Novelty vs. Repetition

Too much chocolate is just enoughOK, class, it is time for a few questions. If you “google” the word “forgiveness,” how many hits will you get? Right, 54 million. How about if you google the term “current films”? Right again, 519 million. One more: What if you google the word “chocolate”? How did you know? You are right, 704 million hits.

We are being overwhelmed by novelty. If you spent your life (and you could spend your life plus more lifetimes) clicking on each of the “chocolate” hits on google, and spent one minute on each, it would take you approximately 1339 years to do so. So much chocolate….so little time.

My point is this: We are rarely reinforced in our societies these days for engaging in repetition. After all, there is one more “chocolate” hit waiting for us on google, one more current film site to visit.

Yet, Aristotle impressed upon us the need for repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition. I can see you growing weary just reading that previous sentence. Nonetheless, the point of today’s post is this: We must resist the temptation of always looking for the next novelty item in our over-stimulated world. We must not forget the repetition and to forgive well means to engage in the repetition of forgiveness over and over and over again.

Novelty vs repetition. Novelty is winning in today’s world. Aristotle would not be amused.

Dr. Bob

A Lesson in Forgiveness from Genocide Survivor Jean-Paul Samputu

Rwanda CrossesSTV Edinburgh, Scotland – Jean-Paul Samputu??survived one of the worst genocides in history–a massacre that??claimed not only??the lives of??his parents, his three brothers, and his sister, but the lives of??more than one million people who were??killed in his country in just 90 days.??All were killed by those who had once been their neighbours, their friends.

The 1994 mass slaughter took place in the central African nation of Rwanda where violence between two ethnic groups–the Hutu majority and the Tutsi–had festered for years. Jean-Paul, a well-known Tutsi musician at the time and a marked target, had already fled his home and travelled to Uganda.

It was more than a decade before Jean-Paul??learned??that his own family???s killer was??a man he had once counted on as a friend. He came face to face with Eugene Nyirimana at the war tribunals in Rwanda in August of 2007.??It was there that Jean-Paul spoke with??the man??and somehow found the courage to forgive him.

???I don???t think I???m a strong man or a particularly good man because I forgave, because I don???t think I made a deliberate choice to forgive. I think it was my only choice,” Jean-Paul says. ???The man who killed my parents ??? he went to prison. As was right because he had committed a crime. But my prison was far worse than his. I was trapped, killing myself everyday with anger and bitterness. It was horrible.???Rwanda Poster

???I had to choose to forgive. It was the only way out for me,??? he explains. ???I had to do it for myself, to learn to love myself, to get the healing that I desperately needed. And when I found its peace, I knew I wanted to help others find it too.???

Jean-Paul??now spends his time??travelling around Rwanda and the world to share his story through discussion and music.

???It???s so important that people realise that forgiveness isn???t for the offender – it???s for you,??? insists Jean-Paul. ???We have a culture of revenge in our society at the moment. Generations pass their hatred onto the next generation and so on and so on. We receive the mistakes of our parents.”

???Instead of a culture of revenge we need a culture of forgiveness if the cycle is ever to be broken. Forgiveness is my message. Education is the answer. To teach our children that a culture of forgiveness is the only way to end pain.”

Read the full story: “A lesson in forgiveness from genocide survivor Jean-Paul Samputu”

Helpful Forgiveness Hint

Past-Present-Future_1When you are trying to forgive a person now for a recent injustice and you find yourself having trouble forgiving, please try this: Think about someone in your past who hurt you in a similar way. Have you forgiven this person from your past? If not, then he or she may be the stumbling block for your forgiving a person now.

Take some time to go back in time and repair your heart from the previous person and incident. Once your anger is diminished from that, then try forgiving the present person for the present injustice.

You see, you may have double-anger now, at the present person and the past person. Eliminating your anger from the past may free you a little more to forgive those in the present.

Dr. Bob

Reprise: Your Unfolding Love Story

Heart of LoveWe have come to a new year. Let us gently move forward one year from now to January 1, 2014. Let us do a mental exercise and pretend that 2013 is now over—gone forever. What you have said and done has now gone out to others for good or for ill. Regrets? Guilt? Remorse? These could be part of the package as you reflect back on 2013 on the first day of 2014. How have you lived in 2013? What could you have done to make the world a more loving place?

