A conversation on the ancient wisdom of Christian forgiveness, between Yale psychologist Laurie Santos (host, The Happiness Lab) and Miroslav Volf. Recently appearing on The Happiness Lab, Miroslav and Laurie discuss his older brother's tragic death as a child and his family's response to forgive. Miroslav reflects on the formative impact of these events. He contrasts forgiveness as an obligation with forgiveness as a gift that frees one from captivity to the past and opens up possibilities for the future. Forgiveness, for him, is more than an event but a practice cultivated throughout life, offering a way of recognizing the sacred and holy in the other.
Reposted with permission from The Happiness Lab. Listen and subscribe at www.happinesslab.fm.
- Introduction: Evan Rosa
- "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
- Subscribe to The Happiness Lab: https://www.happinesslab.fm/
- The story of Miroslav Volf's family forgiving the soldier responsible for the death of his brother as a child
- Forgiveness as transcending the rage and deep sorrow
- "Forgive one another as you have been forgiven in Christ." (Ephesians 4:32)
- The love of enemy as a fundamental Christian stance
- How many times should I forgive: 70 x 7
- A definition of forgiveness—dealing with resentment, or freeing one's life from the burden of injury.
- "Unstick the deed from the doer. This is what forgiveness does."
- Nietzsche against forgiveness, treating all injury as minor and ineffectual.
- "Time does not run backwards."
- In the gift of forgiveness, I relate to you as if you had not done that particular wrong.
- Forgiveness as an arduous process; a release into new possibilities for the future.
- "We are often held captive by the past."
- Forgiveness reconfigures the relationship with have the other. We give the possibility (not the actuality) for a different future. Imagine and live into a joint future.
- Forgiveness must be a voluntary act.
- We shouldn't think of forgiveness as a burden, but as a gift.
- Life becomes better when we can transcend the self.
- Turning from injury and loss to a new life. "Forgiveness made it possible for her to invest herself into the good around her."
- Release into the future
- The Volf family's forgiveness of the soldier who was responsible for their son's death.
- Practical steps to move toward forgiveness
- Invoking the command to forgive
- "Forgiveness isn't a one-time event. ... It's a messy process. It's in this messiness—in this gradual character of forgiveness—that we actually grow into forgiveness. And forgiveness ends up being not so much an act as it ends up being a a practice."
- Prodigal Son governs the logic of Christianity
- "People have a hard time forgiving themselves."
- "To forgive myself, I somehow have to distinguish between who the core of myself is, and what I have done. I cannot have an account of the self that is simply the sum of what I have suffered and what I have committed. If I have that kind of account of the self, there's no way to delete that from the self, because that wrongdoing is integral to the self. ... In the Christian tradition—other traditions as well, to a significant degree—there's always been a sense that there is a core of the self that is loved by God, and that we ought to love in each other that is untouched by anything that person might or might not have done, or what that person has suffered."
- "Would you love me if I turned into a donkey?"
- Seeing the sacred in the other
About Laurie Santos
Dr. Laurie Santos is Professor of Psychology and Head of Silliman College at Yale University. Dr. Santos is an expert on human cognition and the cognitive biases that impede better choices. Her course, “Psychology and the Good Life,” teaches students what the science of psychology says about how to make wiser choices and live a life that’s happier and more fulfilling. The class is Yale’s most popular course in over 300 years and has been adapted into a free Coursera program that has been taken by over 3.3 million people to date. Dr. Santos has been featured in numerous news outlets including the New York Times, NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, NPR, GQ Magazine, Slate, CNN and O, The Oprah Magazine. Dr. Santos is a winner of numerous awards both for her science and teaching from institutions such as Yale and the American Psychological Association. She has been featured as one of Popular Science’s “Brilliant 10” young minds and was named TIME's “Leading Campus Celebrity.” Her podcast, The Happiness Lab, launched in 2019 has over 35 million downloads.
