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The Book of Forgiving summary

Desmond Tutu & Mpho Tutu

The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World

4.6 (316 ratings)
25 mins

Brief summary

'The Book of Forgiving' by Desmond Tutu & Mpho Tutu is a guide to healing and letting go of anger and resentment. It offers practical steps towards forgiveness and aims to help readers find peace and freedom from emotional pain.

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    The Book of Forgiving
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    The first step on the Fourfold Path to forgiveness is telling your story.

    When Clara Walsh’s older sister died in a car accident when Clara herself was just 19, she was shattered. Losing her sister left an enormous hole in her life. But, after the funeral, no one talked about her sister ever again. It was as if she’d never existed. This was clearly a coping strategy for her family, but, for Clara, it didn’t work.

    Decades after the accident, Clara suffered from anxiety and depression. She was terrified that something would happen to someone else she loved. Her marriage broke down, and she started using alcohol and drugs to cope with the stress. Clara had never been allowed to express what had happened to her. 

    She’d been prevented from the vital first step on the Fourfold Path to forgiveness: telling her story.

    When you put your experiences into words, you are sharing your own perspective on what happened. Telling your story allows you to process the events, and integrate them. It also allows you to reclaim your dignity. You might have had no control over what happened, but you can create your own narrative of it. 

    It’s been scientifically proven that children become more resilient when they know their family stories. In the 1990s, researcher Marshall Duke created a questionnaire called “Do You Know?” It was given to a group of children who were instructed to find the answers to 20 questions about their family history. Follow-up studies showed that the children who filled in the questionnaire were happier and more resilient, and coped better with traumatic events such as the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. Just knowing about their family history – whether good or bad – enabled them to cope.

    How can you begin to tell your own story as the first step on the pathway to forgiveness? First of all, give yourself some time. In the immediate aftermath of an upsetting or traumatic event, you probably won’t be able to make sense of what happened to you. Your experience may be fragmented or blurry as you’re recovering from the shock. 

    When you’re ready to talk about it, choose a trusted person to talk to. Perhaps that’s a family member, or a good friend, or trusted minister. Bear in mind that telling your story is an evolving practice. It will change over time, and maybe even in each telling. With time, you may remember new details. Or discover that some aspects of the story become less important. 

    It may feel important to you to tell your story to the perpetrator – the person who actually caused you harm. That can be a very powerful process, if the perpetrator is also willing to engage in that conversation. But remember that people are often defensive and scared, or otherwise unable to face up to what they’ve done. They may be more interested in defending themselves than really hearing what you have to say. If you do decide to talk to them, make sure to manage your expectations. You have no guarantee that they’ll respond well, but at least you can tell your story. 

    To get into the right mindset for this first step of the Fourfold Path to forgiveness, you can start with a guided meditation. 

    Get comfortable, and close your eyes. Imagine you are in a safe, relaxing place. It could be on a beach, basking in the sun. Or in your bedroom, cozy in bed as rain taps against your window. Let yourself fully inhabit your space. What sounds can you hear, as you sit there? What does it smell like?

    Just then, you hear someone calling your name. Their voice is filled with love. You notice that their presence makes you feel even more relaxed and completely safe. Who are they? A good friend or family member? Or someone who inspires you from afar?

    The person sits down in your space. You notice that in between you is an open box. You start telling them the story of what happened to you. Every detail. As you talk, you notice your words streaming into the open box. Your companion gives you their full and undivided attention. You feel complete trust. Once you’ve told them everything, you close the box.

    Then you pick it up, and hold it in your hands. When you’re ready, you hand it over to your companion. You know that they will look after your story for you. You don’t have to carry it anymore.

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    What is The Book of Forgiving about?

    The Book of Forgiving (2014) is a practical guide to harnessing the power of forgiveness and healing in your own life. As humans, we will all experience hurt at some points in our lives. We’ll also harm other people, intentionally or not. Learning to both hold yourself and others  accountable and forgive them for what they’ve done will transform your personal relationships and broader communities. 

    The Book of Forgiving Review

    The Book of Forgiving (2014) explores profound insights and practical guidance on the transformative power of forgiveness. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers a powerful roadmap for those seeking healing and liberation through forgiveness, providing step-by-step methods to navigate the process.
    • Through compelling personal stories and spiritual wisdom, the book sheds light on the profound impact forgiveness can have on individuals, relationships, and society.
    • It challenges common misconceptions about forgiveness, providing a fresh perspective and empowering readers to embrace the transformative power of forgiveness in their own lives.

    Who should read The Book of Forgiving?

    • Anyone who is estranged from a loved one, and is looking for ways to reconcile
    • Psychology buffs interested in a contemporary approach to forgiveness, and how it can change our lives
    • Admirers of Archbishop Desmond Tutu who want to learn more about his pioneering work in forgiveness. 

    About the Author

    Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu won the Nobel Prize in 1984. In 1994, Tutu was appointed as chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is credited as allowing South Africa to experience a nonviolent transition to democracy. The process has been adopted by countries all around the world looking for ways to move forward after civil conflict and oppression.

    Mpho A. Tutu is a priest, author and activist. Previously, she performed the role of executive director at The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation.

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    The Book of Forgiving FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Book of Forgiving?

    The Book of Forgiving teaches us the power of forgiveness and how it can transform our lives.

    How long does it take to read The Book of Forgiving?

    The reading time for The Book of Forgiving varies, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Book of Forgiving a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Book of Forgiving is a compelling read that offers valuable insights on the importance of forgiveness.

    Who is the author of The Book of Forgiving?

    Desmond Tutu & Mpho Tutu are the authors of The Book of Forgiving.