Back to present-day January 2013…now is your chance to open the door of opportunity to this New Year. An opportunity to fulfill your January 1st, 2014 hopes and dreams that you just reflected on—to make them whole, peaceful, joyous and a reality. Despite the unforeseen trials and hardships, regardless of others’ injustices and unfairness, you have the power to make the year 2013 a triumph of love worth remembering and celebrating next January 1st of 2014.

You are not the master of your fate in that you can prevent the unwanted. You, however, do have a strong influence on all of this if you make a commitment with me now to love. 2013 will be the year that you grow in love, give love to others, give love to those whom you do not think necessarily deserve it. The kind of love connected to forgiveness is that which serves–out of concern for the other. You have within you now the capacity to give this love freely, without cost, without anyone earning it. Go ahead, try it. Give love away as your legacy of 2013.

How can you start? I recommend starting by looking backward at one incident of 2012. 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?

This kind of love will not necessarily be a two-way street in 2013. You may have to extend the love through forgiveness, a hard but joyous road. Forgiveness is part of your unfolding love story. Forgiveness, which serves the other through compassion and gentleness, is not always reciprocated. Yet, one thing is certain: When others reflect upon 2013 in early January, 2014, they will remember your kindness, your unconditional love, your forgiveness. They will see who you really are. And as for you? Well, you will have added a chapter to your unfolding love story. How do you think that will feel?

Welcome to 2013. The International Forgiveness Institute is here to support you as you add a new chapter to your book of life.

Dr. Bob

Forgiveness Education in the Czech Republic

Czech Republic-Heart of EuropeToday I had the privilege of giving a forgiveness education workshop for faculty in a school in the Czech Republic. They have decided to implement a forgiveness curriculum for children from age 4 through about age 10.

This is not an easy endeavor for them. They have had to hire someone to translate teacher guides from English into the Czech language, and these guides are rather extensive as you can see in our online Store.

One impression I had that is quite important is this: Some of the faculty came into the workshop equating forgiveness with reconciliation. In other words, the thought was that if I forgive, I have to go back for more abuse. Seeing that this is not the case was freeing for those who misunderstood what forgiveness is.

Another impression I had was their surprise to hear that forgiveness education can boost academic performance in those students who are excessively angry. After all, if you are fuming inside, it is difficult to learn. As the resentments melt, there is more energy and focus for the academic tasks of school.

You can read a scientific paper, published in 2008 in the Journal of Research in Education, showing this boost in academic performance for a small group of middle school students who were at-risk for academic failure. They went from a D+ average to a C+ average the next academic year: Can School-Based Forgiveness Counseling Improve Conduct and Academic Achievement in Academically At-Risk Students? logo

We at the International Forgiveness Institute wish
the administrators, faculty, and students well in this Czech school as they embark on the exciting new journey of forgiveness education.
Czech Republic Logo

Dr. Bob

I have a friend who thinks I have offended her. I disagree. She is now demanding an apology. If I refuse, she is threatening to walk out of my life forever. I would prefer that does not happen, despite this conflict. What should I do? Should I apologize even though I do not mean it?

This is an important dilemma, whether to choose truth or friendship. I recommend that you choose both. If it were me, I would tell the truth this way, “I am sorry that I hurt your feelings for [then state what the issue is].”

I am presuming that you wish she was not hurt by whatever she thinks you did. You would be acknowledging this. You are not apologizing for a supposed injustice that you say you did not commit.

Our Forgiveness Army of 90,500 People

WorldPeopleHello, Forgiveness Army. That might sound like an oxymoron (like “impoverished millionaire”), but Gandhi reminds us that if we want peace, then we must make war against war.

For the past 11 months, we have been tracking the number of unique visitors to this website and the tally to date is approximately 90,500 and counting. That is a large army.

You did not know you were in an army, particularly a forgiveness army, did you? Well, now is your chance to make war against war by introducing at least one person to the concept of forgiveness. It is not easy to do that. It requires courage.

May courage be yours in 2013.

It is not easy to introduce one person to forgiveness because it is not CourageLove...always clear when and how and what to present to someone who needs to know about forgiveness. It is not easy to do that. It requires wisdom.

May wisdom be yours in 2013.

It is not easy to introduce one person to forgiveness because it takes energy and perseverance and then more energy and perseverance as he or she criticizes or shows indifference or even insults you. It is not easy to “hang in there” when this happens. It requires love.

May love be yours in 2013.

Courage, wisdom, and love in the service of forgiveness. These are our weapons for making war against war.

