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The Power of Forgiveness

The Power of Forgiveness: Forgiving as a Path to Freedom
by Joan Gattuso
NY, NY: Penguin Random House, 2015
240 pages
Reviewed by Margaret Blackie

Forgiveness is such a vital topic in today’s world. Too often we simply sweep things under the carpet or paper over the cracks of broken relationships. The result is a stunting of our spiritual growth.” In this book Gattuso gives ten principles of power over guilt, shame and resentment. The ten principles are drawn from different cultures and traditions. Amongst them are good ideas which will resonate with a wide audience. The author clearly has a personal preference for the use of affirmative speech as a means to transformation.

The methods are all widely illustrated with personal stories, both from the author and those to whom she has ministered. For the most part the stories were useful and relevant to the point she was trying to make. However, as a spiritual director I must confess a strong reservation on two counts. Firstly, I think more detail was given than was necessary and at times as a reader I felt a little voyeuristic. Secondly, the author appeared to give judgement on the behavior of some of the people involved in a manner which seemed to me to lack compassion and respect.

Nonetheless, the topic itself is so important, that I believe the book is worthwhile. And it is certainly helpful to have some of the techniques in one’s armory as a spiritual director. Issues of forgiveness are almost inevitably going to emerge sooner or later on the spiritual journey and having some tools to offer is valuable.

In addition, as the author is a Unity minister, there is no strong overlay of a particular theological stance. The tools are incorporated from across the ecumenical landscape from Buddhist to Christian and through some traditional cultural practices. The result is a useful collection which will be accessible to almost anyone.

Margaret (Mags) Blackie is on the faculty in the department of chemistry and polymer science at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. She is a spiritual director and participates in the training of spiritual directors in Cape Town.

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