- This podcast featured Miroslav Volf and Laurie Santos
- Edited and Produced by Evan Rosa
- Hosted by Evan Rosa
- Special thanks to Laurie Santos, Ryan Dilley, and Pushkin Media
- Production Assistance by Martin Chan & Nathan Jowers
- Listen and subscribe to The Happiness Lab at www.happinesslab.fm
- A Production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School https://faith.yale.edu/about
- Support For the Life of the World podcast by giving to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture: https://faith.yale.edu/give
Evan Rosa: For the Life of the World is a production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. Visit us online at faith.Yale.edu.
Miroslav Volf: I think that there is no happy, successful you can say, beautiful, interpersonal relationship without forgiveness. This person with whom I live, with whom there's something sacred about them, there's something that's part and parcel of who they are, and it's unchangeable, and that I need to love and hold in its integrity. And when it gets to be disturbed, I need to concentrate on that, which is absolutely essential in Poland, and then I can transform my own relationships, and that person, sometimes. And I think that's the only way in which we can thrive, not just as individuals, but also as community.
Evan Rosa: This is For the Life of the World, a podcast about seeking and living a life worthy of our humanity. I'm Evan Rosa with the Yale Center for Faith & Culture.
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." I utter these words of the Lord's prayer with my kids most nights, too often letting them pass over my tongue without feeling their ancient weight.
The apostle Paul echoes these words of Christ. "Forgive one another as you have been forgiven in Christ." In difficult and trying times such as these, the weightier words seem to be punishment. Resentment, revenge, take down, payback, more and more, especially in the growing awareness of systemic, repetitious evil, we're likely to think the expectation or obligation placed on a victim to forgive her offender demands too much, that releasing the offender from their crime is unfair, and only makes it possible for continued harm, that it leaves the scales of justice tipped toward oppression, chaos, evil. But perhaps there's a different way of seeing forgiveness, empowering and freeing the victim from the past, offering, not demanding, a way that transcends self-interest and corrosive resentment, in Miroslav Volf's words, to "unstick the deed from the doer."
This week, we're sharing a recent conversation between Yale psychologist, Laurie Santos, and Miroslav Volf. Laurie asked Miroslav onto her immensely popular podcast, The Happiness Lab, to discuss forgiveness as a part of her series on the happiness lessons of the ancients.
Miroslav's writings about forgiveness and reconciliation appear across his work, most notably in his books, Exclusion and Embrace, Free of Charge, and The End of Memory. But his scholarly work is proceeded and informed by personal expense. One of the core themes of his theology, the principle that, quote, "we must embrace our enemies as God has embraced us in Christ." These words were tested and tried in his own family, where forgiveness wasn't just an idea, but embedded in their history, in the fabric of their way of life.
In this conversation, Laurie and Miroslav discuss his older brother's tragic death as a child, and his family's response to forgive. Miroslav reflects on the formative impact of these events. He contrasts forgiveness as an obligation with forgiveness as a gift, that frees one from captivity to the past, and opens up possibilities for the future. For him, forgiveness is more than an event, but a practice cultivated through offering a way of recognizing the sacred and the holy in the other.
Thanks for listening today, friends. And if you haven't already check out Laurie Santos's podcast, The Happiness Lab over at www.Happinesslab.fm.
Laurie Santos: Whenever I get sideswiped by events in life that suck, if I get sick, or get a dent in my car, or lose my keys, I try to remember the Stoics, the ancient philosophers who taught that we shouldn't just surrender to ill fortune. We should embrace the setbacks of life, and feel pride in our ability to cheerfully bounce back.
But sometimes that isn't so easy, especially when the tragedy that befalls you is the fault of another person. When people around us cause us hurt, it's hard not to become fixated on them and their act of wrongdoing. We might feel affronted, angry, or even betrayed. We almost certainly will want justice, for that person to pay some price, or make amends for what they've done to us.
But in most situations you'll face at home, at school, or in the workplace, that justice usually won't come. So we can end up carrying the negative emotions. We ruminate over our injury. We stay angry with the perpetrator, and even risk letting the situation poison our closest relationships with grudges and feuds.
