Recommended Reading

An Introduction to Forgiveness Literature

[In light of betrayal trauma and post-traumatic stress disorders]

In Judaism, forgiveness requires both atonement and restitution. Two sins cannot be forgiven: murder and the slandering of someone’s reputation. In murder, the victim cannot forgive and in slander, the victim’s reputation cannot be restored. Since the blood of the victims continues to cry out, the issue might be one therefore, not of forgiveness, but how the victims and their descendents can live without bitterness or vengeance, without losing their own humanity, when they hear the cry of the blood of their families.

Susannah Hescheli

I dedicate this bibliography to all survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault…and to those victim advocates, friends, family members and healers who seek to help them create their uniquely personal pathways to healing.

The only one who can forgive is the one who has experienced the injury. Every extension by analogy, from the individual to the group, seems to me illegitimate: one cannot forgive by proxy any more than one can be a victim by association or uphold the existence of a collective guilt

Tzvetan Todorov ii

Introductory Comments

[To a woman questioning his advice to forgive her husband, the Rabbi replies]: I am not asking you to forgive him because what he did was acceptable. It wasn’t; it was mean and selfish. I am asking you to forgive because he doesn’t deserve the power to live in your head and turn you into a bitter, angry woman. I’d like to see him out of your life emotionally as completely as he is out of it physically; but you keep holding on to him. You’re not hurting him by holding on to this resentment but you’re hurting yourself.

Harold S. Kushneriii

Sometimes as adults we need to re-examine the religious teachings of our childhood, family and religious heritage from the vantage point of mature thinking and reasoning. Nowhere has this truism become more evident to me than in my studies of acquaintance or affinity sexual abuse, sexual and gender harassment, institutional clericalism, betrayal trauma and post-traumatic stress disorders. A community’s insistence upon forgiveness as a first act in any victim’s recovery process is a continuation of abuse – now done in the name of the family, the community, the church or God. The pattern of a violent assault, a victimizer’s pleas for forgiveness and promises never to do the violence again, the victim’s forgiveness, a honeymoon period, and the victimizer’s return to violence: this pattern is all-too-well-known to domestic violence shelter workers. The issue of perpetrator recidivism underlies all issues of victim forgiveness in issues of affinity violence and its betrayal of a human relationship.

The following bibliography attempts to look at forgiveness and accountability issues from many different perspectives. It provides a beginning resource to individuals who are just beginning to ask questions about their inherited beliefs and theologies. What follows does not pretend to be all-inclusive. There have been many books written and even more sermons preached about the need to forgive. Nevertheless, each book provides a doorway into necessary conversations about forgiveness and accountability. Each author’s work can provide additional information and resources.

I do not agree with every opinion stated in the books and articles which follow yet each helped me to think more carefully and comprehensively about forgiveness and accountability. The academic and research reality is that the following authors don’t all agree with each other. None should, therefore, be used to buttress academic or pastoral arguments as containing an absolute truth or only pathway to healing interpersonal and institutional betrayals. Each set of authors can, however, help us to open the door of our inner understanding of these complex issues.

It is essential for those who seek to facilitate victims’ or perpetrator’s healing processes that they begin to (1) understand their unique personal perspectives on accountability and forgiveness and (2) the unique personal perspectives of their clients. Dogmatism and ideological rigidity are never, in my opinion, assets for healing work after betrayal trauma events. Flexibility, resiliency, openness, truthfulness, accountability, trustworthiness, and a respectful and tolerant curiosity about human experiences serve us as much more secure foundations for healing and advocacy work.

In order to examine questions of personal accountability for harm done by victimizers to others and the request for forgiveness without accountability, I found it very helpful to look first inside my religious tradition (the Anabaptist-Mennonite Church) for its wisdom and living praxis. Next I sought resources in clinical literature – my professional home. Finally, I began to read literature from other spiritual traditions and world religions.

I also found it very helpful to look at other forms of human violation and violence – the kinds of human atrocities that happen in war zones as well as inner city areas of violence and poverty. The human response to trauma and violence shares many similarities across many different forms of violation. The American Psychiatric Association diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reflects this. Individuals who do violence to others (such as soldiers in a war zone) and individuals who are the recipients of violence (such as rape survivors) both can and do develop PTSD.iv

This working bibliography is provided to individuals who are students of theology, ethics, post-traumatic stress disorders, betrayal trauma, sexual violence, and other forms of violence such as drive-by shootings, massacres, or war. It can serve as a beginning resource for undergraduate student papers, theses and dissertations. It can serve as a research aid to a wide variety of scholarly and theological projects on the topic of forgiveness.

