Dr. Brent Potter
A common theme running throughout the Bible is forgiveness which, by definition, is an act of faith and the penultimate gesture of presence, of letting go. A “letting go” is never simply an act on the part of an individually existing subject, but a letting go “in the service of” or “for the purpose of.”Said differently forgiveness, is intentional and necessarily implies an “other,” whether that be what may lie “out there” or for the sake of the process itself. This is by no means a progressive idea of our contemporary era; rather, it is a tried-and-true medicine from antiquity. The ancient Greeks gave expression to the notion of aphiemi (ἀφίημι). The word apheimi is used roughly 150 in the Bible.
As is usually the case, the single Greek word offers an anatomy of the notion: to send away, to send forth, to let go, let be, to permit, allow, not to hinder, to leave, go away from one, to divorce, to leave so that what is left may remain (Thayer & Smith, 1999).
The phenomenon of letting go is not a simple action but wields an array of meanings and purposes. Withing the varying meanings and purposes, there seems to be a common element of faith. To let go is to release certitude as well as the various means by which one seeks certitude; it is an act of faith. Forgiveness, it seems, requires a releasement in the service of allowing the Holy Spirit’s process of healing to do its work.
Openness to mystery and releasement to the things themselves, a kind of faith, constitutes meditative thinking. It is a reflective faith and openness that “contemplates the meaning which reigns in everything there is” (Heidegger, 1966, p. 46). The centrality of meditative thinking is clear:
“At times it requires a greater effort. It demands more practice. It is in need of more deliberate care than any other genuine craft. But it must also be able to bide its time, to await as does the farmer, whether the seed will come up and ripen.” (p. 47)
Viktor Frankl had a great affinity for the great thinker, Martin Heidegger. Frankl even had a framed letter from Heidegger hanging on his wall. What is the highest form of thinking and doing? Heidegger responded by saying it was meditative thinking – openness to mystery and releasement to the things themselves.
The psychoanalytic mystic, Wilfred Bion, said the psychoanalytic attitude is Faith, going as far as to use a capital “F.” In some ways, Bionian Faith is an amplification of Freud’s notions of evenly hovering attention and being steady yet engaged with the client. Faith, like meditative thinking, requires a certain silence, an unknowing.
Bion approached his clinical work without memory, expectation, understanding, or desire. Maybe Faith and meditative thinking are ideals, something to shoot for, like Carl Jung’s notion of individuation or Nietzsche’s Übermensch. In any case, Faith seems to be not only a given, latent or expressed, but also linked with the growth of intuitive capacities.
Eigen (2014) notes that intuition can, at times, be beyond ordinary sensory perception – more of an open “space” or capacity. Intuition and attention go together since the more attention is paid to experience, the more one understands. As Heidegger pointed out, the face that a human being turns towards Being, is the face that Being reflects back.
It takes faith to express, to communicate oneself. Sometimes it takes even more faith to wait and let further processes develop – faith, meditative thinking, and patience go together. Sometimes action circumvents more mature existential growth and, sometimes, it adds to more existential-psychological possibilities (Potter, 2015, pp. 107-108).
As Frankl frequently pointed out, all of Creation (Being) is saturated with meaning and so is every moment of human existence. The task of the human pilgrimage, in his estimation, is to engage our unique capacity to understand our meaning and purpose in life. Frankl is unambiguous that our freedom to choose how we accept our circumstances is critical to this process of discovery.
It is a frequent misinterpretation of Frankl that he asserted that humans are supremely free to choose their meaning and purpose, life, and circumstances. This would be the position of, perhaps, Jean-Paul Sartre. Frankl distances himself from Sartre and the notion that we have a vast region of freedom.
Instead, he maintained that often our freedom is small but precious. This small, interpretive “as” of experience – to take something “as” something – is our most fundamental freedom and the one that cannot be stripped from us. In any event, it is the inherent and ever outflowing meaning of the universe and this indispensable capacity for choice that are at play in Frankl’s four overlapping dimensions of discovering meaning.
