How Can I Forgive You?: The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To

How Can I Forgive You?: The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To

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Until now, we have been taught that forgiveness is good for us and that good people forgive. Dr. Spring, a gifted therapist and the award-winning author of After the Affair, proposes a radical, life-affirming alternative that lets us overcome the corrosive effects of hate and get on with our lives-without forgiving. She also offers a powerful and unconventional model for genuine forgiveness-one that asks as much of the offender as it does of us.

This bold and healing book offers step-by-step, concrete instructions that help us make peace with others and with ourselves, while answering such crucial questions as these:

How do I forgive someone who is unremorseful or dead?
When is forgiveness cheap?
What is wrong with refusing to forgive?
How can the offender earn forgiveness?
How do we forgive ourselves for hurting another human being?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781515960980
Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date: 08/23/2016
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Janis Abrahms Spring, PhD, is a nationally acclaimed expert on issues of trust, intimacy, and forgiveness. A bestselling and award-winning writer, she is also coauthor, with Michael Spring, of After the Affair and Life with Pop. In private practice for more than forty years, she lives in Westport, Connecticut.

AudioFile Earphones Award winner Coleen Marlo has earned numerous Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Awards and won an Audie Award for her narration of Snakewoman of Little Egypt by Robert Hellenga.

Read an Excerpt

How Can I Forgive You?

The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not to
By Clarke, Arthur Charles


ISBN: 0060009314

Chapter One

Cheap Forgiveness

Cheap Forgiveness is a quick and easy pardon with no processing of emotion and no coming to terms with the injury. It's a compulsive, unconditional, unilateral attempt at peacemaking for which you ask nothing in return.

When you refuse to forgive, you hold tenaciously to your anger. When you forgive cheaply, you simply let your anger go.

When you refuse to forgive, you say "no way" to any future reconciliation. When you forgive cheaply, you seek to preserve the relationship at any cost, including your own integrity and safety.

Cheap Forgiveness is dysfunctional because it creates an illusion of closeness when nothing has been faced or resolved, and the offender has done nothing to earn it. Silencing your anguish and indignation, you fail to acknowledge or appreciate the harm that was done to you.

If you forgive too easily, you're likely to have what personality expert Robert Emmons calls "a chronic concern to be in benevolent, harmonious relationships with others." The character trait that defines you could, in fact, be called "forgivingness." While some people would regard "forgivingness" as a virtue -- Emmons calls it "spiritual intelligence" -- I would suggest that it can rob you of your freedom to respond to an injury in an authentic, self-interested way. It can also bebad for your health, as we'll see later. When you feel compelled to forgive regardless of the circumstances, you're offering not Genuine Forgiveness but a cut-rate substitute.

People Who Forgive Too Cheaply

Cheap Forgiveness comes in several forms. You may recognize yourself in one of them.

The Conflict Avoider

This is the most common type. Overly compliant and forgiving, you tend to dismiss an injury for the sake of protecting a relationship, as mutilating as it may be. On the surface, you act as though nothing is wrong. Inside, you may be hemorrhaging.

Conflict avoiders remain in relationships without voice and without a healthy sense of entitlement. Your submissive behavior -- your tendency to subjugate your needs to those of others -- is often based on one of three fears.

1. You fear that the offender will retaliate with anger or violence.

If you grow up with rageful parents, you may learn to keep silent -- to go along in order to get along. This pattern is likely to persist into adulthood, as it did for a patient named Marsha. "My parents' anger was frightening," she told me. "I remember the day my mother threw over the Ping-Pong table and my father, drunk, chased her with a gun. I locked myself in my room and couldn't eat or sleep for days. Living with them, I learned to pick my words carefully, to lie low. I hated them both and got married at sixteen just to get out of the house. To this day I'm not good at anger. It scares me. I never even allow myself to feel anger. God knows where it goes."

2. You fear that the offender will reject or abandon you.

You may also resort to Cheap Forgiveness because you fear being cast off by someone whom you depend on for a sense of self-worth. This "morbid dependence" is like insulin to a diabetic. It is not optional. It is a necessary lifeline.

