I have heard people say that forgiveness is like giving someone a second chance. Is this what forgiveness is, or are these two ideas different?

When we forgive, we are indeed giving the other a second chance. We are extending mercy to the one who was not merciful to us. ??Yet, our forgiving does not necessarily lead to an actual second chance because sometimes the other rejects our offer. ??So, forgiveness is the offering of a second chance. ??The realization of that second chance now depends on both people accepting that mercy and coming together again in mutual respect.

Weapons in the Struggle

Heart Without LoveThose who consistently treat us unfairly think that they have found the right weapons for making us and keeping us miserable.

Little do they know that we have a far more powerful weapon: forgiveness. Forgiveness-as-love can deflect any weapons meant to hurt us. The beauty of our weapon is that, once it destroys the effects of their intent-to-hurt us, it is used for good–to positively transform self and other.

Those who wish to hurt us think that they have the powerful weaponry. They are wrong. Theirs is rendered powerless in the face of genuine and persistently applied forgiveness.

As you evade with forgiveness attacks against you, the one who is trying to hurt you eventually will exhaust himself in this struggle to hurt. Once tired, she finally may be open to your gesture of unconditional love. If not, you have done the best that you can….and you have done so with love.

Robert

Steps to Emotional Healing through Forgiveness: A Workshop for Caregivers – October 4

RobertEnrightPhDBioPhoto_9.15.11Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, will be giving a talk entitled, “The Steps to Emotional Healing through Forgiveness,” from 11 a.m. to noon on Friday, October 4, 2013. The talk is specifically for the Chaplains of the Spiritual Care Services department and other staff at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics.

Robert D. Enright is professor in the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is president of the International Forgiveness Institute, has lectured across the country, and has appeared on ABC’s 20/20.

Within psychology, the study and implementation of forgiveness therapy is now taken for granted. Thirty years ago, no such therapy existed. The pioneering research that opened this to the therapeutic world was started by Professor Enright. He has now extended this work to include forgiveness education in contentious regions of the world such as Belfast, Northern Ireland, Liberia, and Israel.

For additional information, contact: Sally Bowers, Chaplain, SBowers@uwhealth.org.

Forgiveness as Palliative Care for Cancer Patients and Family Members – Oct. 18

Dr. Robert Enright will be a featured speaker at the UW Carbone Cancer Center’s twelfth annual professional education conference, Advances in Multidisciplinary Cancer Care, on Friday, October 18, 2013. His presentation is titled “Forgiveness as Palliative Care for Cancer Patients and Family Members.”

For additional information, contact: Craig Robida, public relations, crrobida@uwcarbone.wisc.edu.

On Reducing Anger While Sleepwalking

SleepwalkingWhile talking with a friend recently who has had his share of injustices, he made an insightful comment which may prove helpful for you. Several years ago he had a break-up with a friend, a long-standing friend. To mask the pain of this break-up, as he explained it, he basically put the person and the event out of his mind, not to be cruel but only because the friendship seems to have dissolved. He refers to this state as “sleepwalking.”

Yet, two patterns are worth noting. First, whenever he meets this friend, the pain and anger well up within him again. It is as if his sleepwalking abruptly ends, he awakens with anger, and then goes back to sleepwalking when not in the friend’s presence once again.

A second pattern is this: When the friend makes overtures to reconcile, it is precisely at that time when the anger wells up the greatest, with great pain and suffering. Why? I think it is because the full weight of the injustice is now felt because of the contrast between the abandoning state and the state of mutual love and respect. That contrast at that moment is very intense.

So, for you, the reader, I have this suggestion. Are you sleepwalking through an unjust event with someone? “How do I know?” you might say. Here is a test: Quiet yourself and then with concentrated effort, imagine this person coming back to you in a repentant way, in a way that says, “I did wrong and would like to reconcile.” In that state ask yourself, “How angry am I now?”

