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Corroborating "The Truth About Forgiveness"

March 27, 2009
By Catherine Larson

Since Sunday, folks have been telling me about the Washington Post Magazine's piece The Truth About Forgiveness. I finally had the chance to read it today and was blown away. The story follows Bernard Williams and the murder of his son nicknamed Beethoven by a neighbor William Norman. The writer, Karen Houppart, does a fantastic job recreating not only the crime, but the subsequent meeting in prison between this bereaved father and the neighbor who killed his son. I won't give away the ending but there is definite movement toward forgiveness and reconciliation in this piece.

It struck me while I was reading it that this is the same story I've told in As We Forgive, only in a different context. The chronology is even the same. This murder happened in Baltimore in 1994. The murders I write about happened in Rwanda in 1994. And so the length of time that has gone by for the bereaved is also the same. The methods used to bring healing are very much the same: restorative encounters between offender and victim, marked by remorse and repentance on behalf of the guilty and risk and radical grace on behalf of the offended. The truths that get them there transcend context.

The writer mentions a movement in our society toward embracing forgiveness, not just for those from a religious background, but by scientific research also. Here's a snippet:

While spiritual leaders have long asked folks to accept the benefits of forgiveness on faith, the secular world has lately jumped on the bandwagon -- and proffered scientific evidence to support this view.

She goes on to cite some studies by Dr. Everett Worthington, one of the leading researchers on forgiveness, and an expert I also frequently cite in my book.

I'm delighted to see mainstream media picking up on stories like this because it brings restorative justice to the attention and understanding of ordinary people, and holds out an alternative to the bitterness that can hold the victim in bonds as strong as those that bind the perpetrator.

Here's a great related video the Post linked to on restorative justice efforts:

And a second video:


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Forgiveness is a very popular concept. Everyone who is interested in self healing and personal development is talking about forgiveness and how that is being compassionate etc. However, many people find it difficult or impossible to truly forgive. Some people may think they have forgiven, but a little inquiry and you will find that they still harbor ill feelings. This article will explore why it is so difficult to truly forgive and how to correct that

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