Sunday, August 23, 2015

Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World

Motivation for Reading:
I received an advance copy of Megan Feldman Bettencourt's book Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving Worldin exchange for an honest review.

What is Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World about?
At age 33, Megan Feldman Bettencourt was struggling to pay her bills and reeling from yet another break-up. Her feelings of disillusionment, pain, and anger seemed completely justified to her. Then she met Azim. Azim had forgiven the man who killed his only son, and even befriended the killer’s family. Compelled by this amazing story, Megan set out to understand our capacity to forgive. 

In Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving  Megan searches for what it means to forgive. The journey takes her from recovered addicts who restarted their lives by seeking forgiveness, to a Baltimore principal who used forgiveness techniques to eradicate violence in her school, to genocide survivors in Rwanda who forgave the people who killed their families. Along the way, practicing forgiveness alters Megan’s life in ways she never expected.

My Thoughts:
Initially, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read another self-help book especially one about forgiveness, but the book seemed to fit the reading projects I’ve been working on: to become a stronger person and to be savvier, so I decided to accept the advance copy. I am so glad I did. 

Triumph of the Heart is more than a self-help book, it is a beautifully written study of forgiveness. Many of us have difficulty forgiving or letting go of past grievances. In an attempt to understand and forgive her own grudges, Feldman examines others who were able to forgive; the daughter who forgives her father who raped her as a young girl, a man forgives the murderer of his son, a husband forgives his cheating spouse and Rwandan genocide survivors who forgave the people who killed their families are just a few.

Here is a sampling of what I learned:
- It's hard to be ruminating about how someone hurt you or disappointed you 10 years ago, or five years ago or one year ago when you're being mindful.

- Everyone is dealing with something. We have to remember that we never know what people are dealing with and why they're acting a certain way. For the most part, people are doing the best they can with what they have.

- When we are angry with our enemy and in the midst of an adrenaline rush we just want to be right and have difficulty slowing down to understand their side of the story.

-The forgiveness process is similar to the grief process; both aim for acceptance and vary in duration and intensity for each person.

Many of the people Feldman profiled would go on to channel their forgiveness into create a better world.

I found Chantal Nimugire, who suffered horrific loses, abuse and betrayal during the Rwandan genocide, to be inspiring: 
For eighteen years I was healing and having memories of genocide, but after I forgave, I began to share my story and become passionate about advocating for women who suffered rape and sexual abuse. She recently began speaking to groups of widows through AVEGA, making an effort to inspire and support women who lost their husbands and children to the genocide. She’s determined to take a stand against rape as a tool of war, whether in nearby Congo and Sedan or around the world.

“We have to stand up and speak out. We have to demand a better world.” (pg. 178)
Bottom line:
Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World is a beautiful well researched book. If you have an interest in learning more about forgiveness I recommend reading this book.

Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate


  1. Anonymous12:41 AM

    I learned about forgiveness from a man who son was shot to death while on the job as a pizza delivery boy. He was caught in the crossfire of some gang initiation--a 19 year old college student killed by a 14 year old hoping to become a member of a gang. Needless. Well the young man's father forgave his son's killer and even went on to start a foundation and speak to young people about youth violence. And his partner in those presentations? The killer's grandfather. Now that's forgiveness and the way I see it, I have nothing of that seriousness to be unforgiving about. This man, Azim, is an inspiration to me. He lost his only son, and yet he forgave rather than allow it to eat him up.

  2. Thank you for the referral - I struggle deeply with forgiveness. I don't want to forgive anyone. It's not "in my nature" or whatever. I hold on to the fear and mistrust like a rope....afraid that if I'll let go, I will crash to the bottom again and be destroyed by another person. I've also lost a lot of the "people are inherently good" perspective I had when I was younger. I no longer believe it and, sadly enough, I tend to view strangers cautiously instead of opportunistically.

    I've read time and time again that forgiveness can be freeing. I would love to feel the freedom....but in the rare instances I've let something go, or tried to move past the issue, it's only reared it's ugly head again and pulled me down even deeper. Definitely going to read this book and see if I can glean any insight.

  3. That sounds like a powerful book!