Marilyn Sewell, the former senior minister of the First Unitarian Church of Portland, is the author of a handful of books including Cries of the Spirit: A Celebration of Women's Spirituality and Claiming the Spirit Within). We recently reviewed the impressive documentary about her life and ministry (Raw Faith) and heard about her three little books.
Forgiveness is one of the most complicated and essential practices on the spiritual journey. Sewell defines it this way:
"Forgiveness asks us to go beyond that understandable impulse to judge and to punish. It is a softening and healing of the heart, in response to pain or injustice. It is a gift, not to the offending party, but to ourselves, as we become no longer willing to nurture the hurt and keep the anger alive."
The author shares Five Principles for Forgiveness:
1. Take responsibility for any part you may have had in the hurtful situation.
2. See people for who they are, not for who you would like them to be.
3. Realize that forgiveness is not about the other person — it's about you.
4. Stay with yourself and your pain. Get under the anger to the hurt and then on down to the sadness and grief.
5. Realize that forgiveness is too hard to do alone — go with intentionality, but depend on grace.
Humility provides a good seedbed for forgiveness because it reminds us of our vulnerabilities and frailness. On the other hand, self-righteousness is a major roadblock to forgiveness since it keeps us walled off from others. Sewell ends with a discussion of the Amish response to the murders in their community in 2006. While the rest of the nation was stunned by their loving response, forgiveness for them is not a principle or virtue but a way of life.