Discovering Forgiveness
Pathways Through Injury, Apology, and Healing

When approaching forvigeness we all face a certain dilemma. Forgiveness simultaneously is central across faith traditions and yet at times has been taught as obligation bordering on manipulation. With wisdom won from personal experience and years of engaged conflict transformation, Larry Dunn unravels the promise and challenge of forgiveness much as in the fable of the blind folk touching and understanding the many sides of the elephant. This book helps generate a wonderful encounter. The journey we follows takes us into both theological understanding and praxis, attending respectfully to the complexity of forgiveness, to a wonderfully multi-dimensional act of grace.

The title—Discovering Forgiveness—provides the very platform that supports the flow of the conversation. Discover in Latin suggests gaining sight about that which is unknown,  unveiling little by little something that has been shrouded.
Forgiveness follows a pathway that requires us to step into the unknown. This is not a book that offers us a once-and-it’s-over approach or magic wand. As Dunn stresses, forgiveness invites us to live with paradox. We hold at one time, together, multiple experiences and truths that on the surface could easily appear contradictory—yet when embraced permit a deeper, more authentic and vulnerable pathway toward our shared humanity.

In forgiveness, Dunn writes, it’s okay to be stuck while finding your way. In forgiveness, memory and grace can live in the same house. Forgiveness can never be forced and obligated, but is always available and tends to rise with unexpected energy and power to shift human relationships toward restoration and healing.

Dunn offers a stream of provocative stories—of real people in honest conversations. For me, these stories create a deep grounding in both the potential and the complexity, the challenges and the actual examples, of how forgiveness emerges and finds expression. At times I found myself feeling profound admiration for the power of love expressed beyond merit, the ways forgiveness always breaks into daily life as unexpected surprise and gift. For example, the humble yet extraordinary act of a musician, betrayed in friendship by a village neighbor who killed his father during the Rwandan genocide, to seek out his old friend, not in revenge but with a new capacity to love and leave hatred behind, amazes me.

At other times I found myself feeling stuck with the young woman caught in a church conflict who was not ready to forgive, squeezed between pressure to offer her blessing yet knowing she had not truly reached that place. I could feel the weight and guilt, the inner fight going on to express her deepest feeling even as she worried what others would think. Maybe I should just do what everyone else seems to ask of me. “Don’t,” Dunn suggests. Genuine forgiveness rises from authenticity, not dishonesty. Too often in church life we get carried along by pressures to conform—we get “shoulded-on” more than we care to imagine.

Discovering Forgiveness cleans the slate. Dunn opens space for a deeper and more meaningful conversation about a central tenet and practice of faith.
And here lies the subtle but maybe most significant contribution of this book: You will find yourself in it. You will be drawn into all sides of the paradoxes. You will listen in new and honest ways to your own experience. You will feel the promise, appeal, and provocations forgiveness affords when we seek genuine encounter with self, other, and God.
John Paul Lederach, Professor of International Peacebuilding, University of Notre Dame


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