The Brilliance of the Fourfold Path


In their new book,  The Book of Forgiving,  Desmond and Mpho Tutu describe a fourfold path for healing ourselves and the world.  Two of the paths are pretty obvious, I think. But the other two are what makes the process brilliant and takes us to a deeper level of healing.

The first step on the fourfold path is Telling the Story.  This is a crucial step because, for many of us, it helps lift the veil of shame that surrounds many of our wounds.  Some of us have wounds that we have kept secret, sometimes for many, many years.   Others of us may acknowledge  the person or event or situation that wounded us but choose to stuff it deep within us, never really letting on to how much it has wounded us .  Telling the Story brings the wound into the light.  Telling the story to a person capable of empathy and compassion is a crucial first step toward healing. It is empowering for the person who is wounded and can strip the event of much of power  we feel it has over us.

The way to start, Tutu says, is to tell the truth.  Start with the facts. Tell it to a person who is trusted and capable of empathy and compassion.  and accept  that what has happened cannot be changed.

But Tutu says we don’t stop there. it’s important not to get stuck in simply telling the story. We need to also Name the Hurt (step 2 on the fourfold path). When we only tell the story and stop there, we ruminate over the pain, and the poison of our resentment can permeate us.  When we simply telling the story, we can get stuck in victim mode and blaming.  When we name the hurt, however, we move to a deeper level of vulnerability. We move beyond just facts and identify the feelings within those facts.  We acknowledge that we aren’t simply angry or annoyed or frustrated.  We are hurt.  The actions of the other have hurt us.  Naming the hurt requires  lowering our defenses and  acknowledging that others can hurt us.  Without naming the hurt, we can keep stewing in our anger.  I think inviting us to name our hurt is one of the things that make this fourfold path brilliant.    Because let’s face it — there’s little or nothing in our world that encourages us to vulnerable like that, especially when we have been hurt.  We live in a “look out for # 1” society.  Get the other guy before he gets you.   Never let them see you sweat.  And never admit someone can hurt you.

Tutu and his daughter Mpho invite us into a counter-cultural way of looking at forgiveness — a way where, through our weakness, we find power.   Jesus was all about that  The Tutus remind us of Jesus’ message of the finding our strength through weakness.   By doing the very thing that our culture says it weak — acknowledging our hurt – we will discover our healing.  A paradox. A wise friend once told me, “Whenever you encounter a paradox, pay attention.  God is very near!”

Next post, steps 3 and 4.  Stay tuned……..

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