And if you're thinking that none of this sounds like a recipe for a happier life, then you're right. The science unsurprisingly suggests that carrying all these feelings around has a negative impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. But there is something within your power that you can do to fix things. And it's a practice described and explored again and again in one ancient religious tradition, Christianity. That hard, but ever so effective strategy? You can forgive.
Welcome once again to happiness lessons of the ancients, with me, Dr. Laurie Santos,
Miroslav Volf: I can hear you. Yeah, that sounds good.
Laurie Santos: This is my colleague, Miroslav Volf.
Miroslav Volf: So, I think we are on, we are recording.
Laurie Santos: He's a theologian at the Yale Divinity School and the author of Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace. His understanding of what it means to forgive is detailed and academic, but it also springs from a real-world sorrow.
Miroslav Volf: I think one of the first place that I have encountered forgiveness was my own home. It was a powerful encounter because it was interwoven into the story of our family. My older brother was five at that time, was one of the liveliest kids in the neighborhood. He loved to connect with people, and in the vicinity of where we lived, soldiers were stationed.
And he befriended those soldiers. They loved him. They were his soldiers, and he was so proud of them. And often what would happen is that they would play with him, and at one point they took him driving in a horse-drawn carriage to have a ride with them. And as they were driving under a door post, his head got stuck between the door posts and that, that carriage.
My father carried him for about 15, 20 minutes, ran with him to the nearby ambulance. And by the time they arrived, he had died.
Laurie Santos: I mean, I'm sure it was awful, but what was that moment like for your family?
Miroslav Volf: Uh, kind of utter devastation, obviously. Especially for my mother, there were... a kind of sense of almost a rage about what had occurred. And I think one of the most significant things that happened in that story is that after my brother was killed, both my mother and my father, independently of each other, decided to forgive the soldier. They sought also the soldier and to talk to him, so that it doesn't remain simply something that happened within their own selves, but became a gift that they offered to him.
And it was both incredibly freeing for them at the same time, especially for my mother. It was one of the most difficult things that she had done to transcend the inner rage, to transcend this deep sorrow that gripped her. And the way she describes that forgiveness was, she would forgive, and then she would take the forgiveness back. Especially at night, when the demons come, she would think, why would I want to forgive? I cannot forgive.
Demanding some kind of revenge. And yet, at the same time, she put it to herself, a text from the Bible, one of the epistles of the apostle Paul who says, "Forgive one another, as you have been forgiven in Christ." It is this, what God has done for her, that she felt that she needed to display in relationship to others.
In other words, she was trying to align her character with the beauty of God's character and this struggle between wanting revenge, even, and feeling the need to live worthy of what she thought was appropriate to her very humanity. That was the inner struggle, which was there. And of course, for a long time that sorrow stayed with her. And for me, then, the forgiveness became this jewel that is very difficult to achieve, but when you do, then you have something beautiful.
Laurie Santos: And so your parents were really inspired by this idea, forgiveness in Christian thought. So like, there are a lot of threads in Christianity, but it feels like forgiveness is a really fundamental one that runs through a lot of Christian thought.
Miroslav Volf: Yeah, I think It's a very important one. And I think a reason why it is important is that for very early in Christianity, for Jesus himself, the love of enemy was a kind of fundamental Christian stance. But how does one love a wrongdoer? What does it mean to love the wrongdoer? One forgives. And there is a saying of Jesus, so, when he's asked "how many times should I forgive? Seven times?" And Jesus basically responds, "70 times seven."
So to say, the infinite number of times is the number of times you should forgive. Which is to say, the stance is really a fundamental one, irrespective, in fact, of what the other person does in response, or toward me, as I offer the forgiveness.
Laurie Santos: Because I think many of us get this idea wrong, or at least wrong relative to what Jesus meant by this. So, can you give me a definition of forgiveness as it's thought about in Christian thought?