Spiritual and Religious Problems

Religious or Spiritual Problems: This category can be used when the focus of clinical attention is a religious or spiritual problem. Examples include distressing experiences that involve loss or questioning of faith, problems associated with conversion to a new faith, or questioning of other spiritual values which may not necessarily be related to an organized church or religious institution

American Psychiatric Associationv

In 1994 the American Psychiatric Association added the diagnosis “religious or spiritual problem” to its fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The diagnostic category results from transpersonal psychologists (and other clinicians) who described distress or spiritual emergencies associated with religious experience and spiritual practices.

According to clinical psychologist David Lukoff (1998) the new diagnosis differentiates between religiosity and spirituality. Religiosity is defined as being associated with religious organization(s) and religious personnel. Spirituality, on the other hand, is defined as the degree of involvement or state of awareness or devotion to a higher power or life philosophy (p. 1).

Religious problems involve a person’s conflicts over the beliefs, practices, rituals and experiences related to a religious organization or institution. Examples of religious problems can include (1) the loss of or questioning of faith, (2) changes in denominational memberships, (3) conversion to a new religion, (4) intensification of adherence to the beliefs and practices of one’s faith, (5) joining, participating in or leaving a new religious group (p. 2).

Spiritual problems involve an individual’s relationship with a higher power – one which is not necessarily connected to a religious organization (1). Examples of spiritual problems can include (1) loss of faith, (2) near-death experiences, (3) separation from a spiritual teacher, (4) a questioning of spiritual values which is commonly associated with loss, (5) leaving a spiritual teacher and moving away from communities where they previously found spiritual meaning and teaching, (6) loss of previously comforting religious or spiritual tenets and community (pp. 4-7).

It is inevitable when religious leader sexual abuse occurs or institutional malfeasance occurs that religious and spiritual problems will arise within individuals and the community as a whole. It is equally inevitable that questions of forgiveness and accountability will arise.

The dilemma of victim forgiveness in the absence of perpetrator repentance and change

For sins against God, the Day of Atonement brings forgiveness. For sins against one’s neighbor, the Day of Atonement brings no forgiveness until one has become reconciled with one’s neighbor.

The Mishna

The complexity of forgiveness issues lies at the intersection of the religious and spiritual problems which arise in the aftermath of sexual abuse and sexual violence. Beliefs about forgiveness usually originate in childhood as parents, teachers, and religious leaders seek to instill social and religious values into the child’s life and patterns of relationships with others. They may never be seriously re-examined as individuals move through the various developmental stages of their lives. Individuals, indeed entire communities, may live within the unexamined values and teachings of childhood.

Issues of victimization – either by individuals or by corporate organizations – may create inner turmoil as a victimized individual faces the issues that victimization brings into a life. One may find the self faced with perpetrator or communal demands to forgive; a personal inability to forgive; an adult sense of betrayed justice; and a deeply rooted need for perpetrator or institution truthfulness; or many other complex adult emotional realities. A cognitive disconnect between the teachings of childhood and the lived experiences of adult life in situations of violence and betrayal may create an inner need to find a pathway back into balanced living and a sense of personal rootedness and joy in life

Conversations with the issues of forgiveness, therefore, are central to the ordinary work of religious and spiritual organizations and to the clinical processes of psychotherapy. The following bibliography includes, therefore, a wide variety of resources so that the conversation between theologians and psychotherapists can be both challenged and invigorated.

Forgiveness Defined

Grudge and wrath: these are abominations. Whoever demands revenge will suffer vengeance. Forgive the crimes of your neighbor. Remember your final end and give up hatred. Remember the Commandments and do not bear grudges or demand vengeance from your neighbor.

Sirach 27:30-28:9.

Is forgiveness an act or an attitude? Is it the first act or the final act of a process of reconciliation? Does forgiveness benefit the perpetrator or the victim? Is forgiveness equated with reconciliation? How is forgiveness best defined? Who can forgive acts of human sexual violence – the victim, the religious community or God? Who can forgive acts of institutional betrayal?

