On the Attempted Destruction of Beauty in the World
Forgiveness can restore you, even enhance your beauty as a person.
Posted Dec 09, 2019
I stand before the eighth wonder of the Western world: Michelangelo’s Pieta at the Basilica of San Pietro in Rome. It is a marvel of the human spirit, how one man could have such vision and talent to bring forth such beauty from a rock. Michelangelo used to say that he was only freeing each statue from its prison within the marble. It just had to come out.
As I stand before this magnificent work of art, I am reminded that in 1972 Laszlo Toth took a hammer to this masterpiece and tried to destroy it, knocking off the Virgin’s arm, chipping her eye and nose.
Mr. Toth was intent on destroying beauty.
I wonder, as I look at this breathtaking work, if too many injustices are perpetrated in the name of destroying beauty. Some partners denigrate the other…..just because. Some attack others…..just because. Some deface homes and walls and works of art……just because.
You are a person. Therefore, you are a work of art. You are a person of beauty. Some may wish to deface you—to hurt your heart—just because.
The master artists worked diligently to restore the Virgin’s features according to the artist’s original expectations (using detailed photos to accomplish the task).
You, too, should consider using the artistic tools of forgiveness when others try to hurt you, to deface you, or even to destroy you.
Forgiving those who try to hurt your beauty is even better than the tools used to reconstruct the Pieta. You see, forgiveness as a tool does not just restore you to your previous state. Forgiving others has a way of making you even more beautiful than you were before.
We have seen people who are depressed actually shed this persistent mood when they forgive (Freedman & Enright, 1996). We have seen people with post-traumatic stress symptoms become more resilient once they begin to practice forgiving (Reed & Enright, 2006). We have seen people with cardiac compromise develop more blood flow through the heart as they forgive people from their past (Waltman et al., 2009). We have seen youth, once they practice forgiving, move from unhealthy attachments toward their parents. These youth actually change the attachment script within them so that they are more at peace with their parents (Wei, Enright, & Klatt, 2013). Many people become stronger, more caring, better able to withstand the storms of life once they learn about forgiveness and willingly practice it (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015).
In other words, when someone has tried to tear you down, and you are feeling weakened, forgiving that person does not just restore you to where you were before this injustice against you. Instead, think of it as growing, stretching beyond where you were before. You might see that now you are more sensitive to the pains in other people. You might begin to see that you are someone who more willingly supports the hurting people of the world. You might see a growing strength and wisdom you did not realize. Those who try to destroy beauty might end up finding that they were the impetus for even greater beauty in the world.
Enright, R.D. & Fitzgibbons, R. (2015). Forgiveness therapy: An empirical guide for resolving anger and restoring hope. Washington, DC: APA Books.
Freedman, S. R., & Enright, R. D. (1996). Forgiveness as an intervention goal with incest survivors. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64(5), 983-992.
Reed, G. & Enright, R.D. (2006). The effects of forgiveness therapy on depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress for women after spousal emotional abuse. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 920-929.
Waltman, M.A., Russell, D.C., Coyle, C.T., Enright, R.D., Holter, A.C., & Swoboda, C. (2009). The effects of a forgiveness intervention on patients with coronary artery disease. Psychology and Health, 24, 11-27.
Wei, N.L., Enright, R.D., Klatt, J.S. (2013). A forgiveness intervention for Taiwanese youth with insecure attachment. Contemporary Family Therapy, 35(1), 105-120.