“Mommy, how do lady bugs protect themselves?”

LadybugToday I was on an airplane from Atlanta, Georgia to Madison, Wisconsin. Two rows in back of me were a mother and her precocious and inquisitive four-year-old daughter, who asked, “Mommy, how do lady bugs protect themselves?” I doubt the mother ever heard a question like that. I never have.

It was such a tenderhearted question. Here is the little girl in an airplane and she is concerned about bugs and their protection. Because children are so vulnerable, I wonder if they are particularly sensitive to this issue of protection.

We should all be like children and have this sensitivity. Every person on the planet is fragile in a certain way and therefore needs protection.

Forgiveness is a form of protection. It can protect the dignity of the wrongdoer. It can protect the emotional health of the one harmed. Forgiveness can protect a relationship that is now at-risk. Forgiveness can even protect communities from on-going anger that can pervade neighborhoods, separate people, and leave a blight that depresses economies. After all, communities continually in contention do not receive the tourist dollars and governments often turn away, ever if subtly, from such communities with high rates of violence.

We are one-up on the lady bugs. They do not know of forgiveness. We surely must not forget about forgiveness as we go about our busy lives. We need the protection.


Helpful Forgiveness Hint

Times of Rest When Forgiving

The quest for forgiveness need not be a continual bicycle race to the end. We cannot forgive constantly any more than we can stay on the bicycle for days at a time without rest. Forgiveness is hard work and so we need to realize this. We need time Journeyto refresh, to renew, and then to proceed again. Forgiveness is not a one-time act for most of us. Instead, it is a journey. This journey has a beginning and when we forgive one person for one event, forgiveness has an end. At the same time, living a forgiving life does not have an end in this lifetime. We are constantly discovering new facets to this diamond. Take the time to refresh when forgiving one person for one unjust event. And do not forget to enjoy the life-long journey of growing as a forgiving person.


My partner has a tendency to scream and then defend the behavior as if it is ok as long as he is frustrated. When i explain to him that his reactions are inappropriate, he gets even madder. He thinks he has a right to this kind of stuff. Because he is not open to change I am getting worried. If I forgive how is that helping him to change?

You are aware that your partner has an anger problem needing work. Forgiveness does not directly address that issue. ??Forgiveness will help you to reduce your own anger at his anger. ??Your forgiving him may help him to quiet inside at least temporarily. ??Yet, he needs work on his anger in addition to your forgiving him. ??I suggest that you practice forgiveness and then when your feelings are calm, approach him when all is going well. ??Explain as calmly and as directly as you can that he has a problem in need of being addressed. ??Please point out that this does not mean you are condemning him or that he is a bad person. ??We all have our weaknesses and anger outbursts are one of his. ??Support him as he adjusts to this truth. ??He and you together should examine what in the past has led to such anger within him. ??He, too, needs to forgive someone (or perhaps more than one person). ??Your examining that and his forgiveness may work wonders for the control of his anger now.

Forgiveness: A Pathway to Emotional Healing – October 16

Bob Speaking (Horizontal)Spend the day gaining a new perspective on forgiveness with the man Time magazine calls “the forgiveness trailblazer” – Robert Enright, UW-Madison Professor and founder of the International Forgiveness Institute.

In this 6-hour program, you will learn the answers to these questions:

  • What is forgiveness? What is it not?
  • Why forgive?
  • What is the pathway to forgiveness?
  • How can you help your clients bring forgiveness to their lives; and how can we all bring forgiveness to our families, schools, work places and other communities for better emotional health?

Prof. Enright will also share his multi-step process leading to forgiveness, which is based on his more than 25 years of scientific research. Some concepts you will explore are:

  • Uncovering Your Anger
  • Deciding to Forgive
  • Working on Forgiveness
  • Discovery and Release from Emotional Prison

Approved Hours/Continuing Education Credits: 0.6 CEU = 6.0 hours of professional continuing education for Social Workers, Counselors, WI Psychologists, Marriage and Family Therapists, WI Substance Abuse Counselors, and other professionals. See Seminar Brochure for details.

Date:  October 16, 2013
Place: Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street, Madison, WI 53706-1487
Time:  9 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Cost:  In-Person: $150.00; Recorded Audio: $75.00.

Get the Seminar Brochure and registration information.

For more information contact conference coordinator Barbara Nehls-Lowe by phone at 608-890-4653 or by email at bnehlslowe@dcs.wisc.edu.

Tips for Controlling Anger

Many sites offer advice on how to control your anger. The Mayo Clinic, for example, lists ten tips. Among them are: take a time out, get some exercise, and forgive. Of course, the time out is a temporary solution. After the short time has elapsed the problem or its aftermath may be right there staring at you. Exercise can be a release of tension, but again the problem or its after-burn may be there to greet you the next day. Forgiveness, in contrast, offers a permanent solution to the emotional disruption. The seeking of a proper justice may be necessary to rectify an unfair situation.

The American Psychological Association is now sayingAnger-Rage-etc-Forgiveness that a continual expression of one’s anger (getting it off one’s chest, as the expression goes) is dangerous because it can accelerate the intense negative feeling. Forgiveness, in contrast, soothes that potentially destructive feeling.

Helpguide.org sees the situation quite similarly to the advice above: take some time out, exercise, and do not continually vent. This site, too, suggests forgiveness as an option.