In examining religious teachings about forgiveness, we find there is no uniformity of meaning about what it means to forgive. In examining clinical literature, the same problem becomes equally visible. No two authors and no two traditions have exactly the same human sentiments about what it means to forgive. Even the Lord’s Prayer and its petition for God’s forgiveness has more than one meaning. Does forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors mean financial obligations and debts? Does it mean personal transgressions of status and property? Does it include violations against the human body? Does such a liturgical prayer mean that if we don’t forgive a human who has sexually violated another that God’s forgiveness will be withheld? How we read such an ancient teaching will affect how we – and our varied faith communities – understand the relationship of perpetrator accountability and victim responses to violation. Does Jesus’ teaching that individuals should forgive 70 times 7 mean that an abused spouse needs to stay in a violent relationship where the abuse continues to happen? Does forgiveness in such a situation mean that reconciliation is automatically granted when there is no, trust?

 A Forgiveness Bibliography

True repentance must include empathy toward the victim and others who share his vulnerability…We must stop dictating moral postures to the survivors. The opposite of not forgiving is neither cruelty nor wallowing. It is a way of healing and honoring our grief and pain.

 Andre Steinvii

To Forgive: (1) Excuse for a fault or offense, (2) absolve, (3) give up all claims on account of, (4) remit a debt owed, (5) remit obligation, (6) cancel indebtedness, (7) cease to feel resentment.viii

Recommended Readings

It is so easy to put memories aside, when they hurt so much and it is so easy to let go when there isn’t much to hold onto. I, however, refuse to forget and I refuse to let go because it is the memories of what I left behind that keep my hope alive.

Adrianna Portillo Bartowix

NOTE: I have arranged the following reference resources alphabetically by the lead author’s last name.

Arnold, J. C. (2010). Why Forgive? Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Press.

  • An ordained minister and a free lance writer, Arnold considers themes of peacemaking, forgiveness, and reconciliation in his work. He works with life stories as a way of beginning to construct his unique and personal theology of forgiveness.

Butwell, A., Hartells, E. F., Schott, D. (1999). Refusing to Forget: A Study Guide on Guatemala – Never Again. Washington, DC: Campaign for Peace and Life in Guatemala/EPICA.

  • A study guide which describes the work of REMHI (The Recovery of Historical Memory Project) in Guatemala which was launched by the Roman Catholic Church to seek peace based on truth.

Chan, V. (with the Dalai Lama) the Dalai Lama (2004). , The Wisdom of Forgiveness: Intimate Conversations and Journeys, New York: Riverhead.

  • In a series of interviews Chan talks with the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace prize winner, about his views about forgiveness.

Coggins, J. R. (April 30, 1991). Should we report scandal in the Mennonite Press? (pp. 6-7). The Gospel Herald.

  • At the time this article was written, Coggins was a Meetinghouse editor for the Mennonite Brethren Church.

Doyle, T. P. (2011). Sexual Abuse by Catholic Clergy: The Spiritual Damage (pp. 171-182) in T. Plant and K. McChesney, Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A decade of crisis, 2002-2012 (Eds.). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

  • Doyle is a Dominican monk, an ordained Roman Catholic Priest, a canon lawyer and an addictions specialist.

Enright, R. D. (2001). Forgiveness is a Choice: A step-by-step process for resolving anger and restoring hope. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 2001.

  • Enright is a clinical psychologist whose teachings about the necessity of forgiveness in clinical practice have reached a wide audience.

Fortune M. M. (1988). Forgiveness is the Last Step in A. L. Horton and J. A. Williamson, (Eds). Abuse and Religion: When praying isn’t enough (Boston, MA; Lexington Books/D.C. Heath and Company.

  • Fortune is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and is one of the world’s leading experts on clergy and religious leader sexual abuse. Her organization, the Faith-Trust Institute, provides consultation to individuals and organizations in the aftermath of abuse.x

Freyd, J. J. (1996). Betrayal Trauma: The legacy of forgetting childhood abuse. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  • Freyd is a psychotherapist who examines issues of betrayal in the aftermath of childhood affinity or acquaintance abuse.

Grant, R. (undated). Anger, Forgiveness, and the Healing Process (Audio CD and home study program). Haddonfield, NJ: Institute for Brain Potential.

Grant, R. (1994-1995). Healing the Soul of the Church: Ministers facing their own childhood abuse and trauma. Oakland, CA: Self-published.