If you are very angry, especially compared to when you are sleepwalking, then let this be a sign to you that you are harboring more anger than you realize. Your degree of forgiveness while in your sleepwalking state may not be complete forgiveness. You may have more resentment in there than you think and if so, more forgiveness work may be necessary.

With this knowledge, work on forgiving this person so that the next time you meet, you are not jolted from your sleepwalking….and if he or she truly wishes to reconcile, you will not bolt awake as if now in the nightmare. Your forgiveness work will help you to walk while wide awake, with reduced anger, ready to offer goodness rather than anger to this person.

Robert

Survival Kit Advice

I perused Wikipedia today for information on “survival kits.” Here are a few tidbits: salt (yup, it prevents death in case of cholera), laser pointer (for superior long-range signaling), large plastic trash bag (as a poncho), ladder (ladder, oh, sorry, this one is only for lifeboats).

Missing completely was one essential: Forgiveness.
Forgive Script LettersAs the world produces more injustice, we need a survival response to this. Forgiveness may be it. Forgive and live.

Robert

You talk about “forgiving communities.” What are some of the dangers in introducing such communities too soon in the home?

Because forgiveness is a moral virtue, it is not a dangerous idea or action. ??What is dangerous is the all-too-human trappings surrounding forgiveness. Some of these dangers include: 1) forcing children to forgive rather than helping them to be drawn in love to it; 2) misunderstanding forgiveness as reconciliation so that children are not protected as they think they have to re-enter unhealthy interactions, such as with those who bully them; 3) so over-emphasizing forgiveness that children put aside the quest for justice; and 4) introducing forgiveness-as-a-forgiving community out of grim obligation so that children see your frustration with the idea of forgiveness.

If you avoid these traps and approach forgiveness with a loving heart, the family should benefit. ??We recommend what we call “The Family Forgiveness Gathering” in which you discuss (once a week for about 15 minutes) the themes of hurt and mercy which occurred that week for each person (who wishes to share this).

Independence Day for Those Who Bully

Independence Day-2Do you know the film, Independence Day, from 1996? One of the characters, an alcoholic crop-duster, Russell Casse, played by Randy Quaid, kept insisting that he was abducted by aliens. No one was buying it. Once the aliens landed, he had his day by saying, “What did I tell you?” (Quoted from memory).

It is now our turn. No, we have not been abducted by aliens, but we have been speculating within our institute about Adam Lanza, the tragic figure who turned his own fury onto innocent children in a Connecticut school on December 14, 2012. We have been saying to each other that he himself in all likelihood was a victim of severe bullying.

A recent article in the New York Daily News Sandy Hook(April 13, 2013) by Matthew Lysiak and Larry McShane supports the view that Mr. Lanza was a victim of bullying. According to this article not only was Mr. Lanza taunted but also beaten by fellow students when he attended Sandy Hook Elementary School. A relative of Mr. Lanza, who wished for anonymity in that article, gave this evidence of bullying: “Adam would come home with bruises all over his body,” the relative said. “His mom would ask him what was wrong, and he wouldn’t say anything. He would just sit there.” The mother considered suing the school because of this abuse that she suspected.

The one bullied transformed into the one who bullies, and even worse, into the one who kills.

For a moment, let us presume even with this news story that the accusations of bullying toward Adam Lanza are incorrect. Even so, there are thousands of children as I write this being bullied and bullied very abusively in schools.

How many of them will transform into the one who bullies?

We have to do something to protect the victims, yes, but what is rarely emphasized is this: We must find a way to quell the fury within those who bully. Their fury is what is abusing and in some cases contributing to the death of other students.

BulliedWhat did I tell you? We are suggesting this to the world: We strongly urge all school districts in the United States and abroad to develop comprehensive psychological programs to reduce the rage in those who bully. One source for school psychologists, counselors, and social workers is the Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Education Program available in the store section of this website. This curriculum targets the anger within those who bully.

Our research on forgiveness therapy and our research on forgiveness education shows that those with deep anger can reduce that anger statistically significantly.