May 2013 be a year of peace because we, each of us, each of our 90,500 soldiers-for-peace, have taken the time to introduce at least one person to the topic of forgiveness.

Dr. Bob

Finding Forgiveness After Child Abuse

DrawingFarm and Dairy, Salem, OH??- Scarred by years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his parents–abuse so violent that it nearly killed him–Terry McDaniel would seem to have every reason to hate. As awful as his childhood was, though, he’s not out for revenge. His message is one of hope and inspiration, of forgiveness and understanding.

McDaniel, now 52-years-old, says his anger over the constant abuse did not subside until after he discovered the “process of forgiveness” when he was 26. As bad as his life had been, McDaniel says, he came to realize that it wouldn’t get any better until he let go. “You release that person to be dealt with by God, not by you,” he added.

After years of writing and rewriting, McDaniel has put his thoughts together in a book.??“Through Our??Eyes, A Story of Surviving Childhood Abuse”??uses semi-fictional scenes and characters that draw parallels to his own life. By using a fictional approach, McDaniel says, he didn’t have to mention the names of real-life people in his family. “I wanted to make the book a book of hope and healing for people who have been abused,” he said.

Read the full story -??“Finding Forgiveness: Abused as a child, local author says only way forward is ‘forgiveness'”

Must the Other Apologize Prior to My Forgiving?

A person wrote to us recently to ask: Should I wait for the other person’s apology (repentance) before I forgive? Some philosophers such as Haber and Griswold argue that forgiveness is only legitimate if there first is an apology. And isn’t there a Bible verse saying that if your brother repents then you forgive him?

We are addressing the question here in the Blog (rather than in our Ask Dr. Forgiveness section) because of the lengthy reply and because we wish to give as many people as possible the chance to see and respond to the answer.

Some people reason that it is in the best interest of an unjustly-treated person to wait for an apology. Some reason that this is best even for forgiveness itself because it preserves the moral quality of forgiveness, by demanding something of the other, by trying to bring out the best in the offender.

While this latter point, waiting for the good of the other, is noble because the focus is on the betterment of that other person, I do not think thatUnconditional Forgiveness reason allows us to insist that this occur prior to our forgiving our offenders. I make three points in defense of unconditional forgiveness:

1. Forgiveness is a moral virtue and there is no other moral virtue in existence that requires a prior response from another person before one can exercise that virtue. For example, if you wish to be kind, does someone first have to do something before you engage in kindness? Does someone have to do something before you can exercise justice? No. So, why are we changing the rules of the moral virtues for this one virtue of forgiveness?

2. If our forgiving others is contingent on an apology (a prior response from another before we can act), then we are trapped in unforgiveness until the other acts. This would seem to violate the principle of justice: We cannot exercise a particular virtue, in this case forgiveness, even if we so choose. How fair is that?

3. You fall back to a supposed Biblical mandate in your defense of the conditional nature of forgiveness (the required apology). Of course, those who reject faith will have no interest in this third point (and I hope that my first two points are sufficient to convince them of the philosophical flaws in arguing for the necessity of repentance prior to forgiving). You refer to Luke 17:3, “”Be on your guard! If your brother Love Quotesins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Yet, this is not setting up a necessary condition for a person to forgive. Instead, it is setting up a sufficient condition for the forgiveness to occur. In other words, when you see your brother has repented, this is a morally adequate act for you to go ahead and forgive. Yet, there are other ways for a person to forgive, including the unconditional approach (no repentance has occurred). The context does not imply that one must–out of necessity–refrain from offering forgiveness until the other repents. This, in logic, is a confusion of necessary and sufficient conditions.

So, waiting for an apology is a moral good in only one sense: It challenges the other to change. I would like to clarify even this by making a distinction between internal and external aspects of forgiveness. It is not morally good to refrain from the inner work of forgiveness (struggling to see the inherent worth of your offender) prior to the apology/repentance. Why? Because goodness (in this case the moral virtue of forgiveness) is thwarted and cannot occur. It is only morally good if the verbal act of forgiveness (“I forgive you”) is delayed until the other changes (and in a genuine way) and at the same time is not delayed out of necessity.

On the other hand, unconditional forgiveness is morally good in at least three ways: 1) The one offended begins to see the inherent worth of the other as soon as the forgiver is ready; 2) unconditional forgiveness does not lead to the trap of unforgiveness based on another’s actions, and 3) the offer of forgiveness even verbally prior to the other’s change of heart may lead to such a change of heart. In other words, some people will repent when they experience the forgiver’s unconditional love. And even if they do not, forgiveness does not link automatically to reconciliation with the person. In other words, an unconditional act of forgiveness does not open the forgiver to further injustice.

