Enright’s Forgiveness Intervention: “The Results Were Glowing”

Here is a brief excerpt from yet another article that features the forgiveness research and philosophy of Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute. “The Power of Forgiveness” was written by Steven Pomeroy, assistant editor for Real Clear Science, a science news aggregator. This article appeared on August 27, 2013 on BIG THINK–a New York City-based website that bills itself as “a knowledge forum.” The website was voted Time Magazine’s #1 Website for News and Info in 2011.

For most Americans, the Amish way of forgiveness is difficult to comprehend. It’s sourced deeply within their way of life, which is grounded in compassionate, unyielding faith.

“Rather than using religion to bless and legitimize revenge, the Amish believe that God smiles on acts of grace that open doors for reconciliation,” Donald B. Kraybill, a distinguished professor at Elizabethtown College explained in 2007.

But forgiveness is not only grounded in faith, but also in science. In 1996, University of Wisconsin educational psychologist Dr. Robert Enright developed a process model of forgiveness. It can be broken down into four phases: uncovering anger, deciding to forgive, working on forgiveness, and discovery and release from emotional pain.

robert-enright 3Dr. Enright tried out his forgiveness training on 12 female incest survivors. Six of the women served as an experimental group, and immediately received Enright’s intervention, which was delivered in a set number of sessions spread over 14 months. The remaining women — serving as controls — were wait-listed and received the intervention only when their counterparts finished.

The results were glowing. Members of the experimental group became significantly more hopeful, and their levels of anxiety and depression decreased dramatically. Fifteen years later, the benefits remained.

A popular view in American society is that forgiveness is weakness. But the conducted science clearly contradicts that pervasive view. Forgiveness makes you stronger.

“[Forgiveness] does not make you weak,” Dr. Enright affirmed to OnWisconsin. “The love you cultivate and develop in your heart is stronger than any injustices anyone can ever throw against you. And once you live that, you realize how very, very strong you can be, because that’s a buffer against all of the poison that unfortunately visits us just by being alive.”

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