Your Unfolding Love Story Continued

GiftsOn January 19, 2012 we posted a reflection on our blog site in which we encouraged readers to grow in love as their legacy of 2012. We said this:

Give love away as your legacy of 2012.

How can you start? I recommend starting by looking backward at one incident of 2011. Please think of one incident with one person in which you were loved unconditionally, perhaps even surprised by a partner or a parent or a caring colleague. Think of your reaction when you felt love coming from the other and you felt love in your heart and the other saw it in your eyes. What was said? How were you affirmed for whom you are, not necessarily for something you did? What was the other’s heart like, and yours?”

Our current year, 2012, is about to end. Can you list some specific, concrete ways in which you have chosen love over indifference? Love over annoyance? If so, what are those specifics and how are they loving? We ask because we have only about a week-and-a-half left in the year.

If you have not yet deliberately left love (or enough love) in the world this year, there still is time.

Dr. Bob

Forgiveness Story Triggers Flood of Gift-Giving

Bag of PresentsCBC News, Novia Scotia, Canada??- Free groceries and Christmas gifts are piling up for a Nova Scotia man who forgave the thief who ran off with his turkey dinner and presents.

Frank (Mike) Foley went shopping on Wednesday but a thief broke into his car and stole the groceries and gifts he had just bought.

Instead of calling the police, Foley posted a message on his Facebook page offering the thief a chance to return everything:

“I want you to know that I forgive you for this as it seems that you needed these things more than I do. The turkey and groceries will not ruin our Christmas dinner for we will still have something for dinner that day and the gifts you stole were material things that we can do without.

“But I want you to understand that there is no way for me to replace these things because I used the last of the money we had to purchase these things.

“If you can’t find it in your heart to return them then I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and may God bless you and your family. I do forgive you and wish no bad things on you.”

Foley said he has not heard from the thief, but he has received more than 1,000 emails, phone calls and visits from generous people bearing groceries and gift cards.Foley closed his small business two years ago to look after his wife, who has multiple sclerosis and is terminally ill. He has a nine-year-old son with autism and a 16-year-old daughter.

Read the full story:??“Tale of forgiveness for theft triggers flood of gift-giving.”

What Is Forgiveness?: When Psychologists Disagree

Last week in my doctoral seminar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of the students was making a presentation to the class. As part of that presentation he discussed a published work by a neuroscientist-psychologist who made the following claim: Forgiveness is not about getting rid of resentment and offering goodness to another person (or other persons). Instead, it is only about getting rid of resentment. The author of the article referenced one of our works, in which we unequivocally state that the essence of forgiveness also includes the offering of goodness. The journal article’s author asserted, without defending the point, that we are incorrect.

So, we have a contradiction. Either “to forgive” as a term includes the offering of goodness toward others or it does not. Who is correct? How do we determine who is correct here?Word montage

I would like to suggest the following as a way to resolve the contradiction. If we can show that either of our definitions could also be the definition of another term (unrelated to or at least substantially different from the term “to forgive”), then that definer needs to refine the definition to a greater extent than currently is the case.

So, with that ground-rule in place, let the games begin, as they say in the Olympics. First, let us turn to our neuroscientist colleague’s definition of “to forgive.” which is the reduction in or elimination of negative emotions (resentment) following a transgression from another (or others). Can we think of other terms that would fit this definition? Yes: indifference. I can be indifferent toward another to such an extent that I become emotionally neutral toward him or her. Indifference is not an act of goodness. It cannot possibly be equated with forgiveness, but by the neuroscientist’s definition, forgiveness and indifference share the same definition. Therefore, the neuroscientist must change his definition of the term “to forgive” or be faced with an ambiguous term.

Now, to our definition. “To forgive” is in the context of another’s transgression (the neuroscientist and I agree). “To forgive” includes the cessation of resentment toward the offending person (the neuroscientist and I agree). “To forgive” must–must–include in its essence the offer of goodness toward the offender for two important reasons:

1) If forgiveness is a moral virtue (as are justice, patience, kindness, and love), then it has to include an element of goodness, as all moral virtues do.

2) Without adding this element of goodness to the definition of “to forgive,” we are left with a host of undifferentiated terms (indifference, mild annoyance, moving on, “writing someone off”, forgiveness).

As a final point, just because, in its essence, the term “to forgive” includes elements of offered goodness toward an offender, this does not imply that all who forgive show this or even understand it. There is a difference between how one both understands and expresses forgiveness and what it is in its essence.

Dr. Bob

The Forgiveness Story That Went Around the World

Amish BuggiesYork Daily Record, York, PA –??What do you do when your lives are shattered and you don’t want to see tomorrow?

