Presentations Around the World Focus on Forgiveness

Dr. Robert Enright boarded an international jetliner today to take his scientifically-verified Forgiveness Therapy and Education programs onto the world stage as he does at the start of each New Year. The 2019 excursion includes presentations and working sessions in Israel, the Philippines, Slovakia, and Northern Ireland.

Forgiveness Therapy for the Imprisoned in Israel

The founder of the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI), Dr. Enright kicks off his formal presentations on January 9 during the Restorative Justice, Forgiveness, and Prisoners Conference at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel–a 25-minute bus ride from Tel Aviv on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. His talk will be entitled, “Forgiveness Therapy for the Imprisoned.” 

Bar Ilan University is the largest, the fastest growing, and one of the highest-rated academic institutions in Israel with more than 32,000 students. It has a well-respected history of involvement with with criminal justice initiatives, is a member of the International Institute for Restorative Practices, and hosted the 2006 International Conference on Violence and Restorative Justice.

Dr. Enright was asked to be a keynote speaker at the Israeli conference because of the success his forgiveness therapy methodologies have had when adapted for use with inmates in maximum-security prisons over the past five years.

“Forgiveness therapy is beginning to gain traction in prisons because counselors are beginning to see that it is one of the few approaches to corrections that actually works,” Dr. Enright wrote in a recent blog post entitled Reflections from Prison: “Forgiveness Saved my Life.”

“For many prisoners, the abuse an inmate typically experienced as a young man turned to a poisonous anger which was destroying him and his life,” Dr. Enright explains. “Through forgiveness therapy, the heart softens toward those who are cruel and one’s own inner poisons find an antidote in growing compassion. And it works.”

Forgiveness Therapy for Patients with Blood Cancers in Slovakia

Seven days after his discussions at Bar Ilan University, Dr. Enright switches forgiveness gears with a presentation on Jan.16 entitled, “Forgiveness Therapy for Patients with Blood Cancers” to physicians and health researchers in Bratislava, Slovakia-the capital of the Slovak Republic, which is also referred to as the “Beauty on the Danube.”

While that location in central Europe may seem like an unusual spot for a talk on cancer, it actually makes perfect sense because of work done by internationally-known organizations in Slovakia like the Cancer Research Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences and the St. Elizabeth Cancer Institute Hospital, both in Bratislava.

Additionally, cancer survival rates in Slovakia are significantly lower than those of most other European Union member states. That makes physicians there anxious to dialogue with Dr. Enright about his research on the improved well-being of cancer patients who have significantly reduced their anger through forgiveness–research he first started in 2008 with elderly terminally-ill cancer patients.

Forgiveness Therapy in now routinely included among the overall treatment regimens of many cancer treatment centers.

“There is evidence to show that suppressed anger can be a precursor to the development of cancer, and also a factor in its progression after diagnosis,” according to ground-breaking   research done by Groer, Davis, Droppleman, Mozingo, and Pierce (2000). Follow-up research on unhealthy anger by Dr. Enright and Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons (2015), as well as others, has confirmed the apparent  connection.

“Perhaps it is time for both medicine and psychology to unite in a new angle in the fight against certain cancers by continuing to examine the anger-cancer link,” Dr. Enright wrote in his blog  “Finding ways of reducing anger may be part of a regimen for cancer prevention and treatment.”

In fact, the five hospitals operated by Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) now incorporate forgiveness therapy into their treatment regimen. Unforgiveness makes people sick and keeps them sick,” according to Dr. Steven Standiford, CTCA cancer surgeon.

“Anyone can get cancer. So make peace with yourself and others,” explains Rev. LaWanda Long, MDiv, Chaplain at CTCA Atlanta. “Forgive others and let go of past hurts and offenses. You do not have time to continue to invest in emotional pain that may be draining you spiritually. Let it go. Forgive and live.”

17 Years of Forgiveness Education for Belfast Students

Before returning to the US in early February, Dr. Enright will once more shift forgiveness gears by conducting a half-day workshop for educators in Belfast, Northern Ireland. “Forgiveness Education for Our Students” will focus on the forgiveness curriculum guides he has developed for students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade which have been used continuously in many Belfast schools since Dr. Enright established his first program there 17 years ago.

That workshop is just one small part of a 12-day forgiveness-focused extravaganza in Belfast called the 4Corners Festival that runs from Jan. 30 through Feb. 10. The theme for the 2019 Festival is “Scandalous Forgiveness.” According to the event website, the Festival, “seeks to inspire people from across the city to transform it for the peace and prosperity of all. It consists of innovative events designed to entice people out of their own ‘corners’ of the city and into new places where they will encounter new perspectives, new ideas, and new friends.”The 2019 event will be the city’s 7th annual Festival. It includes a range of events featuring discussion, music, prayer, drama, poetry and story-telling in venues across the city of Belfast. The Festival was conceived by a group of Christians who wanted to promote unity and reconciliation in the midst of the city’s troubled past.

Students at Hazelwood Integrated Primary School in Belfast, Northern Ireland, learn about forgiveness principles.