First, there is the dimension of the creative which includes, but is not limited to, one’s career and raising children. Second, is the dimension of the social nexus of relationships in which we love and are loved. This region includes the aesthetic capacity to love and see the beauty in nature, others, and art.
Third, is the capacity to encounter unavoidable suffering inherent in human life including suffering and, invariably, death. Finally, there is the region of our being embodied and psychological. Within this dimension, lies what Frankl calls the noetic or spiritual.
As with Bion’s use of the word “faith” and with Heidegger’s use of the word “meditative,” Frankl’s use of the word “spiritual” or “noetic” is not necessarily religious. If one chooses to take them up within some religious frame, that is one’s choice, but a religious perspective is certainly not the context in which they are presented.
Faith (inherent in forgiveness) is often faith amid trauma. We are linked together by faith and linked by catastrophe. The human discovery of meaning and purpose is necessary and remains all through life. We may not realize it clearly, but it lives “inside” us, part of an indistinguishable tension of faith-trauma that feeds a sense of living.
Trauma and forgiveness are “designed” into life. Frankl’s psychology emphasizes that the very quality of being an emotional, meaning-and-purpose discovering being has catastrophic aspects and effects. Human existence has very destructive as well as exceptionally creative potentialities.
The question of whether humankind can learn to live with its destructiveness is an open question for Frankl. It can go either way; Frankl leaves room open for the possibility of a dramatic turn down the wrong road or the positive possibility of recovering from the destructiveness already wrought.
In any event, forgiveness in the face of trauma is a point of entry. Faith is an extraordinary nucleus in the depths of our affective life – an emotional nucleus. This nucleus centers a complex patterning of human experience – trauma, existential shattering, dying, discovering, choosing, and (hopefully) emerging anew.
Aside from the countless concrete skills and easy-to-understand concepts made available in this excellent book, Dezelic and Ghanoum unpack a theory in which forgiveness is a portal to healing. What a beautiful thing it is to realize that the age-old remedy for traumas, from the everyday to the catastrophic, is aphiemi (letting go) and forgiveness (faith in the Other / process).
We can choose how to accept our circumstances, no matter how small or overwhelming those circumstances may be. There is dignity and serenity to this sensibility. As my friend once said, “No matter who or what is to blame, I am responsible.”
Aphiemi may serve as a point d’entrée into open heart, into welcoming and embracing the healing power of aphiemi and forgiveness. Not only does healing occur by these means but, as one is disburdened, one is then free to discover evermore unfolding meanings inherent in this fascinating and often traumatic human journey.
Coming through the whirlwind often affords an increased sensitivity to the struggle and pain of others. Moreover, self-transcendence often affords a greater sense of humor, levity, compassion, and an increased capacity for forgiveness (Potter in Dezelic, 2017).
Bible Verses on Letting Go
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:13-14
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:18-19
For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:14-15
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. – Psalm 46:10-11
Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. – Proverbs 4:25-27
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. – Isaiah 26:3
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:2-3
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5
Bible Verses About Letting Go Of Hurt
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. – Romans 12:19
Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. – 2 Corinthians 5:17
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. – Romans 8:13-14
In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. – Ephesians 1:7
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. – Hebrews 8:12
Dezelic, M. (2017). Trauma Treatment – Healing the Whole Person: Meaning-Centered Therapy & Trauma Treatment Foundational Phase-Work Manual. Coral Gables, FL: Presence Press International.
Eigen, M. (2014). Faith. London: Karnac.
Heidegger, M. (1966). Discourse on Thinking. New York: Harper & Row.
Potter, B. (2015). Elements of Reparation: Truth, Faith, & Transformation in the Works of Heidegger, Bion, & Beyond. London: Karnac.
Thayer, J. & Smith. (1999). The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon [online]. Available: http://www.Biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/aphiemi.html
“Forgiveness”, Courtesy of Gus Moretta, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Let It Go”, Courtesy of Brett Jordan, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Love Your Neighbor”, Courtesy of Nina Strehl, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Little Queen”, Courtesy of Senjuti Kundu, Unsplash.com, CC0 License