Your article detailing Professor Robert Enright’s research on the power of forgiveness resonated with me [“Uniquely Human: Personal Peace,” Spring 2013 On Wisconsin]. I suffered an injustice that wounded me personally and ended my professional career due to the nature of the accusations against me.
I had been an educator in a California public school district after graduate studies at Madison. One day nearly two years ago, the said injustice happened. Suffice to say the authorities cleared me of the accusations. The California Commission on Teacher Creden- tialing, by law, also investigated, even after I retired. It, too, found no wrongdoing.
Financially secured, my retirement is nothing but blissful and has afforded me the luxury of time to ponder the motives of my accusers. Analogous to your quote about knowing the abusers’ background … in order to reframe, and not excuse their behavior, I, too, can see “the greater context surrounding the injury.” My accusers were desperate to keep their jobs in a profession hard hit by recession, and preserve their financially fragile, emotionally frayed families. I was a veteran with thirty years of experience already.
Enright’s findings affirm the value of my own journey of healing and happiness. It is achievable for those who have suffered.
Henry Tse ’76, MA’77, MS’79 Rosemead, California
I was pleased to see the article “Uniquely Human” in the Spring 2013 issue. But the research on forgiveness has even deeper roots at the UW. In 1992, Pro- fessor Beverly Flanigan of the School of Social Work published Forgiving the Unforgivable, offering forgiveness as a novel approach for healing trauma. … I give copies to clients, sure that they will benefit from her graceful insights.
Jane Redfield Yank ’73, MS’75 St. Paul, Minnesota
In response to “Personal Peace,” Spring 2013: In my work as a psychotherapist, the word forgiveness comes up many times a week. Current popular psychology puts a great deal of stress on [forgiveness], sometimes to the point that it is seen to be always a good thing to forgive and even the only way forward. While I agree that it can be a powerful act to forgive, I disagree with what I see as oversimplification.
Notwithstanding the good point that the article makes about the importance of addressing anger, rather than shoving it aside, what I see is too often a tendency to rush into forgiveness as a way to feel better. But forgiveness is a spiritual, not a self-help, exercise, and as such is more rigorous and demanding than appears even in a “twenty-step program.”
I highly recommend Solomon Schimmel’s book Wounds Not Healed by Time for a clear-eyed and uncompromising look at some of the questions not addressed in this article (e.g., Can there be forgiveness without remorse? Are there times when it is the right thing not to forgive?).
Elizabeth Koopman MA’76 Hallowell, Maine
Published in the Summer 2013 issue