Kathy, a forty-seven-year-old massage therapist, is a case in point. Desperate to hold onto her husband, Jack, she left herself no space in which to negotiate her needs. "I think of myself as a love junkie," she told me. "Why else would I stay in such a sick relationship? Jack drinks too much, he cheats on me, he lashes out at me verbally and sometimes physically. What happened last week should have been a wake-up call, but I shut off the alarm. We were on vacation, watching a video, and Jack was drinking. I asked him, 'What do you want to do for dinner?' and he blurted out, 'You've ruined my life!' and then slapped me and told me how much he hated me, and started in about how I was making him miss the end of the movie and how he wanted to kill me. A little over the top, wouldn't you say? And then he started to cry and tell me he hated himself and didn't know why he was so cruel to me. I know if I were healthy, I'd leave. But I'm stuck here, trying to be good enough for him, the way I tried to be good enough for my mother. She used to tell me, 'If it weren't for your younger sister, I'd have no reason to live' -- that's how much I meant to her. I guess I'm still trying to get her -- someone -- to love me, even if they're as messed up as I am."

Needing to stay connected to Jack in order to affirm her own worth, Kathy constantly made excuses for his behavior. "It's the alcohol," she told me once. "The alcohol makes him violent." Or, "It's his low self-esteem -- that's why he drinks. He projects his self-hatred on me, but he doesn't mean to be so mean." And shortly after he slapped her and told her how much he hated her, she told me, "We're closer than we've ever been."

Making excuses for Jack's violent, uncontrollable behavior and deluding herself about his capacity for change kept Kathy trapped in a dangerous relationship. But without Jack she was without a self, and that felt more terrifying than his degrading words or his physical abuse ... Continues...

