“The Quality of Mercy: anger, forgiveness and making peace with the past’” was the thought-provoking title of the 2016 Forgiveness Project Annual Lecture held this year at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Friday, 2nd December.
“Thoroughly entertaining and deeply moving” is how one audience member described the event. She was referring to the poet Lemn Sissay sharing his painful story of abandonment, and who had stated simply “I refuse not to laugh in my own story – even if the joke is on me”.
In our 6th Annual Lecture, Lemn revealed how when his anger started destroying him forgiveness became his life-line and in the end was all he had to help him let go of the pain. “When I was able to forgive my foster parents, a whole window of memories opened up for me” he explained to a packed auditorium before explaining that despite meeting with his birth mother and reconnected with his foster parents there had been no real reconciliation with either.
Rachel Kelly’s story took a different turn. Focusing on her two serious bouts of depression she described how self-compassion and self-forgiveness were at the heart of her recovery. As with Lemn, poetry has been her inspiration, providing her with words when she couldn’t find her own.
While the theme of the lecture was broad, all three speakers considered carefully their understanding of forgiveness, agreeing it had the power to enlarge the future while laying the past to rest. As Lemn said in his concluding remarks, “forgiveness allows me to say – after everything I’ve been through – this is not just about me!”