  • Grant is a clinical psychologist and a popular continuing education consultant to the therapeutic community.

Hauerwas, S. (2000). Why Time Cannot and Should Not Heal the Wounds of History, but Time Has Been and Can Be Redeemed (139-154) in A Better Hope: Resources for a church confronting capitalism, democracy and postmodernity. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos.

Hauerwas, S. (April, 1992). Why Truthfulness Requires Forgiveness: A commencement address for graduates of the Church of the Second Chance (Goshen, IN: ITS Media Collection and Mennonite Church Archives.xi

  • Hauerwas is one of America’s most honored, respected, and influential evangelical Protestant theological ethicists.

Hillman, J. (1975). Betrayal (pp. 63-81) in Loose Ends: Primary Papers in Archetypal Psychology. Dallas, TX: Spring Publications.

  • Hillman is a Jungian psychoanalyst. In this chapter he examines betrayal and forgiveness from an archetypal perspective. He concludes his essay with the following “sum up”: The unfolding through the various stages from trust through betrayal to forgiveness presents a movement of consciousness (81).

Khamisa, A. (1998/2005). From Murder to Forgiveness. La Jolla, CA: ANK Publishing, Inc.

  • Khamisa’s son was murdered and this autobiographical work details his life journey since then. See for additional information about Khamisa’s foundation and his work to honor his son’s life by working against youth violence. This is a powerful story of grace and redemption. While the book cover does not explicitly identify Khamisa’s religious tradition, it appears to be Buddhism.

Koontz, G. G. (April, 1994). As we forgive others: Christian forgiveness and feminist pain (pp. 170-193) in The Mennonite Quarterly Review 68.

  • Koontz is a Mennonite academic theologian and a tenured professor at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, IN.

Kornfield, J. (2002). The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace. New York, NY: Bantam.

  • Kornfield is an American Buddhist monk and a clinical psychologist. He is one of the founders of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA.

Krall, R. E. (February, 2012. The Duty to Forgive in The Elephants in God’s Living Room, Volume One; Clergy Sexual Abuse and Clericalism, Theoretical Issues. Retrieve from

Krall, R. E., (December, 2012). Accountability and Forgiveness: Religious Communities Confront individual and Institutional Abuse in The Elephants in God’s Living Room, Volume Three: The Mennonite Church and John Howard Yoder. Retrieve from: from

  • Krall is an Anabaptist-Mennonite and a former professor at Goshen College (IN). Before retirement she headed Goshen’s Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies Program.

Kraybill, D. B., Nolt, S. M. and Weaver-Zuercher, D. L., Amish Grace: How forgiveness transcends tragedy, San Francisco, CA: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2007.

  • Mennonite sociologists and historians examine an Amish response to the Nikkel Mines School Shooting in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Lamb, S. and Murphy, J. G. (Eds.). Before Forgiving: Cautionary views of forgiveness in psychotherapy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

  • An edited collection of twelve essays about forgiveness. Lamb is a psychologist and Murphy is a philosopher. This is, in my opinion, an essential book for any forgiveness researcher’s collection. It raises critical questions from a wide variety of theoretical perspectives.

Miller, A. (1991). Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: The liberating experience of facing painful truth (New York: Penguin/Dutton,1991).

  • Miller is a European analyst and psychotherapist, She examines the issue of forgiveness in light of a clinical history of child abuse

Miller, I. (2006). Eye for an Eye, Cambridge, NY: Cambridge.

  • Miller describes and exegetes the Lex Talionis concepts of morality and punishment and/or reparations after wrongdoing.

Moore, T. (May-June, 2008), Finding Freedom in Forgiveness (p. 12). Journal of Spirituality and Health (3).

  • Moore is a Jungian psychoanalyst and free-lance writer about spiritual issues. A former monastic, his religious heritage is Roman Catholic.

Naperstek, B. (2001). A Meditation to Help with Anger and Forgiveness, Akron, OH: Image Paths. .

  • Naperstek is a psychotherapist. She is one of America’s best-regarded practitioners of guided imagery as a healing resource for individuals with PTSD. She worked with survivors and first responders after the September, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

REMHI (1998). Guatemala: Never Again. Washington, DC: EPICA

  • As a Church, we collectively and responsibly assumed the task of breaking the silence that thousands of war victims have kept for years. We opened up the possibility for them to talk, to have their say, to tell their stories of suffering and pain, so they might feel liberated from the burden that has been weighing down on them for so many years. With these words Bishop Juan Gerardi released a two volume historical study of governmental and military human rights abuses in Guatemala during its long civil war. Two days later Bishop Gerardi was assassinated.

