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Thursday, May 13, 2010

T3 - 2 Types of Forgiveness

When hurt and bitterness creep into our characters' lives, how do authors "fix" it for them before the end of the book?

Today I thought I'd tweak my very first Thursday Therapeutic Thought post, as I think I had all of five followers back then (most of whom were relatives!). Forgiveness, or the lack thereof, is often written about, lamented over, and withheld from others. It's a part of life, a choice we can make for ourselves, but can't make for someone else, and therein lies the rub.

There are two types of forgiveness I want to concentrate on.

1) Restoration Forgiveness. This is the type that we most often want to encounter, but often eludes us fully. To have restoration is to have complete healing of the breach between two parties. Something as final as death or as inconvenient as geography can prevent this from happening. In its most ideal state, it looks like this:

1) Character A offends Character B
2) Character B chooses to forgive A
3) Character A acknowledges their wrongdoing and accepts the forgiveness
4) Relationship between A and B is healed

The symbol for this type of forgiveness can be two people hugging one another.

2) Release Forgiveness. This is when one party "lets go" of the hurt. When the relationship will never reach full restoration, release--or letting go--is the next best thing. It's harder to experience than Restoration, and as a result, many never quite make it through the entire process, choosing instead to hold on to their offense and grudge. Compare to the above:

1) Character A offends Character B
2) Character B chooses to forgive A
3) Character A never acknowledges their wrongdoing
4) Character B chooses to release Character A

It is very important, if one of your characters has this type of problem, to have someone acknowledge their hurt. If Character A never acknowledges the hurt, then Character B may never move on. A third party, though, (in many cases, a therapist, a close friend, or perhaps even a descendant or relative of Character A) can help tremendously by just acknowledging the hurt, which in turn helps Character B in releasing it.

Before release is a possibility, the hurt has to be recognized and validated as an authentic, he/she-shouldn't-have-done-that hurt. Emotional health and healing will never occur as long as the bitterness is inside.

Application for Writers:

If you have one of your characters suffering from a hurt that hasn't been acknowledged, either by the wrong-doer or someone else, the chances of this character coming to a believable healing by the end of the book isn't feasible. Psychology tells us so. :)

Q4U: Since it's not always possible to have restoration (due to death, geography, unwillingness of the wrong-doer), what are some creative ways to have the character feel the acknowledgment besides the wrong-doer coming out and saying it?

I'll start:

Finding a lost letter or journal from the deceased wrong-doer that poignantly lets Character A know that Character B had tremendous regret over what they did.

Wordle: signature


Cynthia L Simmons said...

I've been working on the 'letting go' type forgiveness in my life, and it's tough when the offender doesn't apologize. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.


Linda Glaz said...

Oh yeah. Forgiveness is without a doubt the hardest act of the heart. Loving is easy, hating hard for the hater, though he doesn't know it, but forgiveness? How is it Christ gave it so easily and we can't? BIG SIGH! But I find my characters easier to manipulate than myself. BIGGER SIGH. Thanks for the great article. It gave me some serious thoughts and I have a charater right now who will need this lesson as much as I.

Anonymous said...

Character B appears to Character A in a dream.

I love your blog. I think I need to send my characters to you; I've messed them up pretty badly. Hehe.

Delia Latham said...

Forgiveness isn't easy. I've been working on "letting go" for years, and I think I'm making progress. It seems to me that forgiveness is even harder when you love the offender...and yet a part of you despises him/her. You've got that love/hate thing bouncing your emotions all over the place. Ugh.

Great blog, Jeanne! (I think my characters need your help too! lol)

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Hey you,

Just popped in quick to say congratulations on the Genesis final!

Way to go!
~ Wendy

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

thanks for that comment, elle! i'd love to put your characters on my couch. :)

and wendy...thanks so much!

Lisa Lickel said...

Hard one. I'm not sure that I handled my Meander characters so well with this. Ann had to forgive things that were out of Gene's control; certainly she had to forgive her mother-in-law and Linda, and all this while she was learning what it meant to be a faith-full Christian. I think she forgave by letting her son keep good memories of his father and not turning her mil into a monster for him. Sometimes we can forgive best by passing on the good things.

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.