FORGIVE AND FORGET: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve by Lewis B. Smedes

FORGIVE AND FORGET: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve

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What theologians call paraenesis (moral exhortation), and a beautiful job of it--by the author of How Can It Be All Right When Everything Is All Wrong? Much of the strength of Smedes' crisply written sermon comes from its honest insistence on negatives. Forgiving is not forgetting (which wipes out the past and thus may help it to recur), nor is it excusing (acknowledging that genetics or psychic conditioning or culture or whatever may be to blame rather than the person); it is not accepting (""we accept people for the good they are, we forgive them for the bad they did""), nor tolerating (we can forgive a criminal but find his crime intolerable and put him behind bars for it). Forgiveness, in Smedes' simple definition, is a four-stage process beginning with hurt (""deep, unfair, personal pain""), which generates hatred, which may in turn be transformed into healing (a kind of surgical removal of the wrong done and a new vision of the one who did it). Finally there can be a coming together of the injurer and the injured, but many times this does not or cannot take place--when we forgive people who are indifferent to us or despise us or (and Smedes writes eloquently here) when we forgive the dead, such as our parents. Smedes is careful to stipulate that one cannot forgive crimes of which other people were the victims, and so he respects Simon Wiesenthal's refusal to forgive a dying SS trooper who was desperately looking for a Jew, any Jew, to forgive him for the horrors he had committed. At the same time Smedes takes the bull by the horns and argues that you can forgive monsters (Eichmann, Jim Jones, etc.) because, among other things, not to forgive them turns them into unforgivable monsters, ""beyond human accountability, beyond good and evil."" Smedes also shows considerable psychological acumen in dealing with such complex questions as forgiving oneself and forgiving God (a touchy point, admitted only in a metaphorical sense). Smedes' examples are brief and believable; he runs a bit long toward the end, but by and large this is broad-minded pastoral counseling at its best.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1984
ISBN: 006128582X
Publisher: Harper & Row