You are here

The Limits of Forgiveness: Case Studies in the Distortion of a Biblical Ideal

Author: 
Maria Mayo (Author)
Collection: 
Request a Review, Exam, or Desk copy.

Request a Review copy

Please select a version:

Digital

Digital copies are fulfulled via Edelweiss, an external trusted partner.

×

Request an Exam copy

Please select a version:

Digital

Digital copies are fulfulled via Edelweiss, an external trusted partner.

×

Request an Desk copy

Please select a version:

Digital

Digital copies are fulfulled via Edelweiss, an external trusted partner.

×

Request an Exam/Desk copy

This title is not available as a gratis copy.
To discuss your use of this title for a particular course please e-mail the Textbook Adoption Consultant for review.
Click here to email

×

Description

Maria Mayo questions the contemporary idealization of unconditional forgiveness in three areas of contemporary life: so-called Victim-Offender Mediation involving cases of criminal injury, the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-apartheid South Africa, and the pastoral care of victims of domestic violence.

In each area, she shows how an emphasis on unilateral and unconditional forgiveness is often presented as a Christian (and Christlike) obligation, putting disproportionate pressure on the victims of injustice or violence. Mayo also takes pains to show that the idealization of forgiveness in each case depends on peculiarly modern psychological and therapeutic notions of forgiveness and misrepresents and misconstrues the very biblical passages—especially in Jesus’ teaching and actions—on which advocates of unconditional forgiveness rely.

The Limits of Forgiveness is an incisive critique of the forgiveness “mystique” and a sobering wake-up call to any who look to the Bible for guidance in situations of injury or injustice.

ISBN: 
9781451493085
Price: 
$39.00
Release date: 
August 1, 2015
Pages: 
276
Width: 
6
Height: 
9

Endorsements

"In this unflinching critique of much recent Christian scholarship on the meaning and practice of forgiveness, Mayo argues that forgiveness is a more limited or conditional virtue than is often claimed. Even those who will disagree with her conclusions or find themselves, as I often did, wanting right of reply, will appreciate the clarity and passion with which she makes her case. The topic is an immensely complex one and Mayo rightly admonishes us never to sidestep the deep moral and pastoral ambiguities involved in contemplating the task of forgiveness."
—Christopher Marshall
Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand  

"Maria Mayo's book offers a much needed critique of the contemporary ideal of forgiveness. Drawing on analysis of religious texts, Mayo calls for a more nuanced and reflective understanding of forgiveness in emotional and intense conflict resolution processes.  Serving as an important guide for both scholars and practitioners, The Limits of Forgiveness ultimately points to the potential of non-obligatory forgiveness for repairing broken relationships and building community cohesion."
—Susan Szmania
University of Maryland

"Using a close biblical analysis, Maria Mayo, explores current conceptions of forgiveness and how its Christians origins are intermingled in complex and problematic ways. In cases of domestic violence, in the Truth and Reconciliation hearings, and in psychotherapy today, victims are being pressured to forgive as if there are only two options, the other being retribution. Mayo smartly shows how this dichotomization of forgiveness and resentment crowds out other potential responses that are human and also healing. Her thorough and thoughtful analysis adds substantially to a growing voice that reasserts victims’ rights to anger and to the kind of help that gives full acknowledgement of the complexity of their pain."
—Sharon Lamb
University of Massachusetts—Boston

"Christian writing on forgiveness often consists of sentimental clichés and platitudes about the supposed glories of unconditional forgiveness.  Maria Mayo’s book is a refreshing change from all that.  She appreciates the many virtues of forgiveness but is also alert to its downsides—particularly if advocated in a hasty and uncritical way and supported with a few biblical quotations taken out of context and in ignorance of their ambiguous meanings.  Her scholarship is solid, her arguments are careful and nuanced, and she is a clear and persuasive writer.  There is much to be learned from her book and I am delighted to recommend it to others."
—Jeffrie G. Murphy 
Arizona State University

"This is a captivating, sober and well-researched demonstration of the many reasons why forgiveness should not be advocated as an unconditional and unilateral virtue. We need to understand, as Maria Mayo brilliantly reveals, the value as well as the limits of forgiveness."  
—Thomas Brudholm
University of Copenhagen

"Stories of forgiveness often make heart-warming reading. And yet to idealize an example of heroic generosity of spirit, and then to make of it a duty for victims, does not do just either to the Biblical understanding of forgiveness or the real needs of the violated. Maria Mayo’s challenging book is a necessary and welcome contribution to the ethical, intellectual and spiritual project of re-imagining forgiveness. She argues that forgiveness in the Biblical mold is not a panacea demanded of the victim, nor is it a unilateral decision move to give up resentment in order to feel better. Rather it is a bi-lateral process that requires and creates change in both perpetrator and victim.  Her book will not bring the study of forgiveness to an end, but it will deeply enrich and inform it, and, if widely read, hugely improve the integrity of preaching on this subject and the quality of the pastoral care of the violated and otherwise harmed."
—Stephen Cherry
King’s College, Cambridge   

"Maria Mayo has done the heavy lifting and asked the hard questions about the Christian notion of obligatory forgiveness. Especially in the aftermath  of the Charleston Massacre, we must remember that justice must precede forgiveness if there is to be healing for the community and individuals. Otherwise with Jeremiah, we 'heal the wound lightly, saying "peace, peace"when there is no peace.’  This is a very important book that needs to be read by pastors and pastoral counselors."
—Marie M. Fortune
Founder and Senior Analyst
Faith Trust Institute

Reviews