Yet, how does one forgive? Proclaiming it as good and actually accomplishing the task are quite different. We have many resources here on our site to help with forgiveness-as-anger reduction (among many other goals). You can view our blog posts on anger. You can begin to get a sense of the forgiveness process. Finally, there are books and curriculum guides in our Store.

Forgive and live well.


I am stuck. I just can’t seem to progress in forgiving my father from years ago. I have examined my anger and it is considerable. When I feel this anger it is hard to go forward because of it. What do you suggest?

First, you should realize that your acknowledging the anger is a big step. ??Sometimes people have difficulty seeing this because they are afraid of the anger. ??We are not supposed to be angry or we are not supposed to be angry with certain people. ??Be encouraged that you have broken through the psychological defense of denial.

Many people say that the next step after acknowledging the anger is the hardest. ??That step is the decision to forgive. ??It is like starting a new exercise program, for example. ??The thought of going to the gym, taking out the membership, and getting started can be confusing and challenging. ??You are not alone in feeling some apprehension with this new step of deciding to forgive. ??Exercise the virtue of courage as you move forward and you will no longer be stuck as you decide to engage in the process of forgiving your father.

I’ve come with a question about bearing pain – I get the goodness in not passing it back to the injurer or onto others – but don’t quite understand what I actually do with it when I’m bearing pain? Is it about my perception of the pain changing from being ‘negative pain’ to ‘positive pain’ and is that a healthy path to go down?

When we use the term “bearing the pain” we do not think that it has to include a re-interpretation of the pain in its initial stages. The key is this: a) realize that you are in pain; b) realize how much pain you are in; c) be willing to stand with that pain no matter what. In other words, you are accepting what is happening to you so that you do not deliberately or unwittingly give that pain to others.

Later in the forgiveness process you will begin to see new meaning for your life as you bear the pain. ??You see that you are growing stronger. You see that you can overcome tremendous pain. ??You see that you can be a conduit of good for others. ??These new meanings take time to emerge. ??A first step is to accept the pain as it is and through the process of forgiveness this pain starts to diminish and then leave.

How does one go about forgiving those who perpetrate evil? I can see forgiving those who are insensitive or who have made a mistake, but what about those who plot mayhem and carry it out? It seems like forgiveness asks too much of us at that point.

You raise an issue that has long been debated regarding forgiveness. Some say that it is improper to forgive those who perpetrate evil. ??Yet, what do we make of those who have, such as Eva Mozes Kor who forgave the “doctor” who experimented on her twin sister and her at Auschwitz? What do we make of Nelson Mandela who forgave his jailer of 20 years? ??What about all of the heroes in our News section of this website who forgive those who perpetrate evil?

Our point is this: ??Some do forgive those who perpetrate evil and we should respect their right to do so. ??Some are not ready to forgive and we should not condemn them. ??After all, they likely are in great pain.

For those who wish to forgive others for horrific injustices, we recommend starting now, before the horrific event. ??Build up your forgiveness muscles with smaller injustices so that you are ready when the big ones come. ??It is like being asked to run a marathon. It is far more manageable if you have trained for it than if you have to get up off the couch and now run one for the first time.

On Bearing the Pain

Love is PainOne of the paradoxes of forgiveness is that as we give mercy to those who showed no mercy to us, we are doing moral good. Another paradox is this: As we bear the pain of the injustice, that pain does not crush us but instead strengthens us and helps us to heal emotionally.

When we bear the pain of what happened to us, we are not absorbing depression or anger or anxiety. Instead we realize that we have been treated unfairly—-it did happen. We do not run from that and we do not try to hurriedly cast off the emotional pain that is now ours. We quietly live with that pain so that we do not toss it back to the one who hurt us (because we are having mercy on that person). We live with that pain so that we do not displace the anger onto others who were not even part of the injustice (our children or co-workers, for example).

When we bear the pain we begin to see that we are strong, stronger actually than the offense and original pain. We can stand with the pain and in so doing become conduits of good for others.

Today, let us acknowledge our pain and practice a paradox: Let us quietly bear that pain and then watch it lift.


I Forgave Him Then Wiped Him Off My Hands Like Dirt

Clenched fistChicago Sun-Times – For Cook County Assistant Public Defender Jeanne Bishop, whose sister and brother-in-law ??? Nancy and Richard Langert ??? were slain by??high school student David Biro in April 1990, forgiveness was ???right away.???

But telling him personally was something else.

???I told myself I forgave him and then wiped him off my hands like dirt,??? Bishop said. “I thought forgiving David for what he???d done was enough, but I never thought about communicating with him. I just wanted to separate myself from him. . . leave him in the dust.???

Several months ago, at the urging of a friend, Bishop decided to begin a reconciliation process with Biro and personally present her forgiveness.

???I wrote him a letter and he responded immediately,??? she said, ???a 15-page handwritten letter claiming responsibility for the murders ??? something he had denied during his trial. He apologized to me and my family.???

Last February, they met ???face to face,??? she said.

???I touched the hand of the man who held the gun that killed my sister and he told me he wished he could undo it all. He was remorseful. It was profoundly moving to see this person I had mythologized. It was good to shake his hand and look him in the eye.

???Someone once told me not forgiving was like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I needed to do this for God and Nancy and me.” As for the future, Bishop says, “I???m just beginning this journey of reconciliation with David.”

Read the full story: “Forgiveness for a Killer”