Is there a relationship between cancer and hatred and unforgiveness? Barry believes there is.
Barry is part of the pastoral care department at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia. He shares what they do there and why. He believes, “The stress of unforgiveness negatively affects the immune system.” (14) Forgiveness, on the other hand, has a wholesome effect with long term health benefits.
He tells several stories, relating individual experiences with forgiveness and cancer. He also looks at studies investigating the relationship of stress to health. While it cannot be said that unforgiveness causes cancer, it does seem to create a state in the body that is more susceptible to the disease. Cancer is a complex disease and Barry suggests a holistic approach to treatment, including forgiveness.
Forgiveness is also a complex issue. It is not just saying it. “It requires a heartfelt change through which the anger and hatred are transformed into feelings of peaceful indifference or neutrality.” (149) It doesn't necessarily mean reconciliation or justice. Barry gives good insights into the process of forgiveness. There cannot just be certain steps suggested because the process is different for every person. It may require help from others in the form of counseling and support. Motivation is essential, he says.
Barry says it is reasonable to conclude that, to the extent forgiveness creates psychological stress, the immune system is compromised. That sets the stage for health problems, including cancer.
With that conclusion in mind, I recommend this book. While Barry is a Christian, this book is worth reading by those of other religions and the nonreligious too. As he points out, the concept of forgiveness is not limited to Christianity. It is a concept that those who desire wholeness and living well should practice. This book is a good primer.
Michael S. Barry (DMin, Fuller Theological Seminary) is Director of Pastoral Care at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia, where he specializes in the connection between spirituality and health. He has served in ministry for over twenty years and is the author of several books.
Kregel Publications, 201 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through The Book Club Network for the purpose of an independent and honest review.