When I received this book from the publisher*, I immediately rejected it out of hand as I usually steer clear of books that have any sort of religious connotation. I am not a religious person and what spirituality I have is more theoretical than anything else, but primarily I have a to each their own mindset.
This being said, I set the book on my to-be-read soon pile and the longer it sat there the more I wondered if I should read it. Why shouldn’t I read something that makes me a little uncomfortable? Why shouldn’t I read something that could, potentially have a positive, affect my personal relationships? And I didn’t really have an answer to either of those questions, so when I was looking for a book to read before heading out one afternoon I grabbed this and started reading it.
Overall, I found the book to be quite interesting even if a bit religious at some points. If you consider that Gattuso is an ordained Unity (Unity.org website, fascinating reading about it) minister, I’m a bit surprised it wasn’t even more religious! The book was incredibly spiritual, embracing all religions and non-religious mentalities and I really appreciated it. However, there were two points where she nearly lost me: the first was really early on and the second was roughly half way through:
“One day, while in a deep state, he began to witness an internal light, a sapphire beam that began to radiate through his injured right side. He observed it as its intensity grew, and he allowed himself to be bathed in that light. After several minutes he was filled with the awareness that his bones would mend, his body would heal, and his life would one day return close to what it had been.” (5)
“I was standing at the side of a ship at a pier. I was very tall and gaunt. There was little to no color in the scene. There was a prisoner in chains with two burly guards on either side dragging him to the ship. When they reached me the prisoner stood up straight, glared at me, and said, ‘If it takes forever I will settle the score with you! I will get even with you! I will destroy you if it takes forever!’ If it takes forever! It was as if ice water were flowing through my veins.” (126)
There is nothing wrong with these two passages, but they were pushing the edge on what I could handle. To me they bordered on the edge of farcical, but to the individuals they were valid experiences. I’m glad I have the openness to say, wow that’s fascinating, no matter how skeptical I am and move on to the next page to see what is next, because it was worth it.
Gattuso, talking about forgiveness throughout, pulls from all major religions and spirituality and even questions the institution,
“You may be in shock or you may argue over this, but the truth is: God does not forgive, because God has never condemned you or anyone else. This is a statement that is a complete departure from traditionally held religious thought. But we are going beyond traditionally held religious thought and endeavoring to reach the truth—beyond dogma and human beliefs. This may threaten many cherished beliefs, but it is the truth. God has not condemned you or anyone.” (157)
The healthy amount of questioning she shows towards all religions made the book that much more palatable. It made her suggestions such as daily affirmations (with or without religion associated), ho’oponopono and meditating balanced and approachable to anyone regardless of their spirituality (or lack thereof).
I actually busted out my reading journal to take notes about each chapter as Gattuso provides easy-to-follow instructions at the end of each chapter titled “Forgiveness in Action.” Some are better suited for me than others.
I wish I would’ve discovered this book a few years ago after my bad break up as I think it would’ve saved me a lot of moping and self-hatred, but thankfully I discovered a lot of the processes she describes on my own. This is great to remember though:
“Remember, I’ve learned that some psychologists explain that the energy from an actual event lasts about ninety seconds. If we hold on to it beyond that time, it is because we make the effort to keep it mentally and emotionally alive. To do so takes a lot of energy. It is a total and complete waste of the hours, weeks, days, and years of your life to keep a negative memory or experience alive.” (65)
There are a few people in my life I want to yell this to at the top of my lungs while shaking them! I GET IT! WE ALL DO! NOW GET OVER IT!
As an actual piece of literature and a book it was well-organized and I liked the its presentation. There was one instance though which definitely made me think I was losing my mind and the only reason I caught it is that I thought it was such a great quote,
“Think of perceptions as a cosmic game of smoke and mirrors. All may look a certain way, but is it really? Perceptions at best give us the tiniest glimpse of what may be going on. Beyond perception lies knowledge, but we can achieve knowledge only when we have released all our perceptions. That is no easy task.” (19 and 74)
This quote, and the following three-to-four paragraphs appeared verbatim on both pages 19 and 74. It did “work” but it was very jarring to see basically a page repeated verbatim versus just a nod to the earlier reference.
Sorry for the blurry portion of the photo, I was riding the T when I realized the duplication and couldn’t wait to take the photo for some reason.
Recommendation: Whether you’re spiritual or not this book has some great advice for EVERYONE. It is interesting to see a lot of these books that talk about self-esteem and self-worth all revolve around the idea of self-reflection and meditation. This can involve a deity if you would like, but it doesn’t have to. As long as you are supporting yourself and giving yourself the opportunity to succeed, and in this case forgive, you’re going to have a better life.
Opening Line: “On June 11, 1963, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk did the unthinkable—but for a very spiritual reason.”
Closing Line: “May every blessing be upon you and all that you do.” (Not whited out as this is a work of nonfiction.)
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for my honest opinion. I received no compensation.
Additional Quotes from The Power of Forgiveness
“Remember, you don’t do forgiveness work to change the other person. Most likely that will never happen. You engage in these practices to change you. (x, Introduction)
“Why do people insist on holding on to the pain? Perhaps because it’s familiar; perhaps because it’s a habit; perhaps because the person has yet to consider there could be a way out. What would life be like without the familiar goblins? What would shape the person’s thoughts, words, and actions?
No matter what the circumstances or events, there is always a way out. No matter what. Nothing is too horrific that grace cannot enter and heal. Peace can be restored to your restless, sometimes tortured, mind.” (45)
“I got it! Just because someone is older does not in any way, shape, or form mean they have grown into an adult or are any wiser.” (57)
“We can begin to transform our shattered feelings by slowly coming to the realization that our relationship, despite its length and involvement, was for a reason and not a lifetime. We probably don’t yet know why it ended, but we are aware that it is definitely over. We must continue to let it go and forgive, and to be grateful for what it was and for how long it lasted. This understanding brings about a shift in consciousness. When that happens, our hearts open once again and the miracle of healing must occur.” (90)
“The supreme accomplishment, the freedom that comes to our minds and our lives when we forgive, is something that has to be experienced. It has to be felt. It cannot be intellectually explained; rather, it is known in the core of our being. It is joy. It is eternal. It is the supreme accomplishment. It is complete fulfillment. It is happiness. It means living a life free from strife.” (160)
“Hopefully you are not the person you were five, ten, twenty, or even fifty years ago. You may have made really unskilled decisions in the past. Why? The answer is simply because you didn’t know how to do it differently. The truth is, when you know better you do better. You deserve a break. You deserve to cut yourself some slack, to give yourself a pass.
When we forgive ourselves fully we don’t engage in that old behavior again. We change our way of thinking, speaking, being. We stop thinking negatively, speaking negatively, being negative.” (191)
“Revisiting sites in peacetime where war once raged changes one’s perspective. In 1944 the beaches of Normandy were littered with blood and bodies, and fear and hatred abounded. Today these same beaches are wide and beautiful, and peace is everywhere.” (219)