The widely-known “Troubles” in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century resulted in more than 3,600 deaths with thousands more injured during 30-years of conflict. Because of the past animosity between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, Dr. Enright selected Belfast as the first city in which he would test his forgiveness education curriculum methodology. That was 17-years ago and the Program continues to this day.

Today, Dr. Enright’s school-based forgiveness programs are operating not only in Northern Ireland, but also in the US, and in more than 30 other countries around the world. Those programs have been repeatedly tested and scientifically-supported. A recent research project with middle school students in Korea, for example, concluded that:

“The Forgiveness Education Program helped these students reduce in anger and hostile attribution, and increase in empathy. Their academic grades improved and they reduced in behavioral aggression and delinquency.” 

Additional stops on Dr. Enright’s tour include: 1)  Manila, the capital of the Philippines–a tropical Southeast Asian country composed of more than 7,100 islands that are home to more than 98 million people–where he will meet with non-profit and religious leaders who are proposing to expand Forgiveness Education throughout the country from its current base in Manila and neighboring Quezon City; and, 2) While in Israel, he will visit with educators in Bethlehem and the West Bank where the IFI established a program last year that teaches forgiveness to both Christian and Muslim students and young adults.


Additional Information:

Pope Francis: Forgiveness Enlargens the Heart

Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, used his homily on the day after Christmas–the feast day of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr–to encourage the approximately 1.3 billion baptized Catholics worldwide to be more forgiving.

“We are called to learn from him (St. Stephen) to forgive, to always forgive, and it is not easy to do, we all know,” the 82-year-old Pope said. “Forgiveness enlarges the heart, generates sharing, gives serenity and peace.”

“The Stoning of Saint Stephen” as depicted in a stained glass window at Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

More than 25,000 people converged on St. Peter’s Square on Dec. 26 to hear Pope Francis talk about St. Stephen who was not only martyred for his religious beliefs but who even forgave those who were taking his life while he was being stoned to death. His last words, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them,” are recorded in Chapter 7 of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 7:54-60).

St. Stephen was one of the first ordained deacons of the Church (in Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox churches, a deacon is an ordained minister of an order ranking below that of priest). He is credited with many miracles performed during his short 34-years of life.

Read more:  Pope Francis message during Christmas: A life of greater simplicity and forgiveness (a 2:48 video by Rome Reports)

How to Like Yourself After a Series of Failed Relationships

Training the mind to see one’s own inherent worth can  go a long way in recovery.

So often, I see that people, who have done their best in a failed  relationship,  fall in self-esteem. The person might have tried hard, wanted to maintain the connection, and yet it did not work out.  Despite the best of intentions, the one left behind ends up not liking……..oneself. 

You would think it would be the other way around. The one who walked away or behaved badly should be on the receiving end of the dislike. Yet, it is so often toward the self that the negativism is most deeply directed.

I have six suggestions for you as a way of resurrecting a positive self-image after relationships fail:

First, take the courageous inventory of your part in the breakup. If you were behaving in destructive ways, admit this, know what is destructive about your behavior and take steps to change. You even can begin to forgive yourself for your own part in the break-up.

Second, if you did not contribute to the relationship’s demise, own that thought. We are used to hearing that it takes two to ruin a relationship, but that just is not the case. Sometimes one person can independently destroy what the other has tried to build. If you did not contribute to the destruction of the relationship, start to admit this to yourself. You were not perfect in the relationship because no one is. Yet, imperfection itself is not necessarily a cause for the actual destruction of a partnership.

Third, if you tried your best, then realize that you are not to blame for another’s difficulties or weaknesses. The other is free to make misfortunate decisions, even if these decisions hurt both of you.

KuanShu Designs
Source: KuanShu Designs
Fourth, try to practice toward yourself the idea of inherent worth. You have value, inestimable value, as a person because you are special, unique, and irreplaceable in this world. This worth is unconditional, not earned as some kind of reward for good behavior.

A strictly biological perspective can show you this. For example, you have unique DNA so that when your time in this world is through, there never will be another person exactly like you on this earth……ever. You are…..special…..unique…..and irreplaceable. People with certain religious viewpoints can go beyond the biological to the transcendent and say, “God loves me” or “I am made in the image and likeness of God.” In other words, you are…..special……unique……and irreplaceable.

Fifth, begin to practice this idea that you have inherent or built-in worth. You can do this by extending this knowledge to others first and then to you. For example, as you pass people on the street, you can think: “This person has built-in worth that cannot be earned. That person over there may have weaknesses, but this does not detract from having worth. I, too, share this in common with them. I, too, have inherent worth.”

Sixth and finally, once you have strengthened the idea that you are a person of inherent worth, then apply that knowledge to yourself in the context of the past relationship(s): Despite the fact that this failed, I have worth. I am not defined by the success or failure of a relationship. I am more than that relationship. I will continue to be special, unique, and irreplaceable regardless of that outcome.

Be aware that you want to keep such thoughts in balance so that you do not degenerate into narcissism.  The point of growing in the knowledge of inherent worth is not to puff yourself up relative to others.  In fact, a clear understanding of inherent worth should be a guard against narcissism. Why? It is because the idea of inherent worth levels the playing field of life. If we all have inherent worth, then all of us have value, even if some make more money or have more talent or whatever separates us. We are united in this: We all are special, unique, and irreplaceable.