Excerpted from How Can I Forgive You? by Clarke, Arthur Charles Excerpted by permission.
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How Can I Forgive You?: The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not To 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
BeckiV More than 1 year ago
This book took what I knew about forgiveness and expanded my perspective tremendously. It describes four different types of forgiveness. It walks you through some scenarios and then the process of forgiveness for each type. The information allows you to make the choice of what type of forgiveness fits the situation and your personal intent/need with that incident or relationship. One important note is this author's perspective and most of the experiences in the book come from infidelity in a marriage. It's not the focus of this book but the examples tend to use that frame of reference. I found the chapter on earned forgiveness very enlightening. It clearly states the components of true forgiveness and the roles of both parties to reach that goal. It also explains how you can decide where you are in the process and helps to determine your goal. Sometimes the best choice is to not forgive and to walk away. I found this book to combine the concepts of working to save a relationship with the assistance to accept if that work will not produce true forgiveness and allow the relationship to continue. Also, it discusses what beliefs we may have based on our religious upbringing. There are Biblical quotes to illustrate where certain teachings on the topic of forgiveness may have started and how they have evolved throughout time. This is definitely one that I have kept for my bookshelf to read as my relationships change and as my own needs change in those relationships.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book will be extraordinarily helpful to anyone who has been deeply hurt in a relationship - but where the "offender" is unable or unwilling to be remorseful, make amends, and change behaviors. I loved the author's radical idea that there is an alternative to forgiveness - a way forward (which she calls "acceptance") which can result in wholeness for the betrayed person. This book is thorough, thoughtfully structured, detailed, and a model of clarity. I underscored passages and added in my own commentary throughout. Thank goodness I had my own copy!
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
This book addresses an area that is a part of many (most) issues I see in my clinical practice, I hurried to read it.  I was disappointed in the book until I realized Dr. Spring’s use of “forgiveness” was given a much broader definition than the one I generally use.  After I understood her perspective, I found this book to be well worth the effort invested in reading it and it will be referenced in my work and as “assigned” to those with whom I sit who might benefit from its information. Part one of the book, “Cheap Forgiveness,” is not forgiveness, it is avoidance. The offended does not seek healthy ways of being freed from the injury and “cuts off” contact with the offender or does not value her/himself in the relationship enough to hold accountable those responsible for the hurt.  Dr. Spring sees this action as doing more to bind the injured to the offender than resolve the conflict, does nothing to deepen the relationship or individuate either party. Part two, “Refusing to Forgive,” is not forgiveness, either according to the author. From my perspective, this occurs when the relationship is unbalanced to the point where both parties feel they must resort to being “victimized” to restore “balance” to said relationship.  Dr. Spring identifies this action solidifies the injured (whether the injury is real or imagined) in “hate” and keeps the individual “stuck” at the place of hurt. Part three, “Acceptance,” according to Dr. Spring, is not forgiveness but it is close. This is the realization that the offender will not change, take responsibility for the injury and/or acknowledge that an injury occurred but the offended wants/needs to remain in relationship with the offender.  The offended does not “forgive,” but accepts the relationship as it is and will hold that relationship at a safe distance.  I agree with Dr. Spring that acceptance is an intricate part of forgiveness. Part four, “Genuine Forgiveness,” once again according to the author, is a process in which both the injured and injurer must work together to obtain the goal of forgiveness.  For Dr. Spring, genuine forgiveness includes, and is incomplete without: restitution, atonement and reconciliation.  In Dr. Spring’s scheme, forgiveness must be “earned,” it cannot be given by the offended without direct, intense contact with the offender.   There is much positive in this work with some major distractions for me.  The author's insistence of using the masculine gender to describe the offender and the feminine when speaking of the victim.  Her case studies are not gender specific but that does not diminish the stereotype suggested by the use of this literary devise.  Secondly,  Frequently she speaks to opposing points of view in such a way as to invalidate arguments w/o the opposing view being completely represented.  Thirdly, Dr. Spring sees that ANY offense,  to be forgiven, must be admitted by the “offender,” even if the offender does not recall its occurrence or if there as any offense to be had.  I hope Dr. Spring’s insistence on this point is more toward the opening of dialogue rather than requiring admission of guilt where none is felt or merited. Overall, the book will be of  help to those who need help in moving beyond the pain they have suffered from hurts that seem to be intractable.  The processes she suggests, case studies presented and the research she presents can all be helpful in aiding the reader toward a healthier life and relationships.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is life changing. It causes you to look inward and look at the qualities about yourself that many of us are afraid to acknowledge. If you've ever been deeply hurt this book is for you. It gives you steps to find acceptance & forgiveness;and for those of who are atheist or agnostic like myself, this is the only book I found without the need for "God" to find forgiveness. This book will impact your life in ways you never imagined.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It has been 10 months....I have read a number of other books, many helpful; but I struggle with "forgiveness". This book was timely and the concept I found most helpful here is "acceptance". For those not ready to forgive, this concept has helped me push aside the vile images and thoughts that have preoccupied me for too long. It is perhaps a "bridge" to forgiveness. I wish I had read "After The Affair" sooner. I ordered it at the same time and would recommend it for the newly wounded
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the questions that I struggled with after experiencing the infidelity of my husband was 'what did I do to cause him to do this?' and 'how could I forgive someone who was not remorseful?'. After reading this book, I realized that I didn't do anything to 'cause' my ex-husband to cheat and that it was possible to forgive my ex-husband even though he was unremorseful for his actions. Learning to forgive does not necessarily mean learning to forget.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This helped me immensely when I faced infidelity in my marriage. I strongly recommend it for both parties if they are trying to work it out or not.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Everyone should read this book. If you have been hurt or hurt someone in any way, shape or form read this book. I reread certain paragraphs over and over and just was floored by the straight forward messages that help you understand forgivness.
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I cannot recommend this book strongly enough to anyone seeking peace after a betrayal. I have since recommended it to two friends when they couldn't make sense of their lives after a betrayal and they both have repeatedly thanked me for starting them on a path to recovery, happiness and wholeness again. IF YOU HAVE BETRAYED SOMEONE, READ THIS BOOK!
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