There is something mysterious and deeply rewarding about reading a book which perfectly and beautifully sums up an internal dialogue that you’ve been having with yourself for years. As founder and director of The Forgiveness Project, I’ve been exposed to many theories and analyses on the meaning of forgiveness, but nothing has been presented to me with such clarity and eloquence as Healing Agony: Re-Imagining Forgiveness – a refreshing and thorough interpretation of this complex and often most excruciating of subjects by Stephen Cherry..
What I love about this book is that Cherry refuses to box forgiveness. While exploring the various debates around the limits of forgiveness, he won’t be drawn into defining a word that is in danger of becoming cheapened by simple explanations. His book is a welcome antidote to a growing movement which perpetuates what Cherry describes as the “idealized myth of forgiveness” – a movement which promotes forgiveness as a panacea for all ills and thus creates a social and moral imperative around something that is deeply personal, always different, and should be free of obligation and guilt.
There are no simple answers in this book and the more you delve into what forgiveness is and what it isn’t, the less you find yourself able to pin it down. As Cherry states, forgiveness has become “the most impossible but the most important” word in our vocabulary. After reading this book, you won’t come away with a single, simplified idea of what forgiveness is, but you will have gained real insight into why people choose to forgive and the progression of what Cherry calls the “forgiving heart”. You will also most certainly come away with a deeper appreciation of why forgiveness is difficult, painful and risky, but also why – in its ability to heal – it is potentially transformative.
While Healing Agony is aimed at Christians searching for a deeper understanding of the true nature of forgiveness, it is nonetheless relevant to everyone, and, as a non-Christian myself, Healing Agony is about the best book to date I’ve read on the subject. Indeed, it’s very rare for me to reach the end of a book and want to start all over again but with Healing Agony I did just that – knowing that on the second reading I would discover even more layers in this subtle, nuanced and most surprising of topics.
to read the first two chapters of Healing Agony click here