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Review of "Forgiveness is Really Strange"

By Masi Noor, Marina Cantacuzino and Sophie Standing
Singing Dragon, 2018
Review by Christian Perring on May 8th 2018
Forgiveness is Really Strange

This little illustrated book takes a psychological approach to a moral concept. The authors argue for the psychological benefits of forgiveness, giving many examples. A nice feature of the book is acknowledging the difficulty of forgiveness, and how one can forgive one day only to find oneself angry again the next. They argue that forgiving someone can help you from holding onto the anger and this has both psychological benefits and physical health benefits. It can also have social benefits when it ends cycles of violence. But they also point that that sometimes forgiveness is not a good idea if it just enables abuse in a relationship to continue. There are also some suggestions of ideas of reconciliation and dialog between the perpetrator and victim, with reference to truth and reconciliation commissions. It's an interesting book with some powerful examples of forgiveness and also some results from psychological research and brain science to explain ideas. What's lacking in the book is any moral discussion. Do people ever deserve to be forgiven, and when? Are some crimes so terrible that they are unforgiveable? There's also no discussion of the benefits or problems of revenge, or whether it can provide the closure that some claim for it. But without a comparison of options, the book makes an incomplete case for forgiveness. It is nevertheless nicely produced and gives a useful guide to some of the possible benefits.

 

© 2018 Christian Perring

 

Christian Perring teaches in NYC.

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