Forgiving and Reconciling: Bridges to Wholeness and Hope

by Everett L. Worthington Jr. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003. Pp. 268. Illustrations.)

Bridges to Wholeness and Hope

Everett Worthington is a leading Christian researcher on forgiveness. His book, Forgiving and Reconciling: Bridges to Wholeness and Hope, merges his theories on forgiveness and reconciliation into one thorough handbook on how to recover from past hurts and move forward. Worthington, a psychologist, counselor and educator, knows how to communicate well. He breaks the processes down so one can grasp his meaning. He writes on a popular level making this a very readable book on a very important subject.

Three major divisions compose the book: Why We Forgive, How to REACH Forgiveness and How to Reconcile. In each section Worthington weaves his own experience with forgiveness when his mother was brutally murdered. He frankly discusses the challenges he faced to his longstanding convictions regarding forgiveness. The author is truly a fellow pilgrim, not a standoffish authority or academician. Each chapter ends with several questions for reflection and application helping to make reading this book a journey of forgiveness and reconciliation if the reader is willing to participate.

Worthington candidly weighs the pros and cons of forgiveness and addresses the question “In this instance, should I forgive?” The various benefits of forgiveness are explored.

“We’ve all heard ‘Forgive and forget,’ but forgiving seems to be for giving, not for getting. When we forgive, we get a quick jolt of personal peace. If we practice forgiving over a lifetime, chances are we will be healthier in long run…If we forgive, we can also give a gift of peace to the person who hurt us–and we might repair the relationship and therefore have more harmonious social support systems. If we forgive, our entire community might focus less on revenge, avoidance, unforgiveness and past problems and focus more on future possibilities. Away from hurt and toward healing.”

This is a how-to book. Worthington uses the acrostic REACH to explain his method: Recall the hurt, Empathize, Altruistic gift of forgiveness, Commit publicly to forgive, Hold on to forgiveness. He gives extensive instructions on how each step can function.

What I found most refreshing about this book, besides his methodology which is excellent, is that I was personally engaged and included in the healing process by Worthington’s repeated challenges to take the risk and work through past hurts as we progressed through the book. I experienced healing of several past hurts.

This book was previously issued as Five Steps to Forgiveness: The Art and Science of Forgiving by Crown Publishers. That version was written from a secular point of view. Forgiving and Reconciling was revised to include the scriptural basis for Christian forgiveness. Both books are key texts on reaching real forgiveness of previous wounds. The charts Worthington includes clearly illustrate the principles of understanding forgiveness—the pyramid model to REACH forgiveness, steps in the bridge to reconciliation and barriers holding you back from seeking reconciliation after you hurt another person and so forth. They are useful for reference instead of searching through the text.

Forgiveness is something one can do individually, but reconciliation, a further step, involves others. Worthington builds a solid case for individuals, himself included, to seek and grant forgiveness and reconciliation. This is an important book on a vital issue that we grapple with in all our interpersonal relationships. Forgive and forget? No, forgive and reconcile and be whole.

Frances “Forgiven” Gilmore

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