Miroslav Volf: So maybe, maybe a good way to do that is to contrast that with what seems to be in popular culture, but also in some philosophical literature, a prevalent way to understand forgiveness. Forgiveness there seems to be a way in which to deal with one's own turbulent emotions and with resentment that one feels, primarily motivated by the desire to be able not to have one's life weighed by the injury one has suffered, but so that one can live it freed from the burden of it in some sense.
And I think, whereas in the Christian tradition, this is a very important consequence of forgiveness, but forgiveness itself is something else. And I have described it in the following way.
Forgiveness has a structure of a gift. Somebody gives something to somebody else. The one who gives is the one who has been injured in this case, the one who receives is the injurer, and what one gives is forgiveness. And the content of forgiveness is not counting the wrongdoing that a person has committed against them.
You can put it this way: to unstick the deed from the doer. That's what forgiveness does.
Laurie Santos: When we think about forgiveness, it's also easy to get forgiveness wrong. So I kind of want to walk through what forgiveness isn't, because I think sometimes people think forgiveness is about making everything okay, or saying that the action was alright, or not going for justice. So talk about some of these misconceptions we have about forgiveness.
Miroslav Volf: There are situations in which we say, it's okay, doesn't matter. You know, somebody bumps into me, and there's nothing to forgive really. Right. It's simply to recognize, okay, no problem. Forgiveness comes in play when the injury is much more significant. By the way, Nietzsche was against forgiveness precisely because he thought that all wrongdoing should be treated in the way in which what I've described now, as a person bumping into somebody, because aristocratic nature should be such that they are not affected by a wrongdoing.
In the Christian tradition, the recognition that the wrongdoing has occurred is fundamental to forgiveness, and it's in these kinds of situation that forgiveness is necessary. And the reason why it's necessary is because the wrong cannot be simply disregarded. Injustice has occurred.
And somehow, that injustice has to be taken care of. But the problem, which is what Hannah Arendt emphasizes, especially in the context of her comment that Jesus Christ is the one who introduced forgiveness into interpersonal and public affairs, the reason we need forgiveness, rather than simply deployment of justice, is that time does not run backwards. The done deed cannot be undone. It stays there and it qualifies the doer. And the question then becomes, how does it stop qualifying the doer and qualifying the relationship that I have to the doer? And that's this idea, I use the term a little bit earlier, kind of ungluing, unsticking the deed from the doer so that the doer and the deeds do not merge. And so the person can be freed from that deed. That I think happens through the gift of forgiveness. I simply say, "I don't count it againt you. I relate to you as if you had not done that particular wrong."
Laurie Santos: Unsticking the deed from the doer. Put like that, forgiveness sounds easy, but like many of the practices we discuss on the happiness lab, it's not something that comes naturally to many of us. Are lying minds often tell us that it won't feel so great to forgive. So after the break, we'll explore this misconception and hear about the surprising benefits we experience by forgiving others. The Happiness Lab will be right back.
Miroslav Volf describes forgiveness as a gift that we can give to others, and happiness science says that all forms of gift-giving can improve our wellbeing, often more than we expect. But that's not to compare the act of forgiveness to mailing somebody a scarf or buying them a coffee or something. Forgiveness takes a lot of thought, and a lot of hard work.
Miroslav Volf: Forgiveness is this very arduous process at the end of which there is a sense of release, release from the burden of the internal turmoil, a sense of having done something that deep down within us, many of us feel is right thing to do, but that it is very difficult to do, a kind of release into new possibilities for the future that precisely this wrongdoing has robbed us from.
I mean, if I think of my mother's example, it turns us completely backward. We are fascinated, we are captured, we are held captive by that which has happened in the past. We return back to it, and pretty soon we start living our lives in such a way that we look not ahead, but through rear view mirror, so that these kinds of colonization of our present and our future by the past is a very troubling and difficult experience. And I think one of the things that forgiveness does, it makes it possible for us to open and have wide horizon, and not always look into the future filtered through the past.
Laurie Santos: It seems like another thing forgiveness gives us is that it can help us heal relationships that are hurting. Right. So talk a little bit about how forgiveness can you give us back social connection?
