ISSN 1538-1080

Forgiveness: An ancient concept becomes the cutting edge in psychotherapy

Forgiveness: An ancient concept becomes the cutting edge in psychotherapy

Introduction

Forgiveness is an important but troublesome concept that challenges our understanding, and yet refuses to go away. It is an issue of universal human concern because hurts, betrayal and injuries of one sort or another are universal human experiences. Typically viewed as a virtue, forgiveness has been advocated by major religious and spiritual traditions for millennia.

Relegated to the purview of theologians and clergy, forgiveness received limited attention

within psychology and psychotherapy until the dawn of our present century (McCullough,


Pargament & Thorsen, 2000). In the last 20 years, close to 6000 studies have been conducted


about forgiveness and reported on in the fields of psychology and medicine. Clearly, forgiveness


is a topic only now coming into its time, as it enjoys a renaissance of new inquiry in society and


in the helping professions.
As central as the experience of forgiveness should be in fields dedicated to the healing of the

psyche, the mending of broken relationships, and the reduction of stress for improved wellness


in the body, its importance has not been emphasized enough. The chances are good that most


therapists, doctors, and even clergy never took a course in forgiveness when they were studying


in school for their accreditation. Forgiveness is now rising in our awareness as an important


intervention, and the many thorny questions that remain about it are being asked and discussed


with new vigor, such as:
  • What is forgiveness and how is it accomplished?
  • Should we forgive abuse and injustice?
  • When is it appropriate to introduce the idea of forgiveness to a client who has been suffering because of these experiences, often over many years?
  • Can we facilitate the experience of forgiveness, which often has strong spiritual components, in secular settings?
This article clarifies for practitioners some of todays new understanding about forgiveness, and

offers a time-tested method which reliably dissolves old resentments and resolves the chronic


stresses that burden our clients of the remainders of unresolved pain from difficult life


experiences, past and present.
The International Journal of Healing and Caring
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