According to the “About the Author” page of the book, “Yvonne Ortega is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner, and a Clinically Certified Domestic Violence Counselor.”
As the title of the book indicates, Moving from Broken to Beautiful through Forgiveness is about forgiveness. Ortega shares aspects of her own story, particularly her struggle to forgive her ex-husband, who abused and disrespected both her and their son. The book has chapters about what forgiveness is not and offers strategies that can help a person forgive.
The book has numerous assets. First of all, there is its friendly and understanding tone. The “About the Author” page states that Ortega conducts seminars and “retreats for women who wear anything from designer suits to jumpsuits,” which communicated acceptance and inclusiveness. In the “Introduction,” Ortega reassures readers that she will not try to guilt or shame them into doing something that they do not want to do, and that her goal is not to bind heavy burdens on people that she herself does not carry. That made me more receptive to what was was about to say, since she communicated that she understood how difficult forgiveness can be.
Second, Ortega supports a lot of what she says with Scripture. Other Christians and therapists have made the points that she makes about what forgiveness is not: forgiveness is not forgetting the offense, forgiveness is not trusting the offender, forgiveness does not mean that the perpetrator gets off scot-free, etc. In my experience, people often assert these points rather than supporting them. Ortega does well to offer a reasonable explanation of these points, but she also demonstrates from Scripture that God does not want us to be gullible or to place ourselves in dangerous situations. Some Christians may feel that they should forsake common sense or sensibility in order to obey the biblical command to forgive, as if they are taking a great leap of faith in doing so. Ortega successfully shows, however, that common sense and sensibility accord with Scripture: God favors justice, and God does not want us to blindly trust people.
Third, Ortega suggests projects in art and music (as in listening to music) that can encourage one’s journey towards forgiveness. Ortega appeals to people’s creative side. I consider that a positive, for people finding ways to reflect or express themselves creatively can make the journey towards forgiveness enjoyable.
Fourth, each chapter opens with an insightful quote, and the quotes within the chapters themselves enhance the book.
In terms of critiques, I have four.
First of all, the description of the book on Amazon states: “Since we don’t have alligator skin and a heart of stone, people will hurt us especially those closest to us. We also make mistakes in life and hurt others.” That statement is similar to the understanding tone of the book. Unfortunately, the book did not really explore what that statement talks about: how we are sensitive and easily hurt in day-to-day life. The book talked a lot about recovery from personal trauma (e.g., abuse, affairs), and that is very important. But the book would have spoken to me more had it also discussed how to endure or move on from snubs, how to cope with our sensitivity, or how to deal with our frustrated expectations.
Second, Ortega has a chapter entitled, “Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean You Forgive the Person Right Away.” Ortega reasonably notes that forgiveness is often a process for us, for getting over an offense against us may take time. Even after we have forgiven a person, something may happen that triggers our pain all over again. Ortega is aware that there are Scriptures that appear to command the opposite: Ephesians 4:26 exhorts people not to let the sun go down on their wrath, which seems to command immediate forgiveness, not forgiveness that is a process. This chapter would have been better had Ortega attempted to reconcile Ephesians 4:26 with her belief that forgiveness can be a process, and also if Ortega had supported from Scripture her proposal that forgiveness can be a process. In Appendix B, Ortega lists three Scriptures under this topic, and they are relevant, on some level (i.e., II Corinthians 2:5-6 depicts Paul and the Corinthian Christians recovering from grief after an offense, and Psalm 51:16-17 says that God will not despise a broken spirit). Still, her point would have been strengthened had she presented Scriptural examples of people who struggled to forgive right away, yet were loved and honored by God. A possible example that comes to my mind is Paul’s long-term journey towards accepting Mark (Acts 15:37-39; II Timothy 4:11).
Third, Ortega suggests that people write out their resentments and share that with an accepting friend or counselor. As Ortega most likely knows, a similar approach is employed within Alcoholics Anonymous, as recovering alcoholics write out their resentments and share them with a sponsor. That is a sensible approach, for talking things out with someone else can help a person feel better. There are many people, however, who may struggle to find someone with whom they can share their resentments. They may struggle with forming relationships with people, or perhaps they cannot think of anyone whom they trust enough to hear their resentments. The book would have been better had it offered advice to people in that situation.
Finally, while the book was very specific about what forgiveness is not, it could have been clearer in defining what forgiveness is. I cannot be too critical here, for the book, on some level, did present a picture of forgiveness. Part of it, for Ortega, is not continually dwelling on offenses. Part of it is forsaking malice. Part of it is cultivating a peace of mind and moving on with one’s life. Part of it is having concern for one’s enemy’s well-being. Those are all important insights, but I think that, somewhere in the book, perhaps in the beginning or after the chapters about what forgiveness is not, Ortega should have included a concise paragraph offering a definition of forgiveness.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Bookcrash. My review is honest!