Miroslav Volf: Yeah. And often where we need to practice the most forgiveness is when we can not exit from relationships. As long as we can exit relationships, we can remove ourselves and to certain extent, we can isolate ourselves from what has happened. Maybe we go back in our imagination, but nonetheless, we're not encountering the person, or living in the proximity of that person. But especially when we need to heal relationships, this is the essential work that forgiveness does.
And that's why, by the way, I think that it's important to construe and understand forgiveness, not simply as dealing with my own internal turmoil, but also a reconfiguring relationship that I have to somebody else. That's the idea I give the gift of forgiveness. And what I give that person is a possibility, not yet actuality, but the possibility to open up a way in which the two of us, if it's interpersonal relationship, which two of us can have a future together. Forgiveness is the first step toward reconstituting a relationship.
Or you can say it's a second step. First step might be repentance on the part of the person who has done us wrong, but this nexus of forgiveness and repentance is a way in which we can imagine and live into a joint future.
Laurie Santos: And the second way forgiveness seems to boost our happiness is through something we talk about a lot on The Happiness Lab, which is that, as you mentioned, it's kind of a gift, right? You know, there's so much evidence that the act of doing for others improves our happiness than doing for ourselves. You know, even the act of spending money on other people improves our happiness more than spending money on ourselves. And in some ways, as you've talked about, forgiveness can really be the ultimate gift to the person who's done us wrong.
Miroslav Volf: Yeah, that's very interesting that you connect the two. And I think you're exactly right that this kind of a gift of forgiveness... forgiveness cannot be forced. If it's forced, it isn't really forgiveness. So it's a voluntary act that establishes us. Often I'm asked, you know, doesn't Christian tradition, doesn't Jesus ask too much of the victims? And the idea is now the person who has suffered wrong also needs to bear a burden of somehow repairing the relationship with this stress on forgiveness.
And my response is we shouldn't think of forgiveness so much as the burden, and nobody can truly forgive until they come to the point where they can give that gift. But many actually do give that gift. And it's an amazing thing, right? When you think about it, that many who have been violated, sometimes in very deep ways, are willing to forgive and find in that gift that they give, strengthen and the beauty, I think, of caring.
Laurie Santos: And I think that in some ways, giving the gift to other people is also an act of giving ourselves a gift.
I mean, that's where the science comes in, and it's really quite remarkable. I mean, the research suggests that forgiveness has huge effects, both on our physical health and on our mental health. So, you know, physically there's evidence for reductions in things like cardiac stress. You get better sleep once you've forgiven, you can see improvements in immune function and less fatigue.
And then mentally there's evidence for decreases in depression and emotions like anger, you know, increases in good emotions like hope and compassion and self confidence. I mean, it's a gift to the other person, but it's kind of a gift that, you know, like doing other acts of giving, as we've seen on The Happiness Lab, can really improve your happiness. You know, the happiness for the giver too.
Miroslav Volf: Yeah. When forgiveness happens, it's not a zero sum game. In fact, by giving a gift one enhances oneself in many different domains. Life becomes better when we are able to forgive, when we are able to transcend preoccupation with the self. Which injury often understandably causes.
And so this moment of self-transcendence, of transcendence of the self that has been injured and growing into something that is beyond that, which the injured self is, it's therapeutic as an act itself, and it has this important positive consequences for the rest of our lives.
Laurie Santos: And so talk about how that's helped your family heal after your brother's death.
Miroslav Volf: Well, for my mother in particular, but for both of my parents, there was a sense of being able to turn from the injury to the life as it's being lived, and very early in the experience, she was, she was mourning, and mourning of course closed her within her own world. Nothing else mattered more than the loss that she had just suffered.
But at the same time, she had two kids who needed her attention, and forgiveness made it possible for her to shift and to recognize the good which was around her, to invest herself into the good which was around her, you know, and in some ways this is really a strange and a little bit burdensome to think of it that way, that I, who was then one years old when that occurred, I have probably benefited from the attention that was given to me, both by my nanny and by my mother, after my brother's death. But it was for her release into the future given of the hope and possibility to invest herself in something that matters. And that affirms the good.
