Forgiveness is one of many ways to deal with tragedy, but some ways are more effective than others. Forgiveness has been shown through scientific investigations to be a particularly effective way to heal from trauma.
As an example, Suzanne Freedman and I published a study in 1996 in which we studied woman who were the victims of incest. All of the women came to us with psychological depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and a lack of hope for their future. Each one of these women had tried a variety of ways to heal emotionally prior to engaging in forgiveness therapy, yet nothing was particularly effective for them. Following the forgiveness therapy, which was one-on-one with Suzanne for one hour a week for about 14 months, those who had forgiveness therapy improved significantly in their emotional health compared with those who were in the control group (with no forgiveness therapy).
Then the control group participants began forgiveness therapy and after 14 months of forgiveness therapy, they too showed significant emotional improvement. Forgiveness as a way of dealing with deep trauma is worth taking seriously if emotional healing is the goal or one of the goals.
LivingstonDaily.com. A tearful Corrine Baker asked the judge, who sentenced her to 13-30 years in prison for the second-degree murder of her young son,??for forgiveness “for the horrible choices” she made. She lives with the death of her son “every single day.”??Full story is here.
Decades ago, teachers would sometimes demand that a student stand at the blackboard and write with chalk 100 times, “I will not talk in class.” We have always wondered, at the end of the writing, whether the student is humbly repentant or more annoyed than ever. Well, the 2012 version of this punishment is being applied in an Ohio courtroom with an adult, Mark Byron, who is estranged from his wife. He wrote the following on his Facebook page, which is not accessible to his spouse, “If you are an evil, vindictive woman who wants to ruin your husband’s life and take your son’s father away from him completely, all you need to do is say you’re scared of your husband or domestic partner and they’ll take him away.” The full story is here.
Domestic Relations Magistrate Paul Meyers in January found Byron in contempt of a protective order. Byron can avoid a 60-day jail sentence and a fine by posting an apology, composed by Meyers, to Mrs. Byron on the Facebook page. The same apology must be posted every day for 60 days no later than 9 a.m.
The central question for us at the IFI is this: When is an apology sincere and must it be sincere to have an effect on the one who apologizes? It seems to us that the apology will only be effective for Mr. Byron if it comes from the heart, if he actually means it. Otherwise, will this end like it has for so many students, who, after scrawling their statements on the blackboard, do a slow burn because they were forced to comply?
First of all, I congratulate you on your courage to admit your anger. You have endured much. Regarding your first question, I find that anger can intensify after the crisis is over. Your crisis was to try to live well without a father while you grew up. This undoubtedly put you under pressure some of the time in that people might have wondered where your father is, there could have been some embarrassing questions to you, and so forth. You were enduring. Now that you have “made it in the world,” after all, you are functioning well to be at a university, you are letting down from the crisis. Now your psychological defenses against the anger are lessening and you are being flooded with resentment.
First, please realize that this is not unusual and so please do not judge yourself as odd or unhealthy. At the same time, you recognize that the anger itself could make you unhealthy, could make you possibly lash out at others, and so you have to confront the anger.
May I suggest starting the forgiveness process with your father all over again. Start from square one where you acknowledge that you are angry. Acknowledge its power and even its power to hurt you or others. Then decide to forgive all over again. Then do the work of forgiveness as if you had never tried it before. You will surprise yourself with the positive results. How do I know? You have had positive results in the past.
Regarding your question 2, forgiveness will help, as I have already said and as you already know. In addition to practicing forgiveness, I recommend that you immediately begin to practice the virtue of humility, that quiet sense of deliberately avoiding arrogance or entitlement and cultivating a sense of meekness and lowliness. You are not doing this to let your father or anyone else walk all over you. Instead, you will be doing this so that you do not have the sense of now wanting to dominate your father as he comes to you perhaps in a broken and meek way. Meet him with a meekness of your own and see what happens.
Azeri-Press Agency (APA).??President Barack Obama sent a 3-page letter yesterday to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In that letter was an apology for the apparently unintentional burning of Korans at a NATO airbase in Afghanistan. As of this writing, protests and rioting in various parts of Afghanistan continue with the loss of over 20 lives.
Professor Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute,??discusses the topic of forgiveness??from a Christian perspective on The Drew Mariani Show, a program of Relevant Radio.??Dr. Enright??also introduces his new book, The Forgiving Life, available from??amazon.com.
The Drew Mariani Show??? is a current events and news driven program that reaches listeners with down-to-earth sensibility, sharp insight, good humor and intelligence. Tackling the hottest issues of the day, Drew and his guests blend reality with strong Catholic values complemented by sound orthodox teaching. As the world seemingly changes by the minute, it is more important than ever for Catholics to keep a close eye on the culture around us.
Listen to??his full interview with Dr. Enright here.
Both Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas have told us that it takes time to develop proficiency in any virtue. In other words, we grow into becoming more fair or kind or courageous or forgiving. Thus, we all suffer from a certain “character weakness” because we are in the process of being more and more perfected in forgiving.
What does it mean to become “more perfected”? As we practice forgiveness over and over and as we grow as forgivers, we:
1) understand more deeply what forgiveness is and is not;
2) are more willing to practice it, even when we have deep pain from profound injustices;
3) move through the process more smoothly; and
4) complete the process more thoroughly in that we have less resentment and more compassion at the end of the forgiveness journey toward one person and one event.
As a final point, we all have a more difficult time forgiving certain people for certain injustices and so we should be gentle in our scrutiny of others who struggle to forgive. Someone’s struggle today does not mean that she is morally deficient. Instead, it may mean that she is growing in the virtue and is finding something difficult today in the journey. This does not mean that she will struggle tomorrow with a different person and a different event. We are all growing in our perfection of this virtue.