Ruth, J. L., Forgiveness, Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2007

  • A Mennonite historian and popular author examines forgiveness in light of the Nikkel Mines shooting in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Shapiro. R. (2011). Rabbi Rami Guide to Forgiveness. Traverse City, MI: Spirituality and Health Press.

  • Rami Shapiro is a Jewish Rabbi, writer, and lecturer on interfaith issues of spirituality. He defines forgiveness as an attitude rather than only an action.

Sipe, A. W. R. (October 15, 2011). Mother Church and the Rape of Her Children. Retrieve from:

____ (November 15, 2009). Unspeakable Damage: The Effect of Clergy Sexual Abuse. Retrieve from: unspeakable damage.html

  • Sipe is a laicized former Benedictine monk and ordained Roman Catholic priest. He is an expert on Roman Catholic sexual theology and praxis.

Tipping, C. (2009). The Power of Radical Forgiveness: An Experience of Deep Emotional and Spiritual Healing, Boulder, CO: Sounds True.

  • Tipping represents a perspective from the new age movement.

Tutu, D. (1999). No Future without Forgiveness, New York, NY: Image/Doubleday.

  • Nobel Peace Prize winner, Episcopalian Bishop Tutu helped to bring about the end to apartheid in South Africa and headed the nation’s post-apartheid truth and reconciliation work.

Wiesenthal, S. (1997). The Sunflower (and Symposium): On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness, New York, NY: Schocken Books.

  • Wiesenthal was a European Holocaust (Shoah) survivor. In this book, he told a story from his life in the camps and asks should I have forgiven a Nazi solider who asked for my forgiveness? He asked representatives of the world’s religious traditions to reply. As I have read forgiveness literature, this collection of brief essays in response to Wiesenthal’s question is the most powerful set of resources about repentance, accountability and forgiveness that I have found. Various authors have informed me, have challenged my own thinking, and have kept returning me – time-after-time to the inadequacies of simplistic answers or creedal formulations to guide human beings in real situations of victimization, betrayal, and harm. The book belongs in all collections of seminary libraries, peace activists, justice advocates, and forgiveness researchers.

Williamson, M., (2002). Everyday Grace: Having hope, Finding forgiveness and making miracles, New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

  • Williamson is a motivational speaker and spiritual teacher who represents the new age movement.

Worthington, E. L., Jr. (2006). Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Theory and application, New York, NY: Routledge.

  • Worthington is a research psychologist who has focused on evidence-based research into human decisions about forgiveness and reconciliation.


i Susannah Heschel in Wiesenthal, 1997, p. 173.

iiTzvetan Todorov in Wiesenthal, 1997, p. 265.

iiiRabbi Harold S. Kushner in Wiesenthal, 1997, p. 186.

ivSee van der Kolk, B. A. and McFarlane, A. C. (1996). The Black Hole of Trauma (pp. 3-26) in van der Kolk, B. A., et. al. Traumatic Stress: The effects of overwhelming experiences on mind, body and society. New York, NY: Guilford. See also Herman, J. L. (1997). Trauma and Recovery: the aftermath of violence-from domestic abuse to political terror. New York, NY: Basic Books. See also: Schiraldi, G. R. (2009). The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook: A guide to healing, recovery and growth. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

vAPA, (1994) DSM- Iv, p. 685

viSee Chapter 8 in Krall, R. E. (2012, The Elephants in God’s Living Room, Volume Two, pp. 243 – 262.

viiAndre Stein (holocaust survivor and psychotherapist) in Wiesenthal, 1997, pp. 252-253.

viiiIn creating this definition, I consulted The American Heritage Dictionary, Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin Company, 2007 and The Random House Unabridged Dictionary, NY, NY: Random House, 1987

ixA. Butwell, E. F. Hartels, and D. Schott (EPICA/Campaign for Peace and Life in Guatemala), 1999, p. 5.

xFaithTrust Institute webpage:

xiAvailable from the Mennonite Church Archives, Goshen College Campus, 1700 South Main Street, Goshen, IN 46526.

Resource Bibliography compiled by Ruth E. Krall, Ph.D.

For (Enduring Space), © January, 2013