Laurie Santos: Did she actually have moments to like literally express her forgiveness to the soldiers themselves? Like was there a kind of a direct expression of forgiveness in that case?
Miroslav Volf: She did not, but my father did. The soldier was pretty soon released from the unit, and my father actually traveled about half a day's journey at that time in order to meet him in person, and in order to tell him that both he and my mother forgive him.
And it was really important for my father to kind of bear witness. He felt that's going to bring a release to the soldier himself. And he was completely devastated. The soldier was clearly deeply remorseful. And when my father spoke to him, he experienced also kind of a release. I'm sure it stayed with him the rest of his life. But a life on both sides receive new growth, and new green leaves started sprouting on the tree of both of those lives.
Laurie Santos: And so it seems like forgiveness is obviously good for the person who needs to be forgiven. It seems like it's fantastic for the physical and mental health of the person who forgives, but it's also really hard. And so I want you to help us, you know, how can we get towards forgiveness? You know, what are practical steps that we can take to achieve forgiveness, even though it's really hard.
Miroslav Volf: Yeah, it's interesting how it happened in my mother's and father's case. And obviously it happened party of that way because they're a part of a religious tradition. They had to invoke command from the biblical texts. Obviously there had to be some kind of a willingness to go that route, but they both quoted to themselves the same scriptural text.
That kind of nudged them, that propelled them, that justified this action that they were willing to undertake. And that indicates that it is a difficult thing to do. And religious tradition in this case, Christian tradition, that's one of the key things that it commands. That is to say, if you move in that direction, you will be given strength actually to forgive.
But I think even more than that. So that's the forgiveness at the beginning about her experience, and my experience, and my study of forgiveness almost says that forgiveness isn't a one time event. You forgive, and then you start moving forward. You always return to it. You forgive, and then you take back what you have forgiven at moments, and then you forgive again, you forgive some parts of it, but not the whole of it. It's a messy process of forgiveness. If you're not happy with the messiness of it, if we want to have it clean, we probably won't ever get to forgiveness. And it's in this messiness, in this gradual character of forgiveness, that we actually grow into forgiveness and forgiveness ends up not being so much an act as it ends up being a practice.
And I think that's very important to emphasize, especially for those who would want some kind of a purity in forgiveness. If you want purity in forgiveness, then you would have to agree on what exactly was the wrong that was committed. What exactly was the apportioning of the fault on both sides, or maybe on one side, and that kind of agreement, that kind of alignment rarely occurs.
And so I think one of the things that is emphasized also in the Christian tradition is that kind of to live with the provisionality of it. That the good that is there, but it's kind of there in a broken way, it's nonetheless the good that's worth pursuing. And so you've got initial motivation, but you've got accompaniment of a practice that you inculcate without expecting that it would be perfect.
And obviously practice is carried by the grand story of the Christian faith. This is a story about God who forgives. This is a story in Luke's gospel. It's a very, very interestingly illustrated with the story of the prodigal son. Prodigal son leaves the home, squanders the inheritance that he has taken with him, returns back, and upon return back it doesn't even get to the point of asking his father to forgive him. Father runs to him and embraces him. Now that's the story that governs the entirety of the logic of the Christian tradition. If you tell yourself this story, then you suddenly realize, ah, this is the kind of character that I've got to imitate, and it becomes a part of one's own practice.
Laurie Santos: And I love that you brought up this idea that, you know, forgiveness isn't perfect, that it, you know, comes bit by bit and that it can be really messy. Because it fits with another of the things we need to do when we take on this idea of forgiveness, which is to forgive ourselves. Right. You know, we're not going to be perfect and sometimes we're going to need some help and some grace too, right?