It is time to quell the fury within—-for the sake of the next victim and for the sake of those who harbor the fury. We have the resources. Now let us all pull together and do our part not to let anger have its insistent upper hand. Let us start today and achieve Independence Day for those who bully—-independence from the binding torture of their own anger.

Robert

On Mercy: The Case of Mid-West Family Broadcasting

Mid-West Family Broadcasting, headed by Thomas Walker, has quietly stayed in the shadows, supporting the International Forgiveness Institute since 1990–for a generation. Readers, please note well that many philanthropists have a pattern of funding non-profit organizations for a few years and then moving on. This did not happen between Mid-West Family Mid-West 2and IFI. In 1990, I received a letter (email was not “on a roll” then as it is now) from William Walker, Thomas’ father. He told me that years ago he received a doctoral degree from my own department at the university. He said he now would like to give back to the social sciences and that he had the resources to put the psychology of forgiveness on the map.

WilliamWalker
William Walker

Up to that point, the science of forgiveness was in its infancy. The very first scientific article on person-to-person forgiving was published by our group in 1989. (There had been a handful of studies on apology up to that point, but no science published on the issue of forgiving between and among people). William had a plan to advance the thinking in this area. With his help, we developed the first psychological instrument to measure person-to-person forgiveness ever published. We devised strategies to map out the process of forgiveness and tested these. One example of the fruit of William Walker’s philanthropy is a study of helping people in residential drug rehabilitation to forgive and thus to become emotionally healthier.

Tom Walker
Thomas Walker

Under the care of Thomas Walker, the IFI has quietly built the most comprehensive set of curricular materials for teaching forgiveness in the world. The forgiveness curriculum guides have made their way to schools on every continent now. We at the IFI are personally shepherding the growth of forgiveness education in Madison, Wisconsin, Milwaukee’s central-city, Belfast, Northern Ireland and Liberia, Africa. We are making inroads in other war-torn and contentious regions of the world. We are doing so because of Mid-West Family Broadcasting.

Mid-West Family Broadcasting runs the following stations in Madison, Wisconsin: WJJO | WMGN | WJQM | WWQM | WMLV | WHIT | WOZN. They are in four other midwest markets as well.

We take the time here to acknowledge the mercy of Mid-West Family Broadcasting and the Walker family. You are making the world a more merciful place, a more forgiving place, because of your mercy. Thank you.

Robert

Bully Blues Busters: Positive Ways to Promote Kindness

Types of Bullying 2
Click the chart for an expanded view.

Natural Awakenings, Naples, FL – Dr. Robert Enright’s Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program is one of two anti-bullying programs featured in the February issue of Natural Awakenings, a publication that has more than 3 million readers in 82 US markets. According to Sharon Bruckman, founder of the 20-year-old magazine, “Our job is to keep our finger on the pulse of advancing thought in order to keep everyone apprised of the best healthy-life choices available to them.”

According to the Natural Awakenings article, most school anti-bullying programs focus on the prevention of unwanted behaviors. But Dr. Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, has developed a uniquely different approach.

“Because those that engage in bullying are often filled with rage from having been bullied themselves, they get to a point that they don’t care about the consequences of their actions, including detention,” Dr. Enright says. “Our program is meant to take the anger out of the heart of those that bully, so they bully no more.”

The National Education Association estimates that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fears of being attacked or intimidated by other students.

That Natural Awakenings article resulted in WZZM13 ABC TV in Grand Rapids, MI inviting Dr. Matthew Clark to be a guest on the 9 am talk show called Take Five & Company. Dr. Clark, Psy.D., runs The Clark Institute–Private Practice Psychotherapy for Children, Adolescents, and Adults in Grand Rapids. During that 4-minute TV segment, which you can watch at “Positive Ways to Promote Kindness in Children,” Dr. Clark mentions the IFI, suggests viewers go to the IFI website, and gives the IFI web address.