                          “We all are special, unique, and irreplaceable.”                                                                                                    Robert Enright


As one more caution, avoid using the thought of inherent worth to perpetuate nonsense. For example, suppose you have a gambling habit that seriously depletes the family’s funds. You do not then want to proclaim your inherent worth to yourself so that you can continue the nonsense. Yes, we all may have inherent worth, but we all are imperfect and need to work on our character flaws as we retain that sense of worth.

We are more than our actions. We are more than others’ rejection  of us. We possess a worth that is unconditional. No one can take that away from us, even those who walk away from a relationship that could have been great for both of you. Hold out the hope that the next person also sees inherent worth in those with whom there is a committed relationship. One of the best ways to have a stable ongoing relationship, it seems to me, is to find a like-minded person who understands the importance of inherent worth and sees this very clearly in the self and in you.

Robert

This blog was originally posted on the Psychology Today website on Nov. 8, 2018.

My mother refuses to accept my forgiveness. I am an adult who lives away from home now. She denies any neglect even though both my brother and I carry scars from her inattention when we were growing up. My brother and I carefully have examined this issue and we are in agreement about the unfairness. How do we get my mother to see this?

It never is too late to establish affectionate relationships.  You do see that what happened with your mother has damaged your trust and this an important insight. If you start to forgive your mother now, this is a start with establishing trust more generally.  Forgiveness itself does not necessarily engender trust, but it does make one open to trust because, if others fail you, at least you begin to realize that you have a way of confronting and overcoming resentment—through forgiving them.

In other words, forgiveness is a safety net against the wounds of others.  So, I would recommend that you start to cultivate a sense of forgiveness toward your mother and, when you are ready, be open to others, knowing that any unfairness on their part will not lead to a crushing resentment within you as you practice forgiveness in these new situations and relationships.

For additional information, see How to Forgive.

Coordinating Forgiving and Seeking Forgiveness

When a person is ready to be forgiven, the other may not be ready to forgive.

I have stated previously that to forgive is courageous and even heroic when treated unjustly by others. As you do the hard work of being good to those who are not good to you, as you approach the other with this offer of forgiveness, it sometimes can get complicated. The complications then can lead to new hurts and even a new opportunity to forgive. Consider six issues regarding the granting of forgiveness and the seeking of it:

1.  When people forgive, they go through what can be a lengthy and challenging process. They commit to doing no harm to the one who was offensive. They try to see the offending person in a much wider context than only the offending behavior. They try to see the inherent worth in the other, offer compassion, stand in the pain lest they give that pain right back to the other, and they try to be merciful. Such overtures at times can backfire as the other is not ready to seek forgiveness. Thus the forgiver might be met with such statements as: “What do you mean? I did nothing wrong. You are overly sensitive and are over-reacting.”

KuanShu Designs
Source: KuanShu Designs

2.  When people have offended and seek forgiveness, they, too, go through a potentially lengthy and challenging process.  They try to see the offended person as wounded, as in need of some assistance to overcome the hurt. The offending people see the inherent worth of the offended, have empathy on what they are enduring, and want to reach out to make things right. Such overtures at times also can backfire as the offended one is not ready to forgive. The forgiveness-seeker might be met with these kinds of statements: “What’s your game now? You are constantly doing this and I have had it. Don’t bother me with your sob story.”

3.  The take-home message for those of you either trying to forgive or seeking forgiveness is this: Try to see where the other person is in the process (of either forgiving or seeking it). Both of you may be in very different developmental places in your respective healing journeys. Getting a sense of which of you is far along and which of you is not ready is highly important so that each of you can be patient with the other and with the self. . . .

Read the final three issues of this blog on the Psychology Today website where it was posted on December 5, 2018.

Robert

My partner and I have quite different political views.  I respect his position, but he definitely does not respect mine.  We argue a lot.  My question to you: How can I forgive him when he is so aggressive about political matters?

I think you need to talk with him about what it means to be a person.  Are people more than their political positions?  If so, what is this “more” that goes beyond the political?  Does he see these other important qualities in you?  I think he needs to broaden his perspective that human beings in their importance transcend politics.  This is not easy to learn and so he and you will have to work on this more transcendent perspective.  As you forgive, try to see these larger human qualities in your partner.  Such a wider perspective likely will help you in the forgiveness process.

For additional information, see Forgiveness for Couples.

My mother refuses to accept my forgiveness.  I am an adult who lives away from home now.  She denies any neglect even though both my brother and I carry scars from her inattention when we were growing up.  My brother and I carefully have examined this issue and we are in agreement about the unfairness.  How do we get my mother to see this?

It seems that your mother is in denial about what happened.  Such a psychological defense mechanism can be hard to change.  Your mother may need time on this.  If she sees your support and unconditional love, then this may help reduce the denial.  When she sees and experiences your unconditional love try—gently—bringing up one concrete instance of neglect in the spirit of forgiving.  The concrete referent and the unconditional love in combination may aid your mother in breaking the denial and being open to your forgiveness of her.

For additional information, see My Mother Robbed Me of Trust.