Miroslav Volf: Yeah. I think that that's right. I think one of the most difficult things in my experience, speaking engagements about forgiveness, is people have hard time forgiving themself. There's this opportunity that they've missed, or there's this thing that they've done that, and it has changed lives, or rather has changed their own lives. How do I forgive myself? And to me, it's a very important question. You meant, you asked a question about how does practically forgiveness work? And in some ways a theoretical side of it is really important, and here's what I mean by that.
To forgive myself, I somehow have to distinguish between who the core of myself is and what I have done. I cannot have an account of the self that is simply sum of what I have suffered and what I have committed. If I have that kind of account of the self, there's no way to delete that from the self, because that is integral. My wrongdoing is integral to myself.
But in the Christian tradition, it has always been other traditions as well, to a significant degree, it's always been... there's always been a sense that there is a kind of core of the self that is loved by God, and that we ought to love in each other that is untouched by anything, what that person might or might not have done, or what that person has suffered.
And I sometimes illustrate it in this way. You know, when my son was, I think, four years old or something like that, we were driving once to see my sister. He's kind of bored sitting back in the car, and I'm trying to entertain him. I told him the story Metamorphosis, which was what I saw the night before in theater.
And I describe a little of Metamorphosis and then I can come to this idea of Lucius trying to transform himself into a bird by imitating certain forms of incantations, and he ends up looking like a donkey. And Nathaniel is listening to this and he says to me, "Daddy, would you love me if I became a donkey?"
You know, at first I was stunned by this question, but immediately, "Of course, of course Nathaniel, no matter what happens to you, you are mine, no matter what you turn into." And I felt this is a really profoundly important intuition about what love is, what forgiveness also is. It differentiates between the core self and the donkey-ness that we might turn and become by what we do and what others do to us.
Laurie Santos: And so do you think we'd be happier as a culture if we forgave more. It feels like in some ways forgiveness is something that's, that's not getting better in our culture. In some ways it's getting harder and getting worse.
Miroslav Volf: Yeah, I think it is getting worse. And it'd be very interesting to ask reasons why that is the case.
I think that there is no happy, successful you can say, beautiful interpersonal relationships without forgiveness, without just what I've described, without this sense, this person with whom I live with whom I interact, there's something sacred about them. There's something that's part and parcel of who they are, and it's unchangeable, and that I need to love and hold in its integrity. And when it gets to be disturbed, I need to concentrate on that which is absolutely essential and holy. And then I can transform my own relationships and that person sometimes. And I think that's the only way in which we can thrive, not just as individuals, but also as community.
Laurie Santos: I'm grateful to Miroslav for sharing the story of his brother's tragic death and how it set off a cycle of anger, guilt, and finally release through forgiveness.
Few of us will have to endure the trauma of such a terrible bereavement, but we all face smaller acts of wrongdoing on a near daily basis. We receive snubs and slights things, we value are damaged or taken from us. We're subjected to harsher unfair words and treated unjustly by loved ones or even complete strangers.
If you're anything like me, you might tend to store up these hurtful acts and omissions, mulling them over and hoping the wrongdoer will face a reckoning or make amends. But having talked to Miroslav, I'm going to try a different strategy. I now recognize that I can improve how I'm feeling through forgiveness.
It won't be simple and it won't be easy, but it's something I can do to feel better.
The Happiness Lab is co-written and produced by Ryan Dilley. The show was mastered by Evan Viola, and our original music was composed by Zachary Silver. Special thanks to the entire Pushkin crew, including Mia Lobel, Carly Migliori, Heather Fain, Sophie Crane McKibben, Eric Sandler, Jacob Weisberg, and my agent, Ben Davis. The Happiness Lab is brought to you by Pushkin Industries and me Dr. Laurie Santos.
Evan Rosa: That's it for this week. Thanks for listening.
For the Life of the World is a production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School. This episode featured theologian Miroslav Volf with psychologist, Laurie Santos. Production assistance by Martin Chan and Nathan Jowers. Special thanks to Laurie Santos, Ryan Dilley, and Pushkin media. I'm Evan Rosa, and I edited and produced the show. For more information, visit us online at faith.yale.edu.
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