Thursday, November 5, 2015

Review: Triumph of the Heart by Megan Feldman Bettencourt

When Megan Feldman Bettencourt found herself embittered after a breakup and a string of professional setbacks, she met an extraordinary man named Azim. Azim had forgiven the man who killed his beloved only son, and even reached out to the killer’s family. He truly seemed to be at peace.

As a veteran journalist, Megan recognized it for the amazing story it was. But as a self-admitted grudge-holder, she was perplexed. Was there something wrong with him, or was there something wrong with her? She wondered about our ability to forgive—why we have it at all, why we do it, and whether it can help us.

Triumph of the Heart is the story of Megan’s quest to understand this complex concept, from both a scientific perspective and a human one. She draws on cutting-edge research showing that forgiveness can provide a range of health benefits, from relieving depression to decreasing high blood pressure. She examines situations as mundane as road rage, as painful as cheating spouses, and as unthinkable as war crimes. Through stories of people and even communities who have forgiven in the toughest of circumstances, she shows us how they’re able to do it, the profound sense of freedom they feel afterward, and the evocative implications for peacemaking worldwide.

This journey takes Megan from recovered addicts who restarted their lives by seeking forgiveness, to a Baltimore principal who used forgiveness techniques to eradicate violence in her school, to genocide survivors in Rwanda who forgave the people who killed their families and perpetrators who are still trying to redeem themselves.

Along the way, Megan strengthens her own powers of forgiveness, altering her life in ways she never expected. With grace and compassion, she reveals that our human capacity for forgiveness not only makes us healthier and happier, but is the key to healing, growing, and living well.

Received for review.

Clearly I'm not an Oprah touchy feely kind of person so I went into this prepared to not like it.  I mean, who even forgives someone for killing their family in a genocide or for breaking their marriage vows and cheating in their own home?  I know I wouldn't be able to but I wanted to read more about those who apparently have this ability.

This was a fascinating look into not only the emotions of forgiveness but the science of it as well.  It details how freeing forgiveness can be for both the person doing the forgiving and the one being forgiven.  It actually does make you happier and healthier to let go of the pain and forgive someone.

This really made me think about just how far I would go to forgive someone.  Would I forgive an alcoholic who apologized after they went into recovery?  Probably.  Someone who cheated on me?  Perhaps.  But I had to draw the line at someone who murdered someone I loved.  That is just too far for me.  I'd rather be the one flipping the power switch for the electric chair at their execution.  That's great that others have been able to forgive truly horrendous deeds but that's just too much for me.

Overall, this is an enthralling book that provides a glimpse into a most likely underused ability and what it means for everyone involved.  The stories will have you smiling, tearing up, and ready to throw the book at a wall because you can't believe someone would actually do something like that.  It's truly an emotional journey that is rather exhausting but completely worth it.  I certainly highly, highly recommend it.

★★★★ = Really Liked It

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