That’s the question Terri and Chuck Roberts faced on Oct. 2, 2006–the day their son shot 10 girls, killing five, before taking his own life at the West Nickel Mines School, a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, PA. ??They found the answer, Terri says, in the Amish faith and forgiveness.

Roberts said she and her husband thought they could never face their Amish neighbors again. The day of the shooting, however, their Amish neighbor Henry came to their house and stood behind Chuck, rubbing his shoulders and consoling him, she recalled.??When she and her family buried her son, the first parents to greet them at the graveside were Amish parents who had lost not one but two daughters in the shooting.


In that action, she saw the depth of the Amish community’s faith and the breadth of their forgiveness.??The speed in which the Amish community forgave both the shooter and his family was “the forgiveness story that went around the world. People were able to forgive because the Amish could,” Roberts said.

Roberts started inviting the five surviving school girls and their mothers to picnics and tea parties at her house just three months after the shootings. At one get-together, she learned that Mary Liz King had a harder road than the rest of the mothers: Her daughter, Rosanna, never fully recovered and remains paralyzed. From that day on, Roberts started visiting Rosanna, now 11, weekly. She bathes her and brushes her hair, cleans her bedclothes, talks to her, sings to her, and reads Bible stories. Though at first she wasn???t sure she was strong enough to continue, Roberts now finds peace in those visits. ???As we reach out in ways that bring a touch, we can find great healing,??? she says.

Read more:??“Mother of Nickel Mines shooter says Amish faith and forgiveness helped her heal” (York Daily Record); and??“5 Years Later, Mother Cares for Son’s Amish Victim”??(newser,??a news summary website at?? The role forgiveness can play in alleviating anger and grief and the physical, mental and spiritual benefits that come with it are vividly outlined in??“The Power of Forgiveness,”??a documentary film by Martin Doblmeier that features a segment on the Amish.

I am very upset by the regular occurrences of mass shootings in the United States. This one that occurred yesterday in Connecticut is just too much to even imagine. I know this is a large problem with many ways to solve it. Please share your views about how to put a stop to this.

We share your view that what happened in Connecticut is unspeakable evil. We have been committed for the past decade to anger reduction in children and youth. Without a systematic way to address this growing problem, we will continue to be stunned by the aggression pouring forth from young men in the United States in particular. Anger is gripping too many youth and we must stop it. I am not exaggerating the extent of emotional struggle in our youth. A major study published about two years ago stated that almost 50% of adolescents in America have a psychiatric disorder. Excessive anger is a significant aspect of this, shall we call it an, epidemic.

Our approach, which has scientific backing, is to have developmentally appropriate forgiveness education curriculum guides for teachers. We have these from pre-kindergarten through grade 11. Teachers spend about one hour a week for about 12-15 weeks and anger can be reduced from clinical or near-clinical levels to normal levels of anger in students. Perhaps it is time for school districts to take seriously this approach to improving the emotional health of students at all levels of development.

The Family Forgiveness Gathering

In our most recent blog post, we began to discuss “the family as forgiving community.” We suggested then, and will now address, a theme we call the family forgiveness gathering as one way to achieve the goals of the family as forgiving community.

In the family forgiveness gathering, the parents are encouraged to create a time and place for family discussions. We recommend that the parents gather the family together at least once a week to have a quiet discussion about forgiveness. They should keep in mind that to forgive is not the same as excusing or forgetting or even reconciling and that forgiveness works hand-in-hand with justice.

Examples of questions for the family forgiveness meeting might include:

What does it mean to forgive someone?Family Study

Who was particularly kind and loving to you this week?

What did that feel like?

When the person was really loving toward you, what were your thoughts about the person?

When the person was really loving, how did you behave toward that person?

Was anyone particularly unfair or mean to you this week?

What did it feel like when you were treated in a mean way?

What were your thoughts?

How did you behave at first?

Did you try to forgive the person for being unfair to you?

What does forgiveness feel like?

What are your thoughts when you forgive?

What are your thoughts specifically toward the one who acted unfairly to you when you forgive him or her?

How did you behave toward the person once you forgave?

If you have not yet forgiven, what is a first step in forgiving him or her? (Make a decision to be kind, commit to forgiving, begin in a small way to see that the person is in fact a person of worth.)

What struggles do you have with forgiving someone who behaved in an unkind way to you?

In other words, what is difficult about forgiving?

What is easy about forgiving for you?

The parents are reminded that they do not have to know all the answers. What do you think? Is 15 minutes once a week worth the effort to strengthen your children for the hurts to come, including those which might come many years from now?

Dr. Bob