Conflict resolvers will be interested
in the results of the study the authors
conducted to learn about how people
deal with forgiveness.
One of the roles of conflict resolvers is to facilitate
the difficult and potentially volatile conversations that
can lead to an apology, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Forgiving Others, Forgiving Ourselves: Understanding & Healing Our Emotional Wounds is a short read,
about 150 pages, and although it is not specifically
written for conflict resolvers, it is packed with information, stories, and examples about forgiveness and
reconciliation that can be valuable to those in the field.
Authors Myra Isenhart and Michael Spangle, who
each have more than 25 years experience in conflict
management, explain that they wrote the book to
help readers build skills in three areas: asking someone for forgiveness; granting forgiveness when it is
requested; and, forgiving yourself for past actions
or thoughts. Drawing on their years of experience
in conflict management and as practitioners of forgiveness, they provide readers with guidance on the
giving and receiving of forgiveness and the difficult
work of reconciliation.
The authors state that the inability to forgive to has
been at the core of many of the disputes they have
worked in. They describe forgiveness as a journey,
similar to healing from grief. True forgiveness involves
“giving up anger, bitterness, or resentment toward an
offender and releasing pent-up energy” and is a pro-
cess of “letting go.” It is not “forgiving and forgetting,”
excusing bad behavior, or not being held accountable.
Forgiveness can serve as a bridge to reconciliation
— the repairing of the relationship and the “creation
of conditions in which both parties can live without
fear of harm recurring.” However, it is possible (and in
some cases, appropriate) to have forgiveness without reconciliation.
The authors present three perspectives on forgiveness, gleaned from their research, that can be used to
help foster emotional repair:
• Psychological forgiveness:
freedom from distressing thoughts
or unwanted emotions for both the
offender and the wounded person
• Relational forgiveness:
suspending harmful communication
or behavior and engaging in efforts
to repair the relationship
• Spiritual forgiveness:
healing the spirit within us.
They use these same three perspectives — psychological, relational and spiritual — in discussing
factors that facilitate or hinder forgiveness and reconciliation.
Conflict resolvers will be interested in the results of
the study that the authors conducted to learn about
how people deal with forgiveness. Participants
completed written surveys and had an opportunity
to describe a time when they experienced forgiveness. Of the 278 participants, two-thirds were
women. Participants ranged in age ( 20 to 80 years
old) and level of education (high school graduate to
The study, as well as the work of other researchers and writers, is referenced throughout the book.
Understanding & Healing Our Emotional Wounds
by Myra Warren Isenhart, PhD,
and Michael Spangle, PhD SkyLight Paths Publishing 2015
About the Author
is a Hawaii attorney,
mediator and meeting facilitator.
She is a co-editor
Magazine, a member of the Commercial Section’s
and past president
Reviewed by Cindy Alm