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Radical Forgiveness: Shift Happens
By Nancy Only

The Kingston Trio, in it’s heyday (and mine), blessed us with “The Merry Minuet” which goes, in part, like this:

“The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans.
The Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate the Yugoslavs.
South Africans hate the Dutch—
And I don’t like anybody very much.”

Things haven’t changed. The preferred local antagonism seems to be between environmentalists and the timber industry, but the truth is that any issue generating feelings of we/they fear and a sense of victimization serves to perpetuate hostilities. As long as we hold grudges of any kind, peace on earth remains the impossible dream.

The good news is that we have a way to get over it. In his book, Radical Forgiveness: Making room for the Miracle, Colin Tipping sets forth a system whereby we can tackle the problem where it really lives, in our individual psyches. Using an assortment of simple tools, we can release the stuck energy that holds our resentments in place, freeing ourselves to become the loving beings we were created to be. The key lies in our willingness to shift our perceptions.

Forgiveness has been around for thousands of years. In fact, most of us have probably tried to make it work for us at one time or another. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if we are hanging on to feelings that cause us anger, grief, pain or illness, it behooves us to let those feelings go. What happens all too often, though, is that because we perceive ourselves as victims, we cannot get past the idea that something terribly wrong has happened. We are conflicted over the need to forgive versus the need to condemn. By seeing the circumstances of an event as bad, unjust or abusive, we set it in emotional concrete. This makes traditional forgiveness a monumental task.

Greg Mackie (who fields questions on the Circle of Atonement website), recently described the usual approach to forgiveness as looking like this:

“You have caused me real harm, and, therefore, you are a sinner. Your sin against me gives me the right to resent you and punish you—this is what you deserve. However, because I want to be loving, I will overlook your sin against me. I will sacrifice my right to resent you and punish you, and I will get no benefit from this except the solace of knowing that I made a sacrifice for the sake of love. In the name of love, I will release you from the punishment you truly deserve. I will forgive your sin against me, and thereby show you how good and innocent I am by overlooking your guilt.”

Is it any wonder that, viewed from such a perspective, our sense of “victimhood” refuses to budge? No matter how noble our intentions, no matter how desperate our need, as long as we remain convinced that we have somehow been violated, we retain our grievances against our “violator.”

A thought system capable of dislodging us would merit the label “Radical.” But how would it work? Very simply, by shifting our perception of what happened. Traditional forgiveness insists that something wrong happened.

Radical Forgiveness sees the wisdom and the purposefulness at work in the universe and awakens our understanding that nothing wrong happened—that there is, in fact, nothing to forgive.

It doesn’t say the event never happened. It doesn’t say you don’t hurt. It doesn’t say the pain is imaginary. It merely asks you to be willing to see the event differently.

Willingness is the key that unlocks the stuck energy, allowing love to flow. We can’t fake it. If we have held onto our victim story long enough to form our identity around it, the idea of giving it up may feel threatening. If we give up being the victim, who would we be? I can only suggest that we would be exactly who we are now—minus the pain, the grief, the anger, the stress, the baggage with which “victimhood” burdens us.

Of course, the idea that nothing wrong happened can be difficult to digest—especially if you’ve been heavily invested in the victim role. If, however, you believe that there is an overriding order in the universe, if you have ever experienced a challenge that you later realized was a blessing in disguise, if you are willing to consider that nothing happens by accident, you’ve already taken a giant step in the process.

It is not possible in the space of this article to cover all the aspects, anecdotes and advantages of Radical Forgiveness. I will, however, outline the four-step process involved:


Step One: “Look what I created.” This step reminds us that we are co-creators of our lives. As such, we need to accept responsibility—but not the guilt—for what we have created. Judgment comes all too easily to us as human beings. Please don’t get stuck in that. Simply acknowledge your part in the situation and move on to step two.

Step Two: “I notice my judgments and love myself for having them.” Noticing our judgments can be a full time job in itself. We are forever ranking whatever comes to us: “best” friends, “lousy” service, “great” meals, “annoying” habits. This step asks us to be aware that this is what we do—often to ourselves—and to accept it lovingly as part of our human experience. Our healing depends on our being fully in touch with all of our feelings and on our reaching a place where we can do that with love. Colin Tipping uses the analogy of trying to keep a large beach ball submerged. When we expend huge amounts of energy repressing our feelings, we have little left over to do the work that healing requires. Once we free that energy, we can complete the forgiveness process.

Step Three: “I am willing to see the perfection in the situation.” Again, willingness is the key. It demonstrates our surrender to the purposefulness of the universe, whether or not that purpose is clear to us in the moment. It also frees us to be available for the blessings that surely lie ahead.

Step Four: “I choose the power of peace.” Having completed the previous steps, we are now free to make this choice. Whatever follows, we have peace as a powerful ally, and will be able to access it any time we act in the present, independent of past judgments or future fears.


If we incorporate these four steps into our response system and use them any time we are tempted to see ourselves as victims, we will find we are able to dissipate the need for forgiveness before it takes hold in us.

Radical Forgiveness offers a variety of other tools including forgiveness worksheets, book study groups, support groups, private coaching sessions, and a powerful ceremony based on the Native American healing circle tradition. As the demand grows, workshops, ceremonies, and certified RF coaches are showing up from Tipping’s home base in Atlanta to points as distant as the UK and Australia.

In these seemingly turbulent times, many seek a means by which to rid themselves of resentment, guilt, anger and other manifestations of negativity. Radical Forgiveness offers a safe, effective way to accomplish this. The resulting transformation can empower every aspect of our lives.

Radical Forgiveness Website

The Radical Forgiveness Experience

Radical Forgiveness: Colin Tipping

If you would care to express your desire for a world of forgiveness, and for racial reconciliation in America, visit Radicalforgiveness.org and read the 'Spiritual Petition.' Then add your name to the petition. Thanks!


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Last updated: 08/15/08

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