Richard Holloway. On Forgiveness

Richard Holloway. On Forgiveness: How Can We Forgive the Unforgivable? Cannongate, 2002.

This is a valuable if somewhat slight and even lightweight book. I had not heard of Holloway before picking up this book, but I gather he is a popular writer in Great Britain, a kind of post-Christian humanist who seeks to inspire and encourage people who do not have formal religious associations. That strikes me as a worthy vocation, and if this book is any indicator, I can imagine that Holloway’s readers do indeed from some guidance and solace for his writings.

As the title indicates, in this essay Holloway addresses one of the most vexing of modern problems–the challenge of how to respond to egregious violations of our humanity and of the humanity of those we love. We can see, if we pay attention, that bitterness and vengeance do not assuage the pain over the long haul and likely even make things worse. But forgiveness is difficult, and also seems unhealthy when it is too quick and superficial.

Holloway does not give quick and easy answers, but he is respectful of the feelings that emerge in such situations and he gives some perceptive guidance for those who can’t simply “turn things over to God.” What results is a wise book, well worth consulting for anyone who does find themselves struggling with the meaning of forgiveness in a harsh and in many ways unforgiving world.


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