Janis Abrahms Spring is the author of After the Affair, which has now sold over 200,000 copies in the United States and is published in 12 countries. Using illustrative material from her nearly 30 years as a therapist, the author outlines four approaches to forgiveness: (1) cheap forgiveness, which she sees as an inauthentic act of peacekeeping that resolves nothing; (2) refusing to forgive, which is categorized as a rigid response that keeps one entombed in hate; (3) acceptance, which is a healing gift that asks nothing of the offender; and (4) genuine forgiveness, which the author describes as a healing transaction and an intimate dance. Spring has discovered that we are all looking for "some new approach, that frees us from the corrosive effects of hate, gives voice to the injustice, and helps us to make peace with the person who hurt us and with ourselves." This self-help book is aimed at those who have done wrong and those who have been wronged.
Spring has little patience with those who practice cheap forgiveness "a quick and easy pardon with no processing of emotion and no coming to terms with the injury." People who are susceptible to this approach are the conflict-avoider, the passive-aggressor, and the self-sacrificer. She is also critical of those who refuse to forgive: "It is a sorely limited, constricted, hard-hearted response to injury that feeds on hate and humiliation and diverts us from the greatest challenge of all to make peace with ourselves so we can feel whole and happy to be alive." In a very poignant observation, Spring alludes to the fallout from individuals who cut themselves off from a cold, uncaring parent, and then find that their own children are bearing the burdens of their unmet need for validation. When conflicts are not resolved properly, toxic emotions are passed on from one generation to another.
A third approach, acceptance, is a way of healing yourself that doesn't require the offender to do anything, and it may be the only option when the offender is unrepentant. "(It) is a process you enter into primarily to free yourself from the trauma of injury. Your goal is not necessarily forgiveness. Your goal is emotional resolution, the restoration of your best self, the rekindling of meaning and value in your life."
The author saves the best for last as she outlines the intimate poignancy of genuine forgiveness where the hurt party and the offender both do the inner work necessary for personal renewal. This approach doesn't allow much wiggle room for the unconditional forgiveness that many of the world's greatest spiritual teachers have demonstrated and taught. Nonetheless, many of those who are struggling with the complexities of this subject will find helpful advice on these pages.