I recently read a helpful book about anger and forgiveness: Don’t Forgive Too Soon: Extending the Two Hands That Heal by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn and Matthew Linn. This book, like the other fine ones written by the Linns, combines deep theological reflection with childlike illustrations.
In “Don’t forgive Too Soon,” the Linns compare the process of forgiving someone with the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Their point is that forgiveness is a process that can’t be rushed, lest we get “stuck” in one of the stages in an unhealthy way.
The Linns spend a chapter on each stage, showing its strengths and weaknesses and offering good advice on how not to impede the transition to the next one. What is most helpful from others is to “ love me as I am without trying to change me,” and to “listen to what I’m feeling, and feed it back to me.” The Linns’ overall point is that healing progresses naturally IF we allow ourselves to experience each stage fully.
The “two hands” referred to in the title, comes from the idea that we have two hands to deal with the oppressor: one hand to strongly confront the injustice, and the other hand to somehow soothe him/her. This dovetails nicely with the idea of needing two hands in parenting: one to be strong, and the other to be kind. Having kindness without strength is to become a doormat, and having strength without kindness is to become violent.* As a “recovering doormat” you can guess which hand I favor.
The Linns begin the book by challenging the traditional view of the nonviolent teachings of Jesus: turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, and giving away one’s undergarment as well as one’s coat. Taking ideas from theologian Walter Wink, they reveal these sayings, when seen in their cultural context, to actually be about nonviolent ways to resist oppression. And that is the point; if we allow ourselves to go through all the stages of forgiveness, our minds are clear enough to find a creative, non- violent solution to the problem. The book is full of examples of this, taken from the Linn’s own lives, and the lives of other nonviolent people, both famous and not.
In short, I highly recommend this book!
*Circle of Security Parenting by Cooper, Hoffman, and Powell