Dr. Bob

Celebrating 10 Years of Forgiveness Education in Northern Ireland

IFI’s Forgiveness Education Program is celebrating its 10-Year Anniversary of working with children, schools and communities in Northern Ireland to make the virtue of forgiveness more understandable and accessible.

“Forgiveness is an important aspect in the emotional and moral development of any individual,” states Gary Trainor, Vice Principal at Mercy Primary School, “and if we can sow those seeds at an early age, we are increasing the chances of them bearing fruit throughout their lives.” It was with this long term goal in mind that the Forgiveness Education Programme first began to take shape.

In 2002, Dr. Robert Enright, Educational Psychologist at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, USA began to establish relationships with a couple of principals and schools in North Belfast. With the help of Anne Gallagher of Seeds of Hope, Dr. Enright was able to introduce Forgiveness Education to the first classroom of Primary 3 pupils in Ligoniel Primary School.

Ten years on, Claire Hillman, Principal at Ligoniel PS says, “At the time we started we had very few personal development resources in the primary school and no coherent programme of work. The Forgiveness (Education) Programme helped us to formulate a whole school approach to building personal qualities such as empathy, respect and trust. The programme now sits alongside the PDMU (Personal Development for Mutual Understanding) programme of work developed by the curriculum council. The work of Professor Enright has helped us develop the life skills of hundreds of children in North Belfast and is continuing to impact on their lives.”

This same perspective is echoed by Mr. Trainor from Mercy PS who says, “During our daily interactions with our pupils, as teachers we are always promoting the positive attributes and virtues we wish those in our care to portray. The Forgiveness (Education) Programme consolidated our aspirations for kindness, generosity, sharing and understanding. It gave us an extra tool to enhance our pupils’ experiences through story, discussion, art and role play. The children’s ability to communicate their feelings also improved, they began to develop a vocabulary that was both respectful of others and of themselves.” Mercy Primary School first began teaching Forgiveness Education in 2005.

Over the years, the Forgiveness Education Programme has developed and grown from that first Primary 3 classroom. Overseen locally by Padraig O’Tuama and then Becki Fulmer, in cooperation with Youth with a Mission, Peacelines, and now The Corrymeela Community since 2009, the programme has grown throughout the years from one classroom in one school to the curriculum being taught in over 100 classrooms in 20 schools across Northern Ireland.

One school in particular who has been involved with Forgiveness Education since 2004 is Holy Family Primary School. Dinah McManus, Principal, always refers to Holy Family as a “Forgiving School” because they have imbedded the virtue of forgiveness in to their school ethos. Mrs. McManus states, “I can say with confidence and some pride that in creating a ‘forgiveness ethos’ in Holy Family we have provided our children with a very nurturing environment which reflects the essential elements of our Mission Statement: We are a living Faith community, centred on the Gospel values of love, justice and forgiveness, within which each member of our school community is valued and respected.”

She goes on to say, “As the Forgiveness Education Programme has developed in Holy Family we, as teachers, have explored the messages within the programme and have come to appreciate their value to us in our efforts to create a strong, cohesive team. We acknowledge that we are all human and, as such, flawed. We now take time, for example on our ethos day, to remind ourselves of the power of forgiveness. To forgive another does not mean to forget what happened or to negate the other person’s responsibility for their actions. It simply means that we no longer allow another’s actions or words to cause us anger or resentment. By understanding the other person’s humanity, by forgiving without expecting anything in return, we are the ones who are healed. There is no doubt that we are, as a result, much more understanding of each other’s foibles and less inclined to find fault or to take offence at others’ comments or actions.”

The Forgiveness Education Programme has spent the past ten years dedicated to helping children, schools and communities develop a better understanding of what it means to value all people, to understand our own and others humanity and to practice respect, kindness, generosity and forgiveness. We look forward to what the next ten years have to offer.

If you would like more information on how to bring the Forgiveness Education Programme to your school in Northern Ireland please contact Becki Fulmer, Forgiveness Education Programme Coordinator, at If you are in the Republic of Ireland or anywhere else in the world and would like to bring Forgiveness Education to your school, please contact the Director of our International Forgiveness Institute at

Written by: Becki Fulmer, Director
Northern Ireland Forgiveness Education Program