THE BOOK OF FORGIVING - This is a new book on how to forgive, written by Bishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho, who is an Episcopal priest. I am sure most of you know about Bishop Tutu and the amazing work he did in South Africa around apartheid and reconciliation - for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. So this new book is about personal and collective forgiveness - written from his and his daughter's experiences and from a mostly Christian viewpoint.
What I really appreciated about this book was that the Tutus outline a four stage process of forgiving and are very clear that this process takes time, is not simple, and is not about forgetting or denying. The four stages are:
Telling the Story
Naming the Hurt
Renewing or Releasing the Relationship
Telling the story - this is one of the reason's this site and what this site encourages is so important, especially for people coming of a long-term situation where there was continuous suppression of communication and feelings. You need the time and space to fully share your story, your experiences - and it takes as long as it takes... and you really need other people. You can't just tell your story to yourself - it needs to come out into the light of day - to be shared - with empathy and understanding. You need [banned term] the facts, the experiences, the memories, the feelings and put them together so you can begin to make sense of what is often a complex, confusing and even crazy making period of your life. And, as we know, in many cases, people lived at Shasta - or in other kinds of restricted cultic situations for years, even decades - so that usually means - there is a lot of material that needs to be processed, spoken out loud. And what is very helpful to find common ground with others, to find shared experiences about what happened and HOW it happened and WHY it happened. Understanding comes through this process. And as we tell the stories, we can see how we participated and how we didn't.
And that is also why getting some perspective is helpful and why I posted info on so many articles and books about other spiritual groups and gurus that also had issues / problems / went off the rails. All of this contributes to understanding, insight, unburdening, seeing more clearly.
And Telling the Story - maybe it takes a few months, maybe it goes on for years or even decades - whatever is appropriate for you - and don't listen to people who tell you to cut it off. Now naturally, it is going to start to unravel and may indeed begin to be transformed, recycled, dissolve - however you want to see it, especially as your mind opens up to questioning, new ways of seeing what happened, and so on - but what is not helpful is people who don't understand tell you to "get over it" or "drop it" or "let it go" - not helpful. and it won't work. And with this process, comes insight, meaning, more light - but it won't come through denial or more ignoring - or by artificially being too "spiritual" - that was the problem in the first place. So if you force yourself to be artificially spiritual and Zen and act out of fear of being judged or fear of breaking the precepts, you can shut down this essential process... so one key here is just to be human and honest and feel what you feel, let yourself say what before could not be thought or said, let yourself be angry or judgmental - and feel what you feel so you can face it all squarely. You need to break through the many years of "mind control" - yes it was mind control - it was total control of your body, speech and mind - yes, they said it was for this greater purpose, but it didn't work out so well - if you are able to see it with both eyes open. and with both eyes open - and by telling your stories - then you can actually better honor the positive and transform and digest the harm - as a spiritual adult.
As the Tutus say in the book - "Telling the story is how we get our dignity back after we have been harmed. It is how we begin to take back what was taken from us, and how we begin to understand and make meaning of our hurting." "Knowing our stories and histories is vital for us at any age."
This is a great chapter in the book. He emphasizes how we can work at telling the truth of our experiences and how it is important at first to stay with the facts. And also, by doing this - healing can begin.... if we don't tell the stories, we can become quite stuck.
The next step is "Naming the Hurt." They emphasize the importance of going into some detail about precisely what the hurt or harm is. Give voice to it - ALL OF IT. Get specific. You must give voice to this. I know this can run counter to what some spiritual traditions say - especially those eastern ones - never criticize the teacher - never say such things - shut up and bow - so for the sake or truth and sanity and healing - ignore those voices and listen and speak your own voice - out loud, to good friends, to a therapist if that's your path, to other former members, publicly even, write about it. And notice when you start to shame yourself for these feelings. Notice when you hear the voice of Kennett or Eko or some other external "maser" figure saying you are bad for feeling and speaking or being yourself. That's the programming - challenge those voices and thoughts - this was / is the programming that took place over many years that you need to encounter, challenge, and dissolve through inquiry, through seeings that much of what these voices say are simply NOT TRUE and not workable and not helpful and even harmful. Before what could not be questioned - now you can question everything. Break down the wall that says NO to questioning. It is time for WTF.
And only by going through Telling the Story and Naming the Harm/Hurt can you naturally come to clarity, and the ability to honesty grant forgiveness and then release the relationship.
Might write more about steps three and four later, but i wanted to share these first two steps because they are most important in the process of getting free of the past and authentically moving on.