Forgiving 

I’ve just finished Desmond and Mpho Tutu’s ‘The Book of Forgiving’, picked up (as all the best things are) at the local library. 

It’s a simple and powerful read, which is studded with some terrible stories of personal loss, sickening violence and genocide; and the remarkable power of forgiveness in the face of them.

The basic argument is forgiveness doesn’t excuse responsibility – it explicitly acknowledges and names it. Only once the ‘story’ is properly told, and the ‘hurt’ is ‘named’, is there the possibility to forgive. 

And doing so is the way to be freed from being a victim – including forgiving yourself if you were ever a perpetrator.

There is a straightforward path to forgiveness which helps people exit the alternative – a never-ending cycle of harm and revenge.

I saw this diagram the night before interviewing someone on a difficult HR standoff. It certainly helped me to listen for longer: to let the person ‘tell their story’ and ‘name their hurt’, which seemed to move things forward.

The final two steps – ‘granting forgiveness’ and ‘renewing or releasing the relationship’ are about seeing  ‘perpetrators’ as human beings – recognising none of us was born evil and we all have within us the capacity to do terrible things.

Easier said than done; but nobody said it was easy – and it’s the only path to forgiveness.

The ‘hurts’ Tutu has seen in South Africa and Rwanda – so many violent murders – seem too huge to ever forgive. But the Truth and Reconciliation commissions he oversaw all basically followed this fourfold path: tell the story, name the hurt, grant forgiveness and renew or release the relationship.

As both he and the Dalai Lama have said: forgiveness is both a source and a sign of true personal strength, 

Achilles

Within hours of setting up this blog and posting my first post I was gripped with a pang of pure fear. What if someone mad, bad or sad takes an interest in me, seeks to contact me, meet me or hurt me or my family? Natural human reaction to unknown unquantifiable risk – flight. Must put privacy around the blog, make it invite only or better still just write for myself and only let others see any of it when I’m 100% sure it’s safe and correct and good.

But then Achilles came to me. When I thought of the concept Aristotle was the Greek for me. Achilles like Brad Pitt in Troy was too flashy and reckless and gym-toned and beautiful. But on reflection Achilles has qualities I value too. Bravery, action, leadership, courage and the capacity to stand tall and be a man.

So I changed the name of my blog to Achilles and Aristotle not or. I may not have his looks, torso or divine protection, but I can have his courage, boldness and strength. The desire to retreat to the purely cerebral, to my own cave and away from the uncertainty of people is strong within me. But the rewards of family, work and friends require me to constantly step out from the shadows.

So what’s to hide? If I attract some spam, some barbed comments, even some people I don’t want, I have the strength growing within to ignore, forgive or say no. I increasingly know myself and have real strength within. So I’ll follow Achilles, set aside fear and just write.