color, or not. But again, there is some power in creating and weaving the narrative.
    In my own work with coaching and leadership development, I find that the emphasis on narrative(s) helps make things more tangible, and therefore brings them to their true scale, instead of letting them take on imaginary and unclearly described proportions.

  4. I love this. Telling our stories in ways that make us stronger. Such a powerful sentiment. Sometimes through trauma, it is hard to access the words that really encapsulate that experience – though using the written word does help us access those hard to utter parts of our memories … in those cases though perhaps the story we tell ourselves is not one that makes us feel strong in the first instance – so finding a way to tell that story in a way that focuses on the strength of surviving to tell that story is just amazing!

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