A personal and professional odyssey through the nuances of apologies.
When Manhattan journalist and writing professor Shapiro experienced betrayals from a trusted psychotherapist as well as a close female friend, she demanded answers. Devoid of atonement or any type of explanation for their behavior, both were nonchalant and arrogant, which understandably infuriated and flummoxed the author. Though Shapiro was traumatized, she was also inspired to question how others managed unresolved pain. Sharing revealing episodes of personal soul-searching, the author probes the lucrative “Forgiveness Industry,” fronted by gurus touting charities, books, and documentaries as well as agencies who grant professional amnesty to affronted clients on another’s behalf. Shapiro, who teaches at the New School, NYU, and Columbia, journalistically explores themes of forgiveness through a series of stories from a variety of sources, including family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and students—e.g., a 40-something Army wife and a trans man who faced ugly post-transition prejudice. All of these anecdotes demonstrate how certain personalities can easily pardon someone’s wrongdoing while others, as in her situation, experience spitefulness and difficulty moving on with their lives. Shapiro’s analysis is multifaceted, encompassing radically divergent opinions: religious leaders who consider clemency an emotional balm and pious obligation or a “wildly provocative Jungian astrologer” who touts grudge-holding as a protective barrier against perpetual victimhood. The author brings the same blend of wry humor, sharp wit, and knowledgeable authority that she demonstrated in some of her previous memoirs (Unhooked, Lighting Up, Five Men Who Broke My Heart), offering an intimate exploration of grudges, expectations, and remorse. Ultimately, she confesses to a series of personal atonements of her own and provides an appendix of practical solutions, leaving the decision up to readers whether personal apologies are required for true healing or whether unspoken atonement could suffice.
Enlightening and universally relevant, the book shows us how to forgive even when it might be impossible to forget.