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The F-Word: Forgiveness

Probably the most controversial aspect of letting go of emotional baggage is the issue of forgiveness. Pick up any one of a hundred self-help books out there, and they will say forgiveness is essential for moving on and you must do it for you. This is often sound advice, but we also know people who have survived “the unforgivable.” What is the unforgivable? Rape, murder, incest, vicious acts of betrayal . . . the heavy hitters of emotional baggage. We know people so badly abused they still sleep with the lights on. So must they forgive these heinous sins?

Frankly, we think not. We advocate (a) looking at the pain, not hiding from it and (b) moving on, but not necessarily forgiving. We can all parrot the “forgiveness” is the “right” thing to do party line. But why? If someone murdered one of our loved ones, we would have to find a way to deal with that. (See Chapter 11 for more on this topic.) Whether it is a philosophy of “bad things happen to good people” or a philosophy of existentialism, we all need to make sense of the most senseless of acts. September 11, for instance, calls upon every person touched by that tragedy to make some sort of peace with what they lost. Forgiveness may be a part of that. But if you can't get to the “F word,” settle instead for finding a way to have peace by processing the pain until it's no longer so visceral.


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