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EVERETT WORTHINGTON’S REACH FOR FORGIVENESS

In struggling to come to terms with my aunt and her words and behavior toward my mother, the work of Everett Worthington on forgiveness was particularly useful.  His ideas were and are anchor points for me as I continue to move from an unforgiving stance to forgiveness in my daily life.

Briefly, here is Worthington’s story as told by Joan Tupponce in Richmond Magazine (January 2009).

 In 1996, while psychologist Everett Worthington Jr. was busy writing a book on forgiveness, his mother was brutally murdered in her own home. He quickly found himself having to apply the lessons of his work to his own life.

Everett Worthington Jr. had just woken up and was pouring a cup of coffee when the phone rang. Wondering who in the world would call at 7 a.m. on New Year’s Day, he heard a frantic voice on the other end of the line — his brother, Mike.

“What he saw was devastating,” Worthington says. “The house was a wreck, and there was blood everywhere in the hallway. That’s when he saw our mother’s body on the floor.”

A seasoned psychologist at Virginia Commonwealth University, Worthington packed and repacked his bag five times in preparation for the trip to Knoxville, Tennessee. His wife, Kirby, remembers: “When we got the call about Mom, we were all stunned and in disbelief. Ev’s way of handling bad news is to do something.”

A few hours later, Worthington was standing in his childhood home, viewing what he describes as “a horrific sight.”

His 76-year-old mother, Frances McNeill Worthington, had been beaten and sexually abused before being killed with a crowbar. “I was so angry,” Worthington recalls. “I sat in the back room and pointed to a baseball bat. I told my brother and sister that I would beat the man’s brains out.”

That night, Worthington was consumed with rage and insomnia, replaying the scene in his mother’s house over and over. It took a while for him to remember what had kept him up nights just a month earlier — a publisher’s deadline for his book, To Forgive Is Human. As a marriage counselor since 1982, he had examined the concept of forgiveness for several years. Now, under the most brutal of circumstances, it was time to apply it to his own life.

“It dawned on me that I had come through that whole day never allowing myself to think the word ‘forgive,’ ” he says. “I had just written this book on forgiveness, and I wasn’t going to think about forgiveness. Who did I write the book for? Everybody else?”

Let yourself imagine what you would have done if you were Everett Worthington.  Would you have wanted to “beat the man’s brain’s out” as Worthington want to do, or as I, no doubt would have wanted to do as well.  Would you have been able to think as he did, “It dawned on me that I had come through that whole day never allowing myself to think the word ‘forgive,’ ” he says. “I had just written this book on forgiveness, and I wasn’t going to think about forgiveness.  Who did I write the book for? Everybody else?”

 Would you have been able to strive to forgive as Everett Worthington did?  Try to “REACH” for it (see the previous blog posting.)

Posted in agingForgivenessmental healthspiritual issuesspirituality on 29 April 2010
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