With a climate of forgiveness, is it going to be easier for some people to continue to cause offences when they know other people may simply forgive again?

Forgiveness should take place alongside the quest for justice.  Therefore, upon forgiving it is important for the one offended, now with anger reduced because of the forgiveness, to ask for fairness from the other. This should prevent the offender from incorrectly assuming that he or she can take advantage of the one originally offended.

The Superficial Self-Help Advice to the Lovelorn: Don’t Care So Much

I was listening to a self-proclaimed self-help “expert” today.  His goal was to try to help those who have lost in love to remain psychologically whole or to become whole once again.  The gist of his advice was this:  Break the attachment so that you care less than the partner cares.  This diminishes his or her power over you.  When we attach to others, it is then that we are vulnerable to suffering.  Detach and then you automatically will suffer less.

ArgumentBut the big questions for me on this advice are these:

Is suffering so bad that we cannot love others in a deep way?

Why view relationships in terms of power and then possessing the power as a way to heal?

Finally, is a world of detachment meaningful and purposeful compared to the healthy attachment of genuine love and service to the other?

Suffering is not to be avoided at all costs.  If there were no ways out of suffering and if suffering crushed all of us all the time, then this would be different.  Yet, we all can grow through suffering by becoming more patient, more mature in our character, and more sensitive to the suffering in others.  Suffering is not the enemy.  No, suffering should not then be sought, but when it comes, there are solutions and one of them is to practice forgiveness.

Are relationships defined primarily by power?  If so, then both partners Holding Handsare missing out on one of the richest, most beautiful experiences on this earth: to step outside of a predominant self-interest to the kind of love that serves and in the serving gives joy.  All of this likely is missed by too many who view the world from a power lens because power is intent on dominating, not serving.  When was the last time you saw true joy on the face of someone who dominates?

Detachment in the name of avoiding suffering is to play it safe.  It is like taking your $100 and putting it in the ground so that you avoid losing it.  If, instead, you are not detached in this world and take the risk of investing that $100 it could grow where you can help others.  Detachment is passive and ultimately joyless.

Don’t care so much?  No thanks.  I’ll take risks and see love as a way to serve.  In that service there may be suffering, but joy is likely eventually to grow.  I will take joy over safety every day of the week.


On the Importance of Perseverance when Forgiving

Many people get quite excited about forgiveness at first and just dive into practicing it, only to lose interest after a few months.  They literally just let it fade from their minds and hearts as they go on to the next popular diversion in life.  In other words, they do not have a strong will to keep Forgive Again-Live Againforgiveness before them as a practice and as a way of seeing the world.

This could happen to you.  A commitment to forgive does not just mean a short-term commitment toward one person who has hurt you in one particular way.  Commitment has a must longer reach than this.  Would you become physically fit if you worked out several times a week for three months and then hung it all up?  Of course not.  It is the same with forgiveness.  You have to fight against the tendency to just let it fade in you.  You will have to fight against all of the distractions of life that call you away from it.


How I Forgave the Unforgivable

KOCO.com, Oklahoma City, OK – Kathy Sanders has titled her new book Now You See Me: How I Forgave the Unforgivable.” The book details her relentless pursuit of the truth following the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people on April 19, 1995. The blast killed her grandchildren–Chase, 3, and Colton, 2.

“Now You See Me” is a book, Sanders says, she did not plan on writing, about a life she would have rather ended at one point. OK City Bombinb Book

“After the bombing I wanted to die,” said Sanders. “I didn’t want to live in a  world filled with so much pain. I didn’t know how I was going to cope and if I  was going to survive.”

To help her cope with the heartbreak, Sanders launched her own investigation into the bombing. She wanted to know every person who may  have known about the bombing and what the government might be hiding. Her questions led to a decades-long journey and ultimately she met face-to-face with Terry Nichols (a convicted accomplice in the Oklahoma City Bombing along with Timothy McVeigh).

Her book reveals letters, phone calls and visits with Nichols and his family. Their exchanges turned to friendship and finally, through her Christian faith, forgiveness.

Oklahoma City Memorial

“I didn’t set out ever intending to forgive Terry Nichols, Timothy McVeigh or anyone else involved in this crime, but learning to forgive was a gift I gave myself,” said Sanders.

She’s aware that forgiving the unforgivable may appall others who lived  through April 19, yet insists it is the only way she could move on and focus now on happy memories made with two precious little boys.

“What I have today is peace from learning how to forgive,” said Sanders. “I’ve got a song in my heart and a smile on my face.”

Read the full story: “19 years after Murrah bombing, grandmother shares story of loss, forgiveness.”

So, Then, Does Forgiveness Education Work?

Short answer: Yes.

Some of our latest findings, soon to appear on this website, are these:

A recent study on forgiveness education, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, was done with middle school students in Korea who are bullied and who do the bullying.  The results showed that our forgiveness program helped these students reduce in anger and hostile attribution, and increase in empathy. Their academic grades improved and they reduced in behavioral aggression and delinquency. Some of these adolescents were in a correctional facility for their aggressive behavior.

And here are some quotations from school administrators and teachers who have used our forgiveness education curricula:

“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.” Claire Hillman, Principal, Ligoniel Primary School, Belfast, Northern Ireland

“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.” Gary Trainor, Vice Principal, Mercy Primary School, Belfast.

Holy Family School-Belfast
Students celebrate “Forgiveness Class Graduation”
      at Holy Family Primary School in Belfast

Dinah McManus, Principal, Holy Family Primary School, Belfast, has  dubbed Holy Family as a ‘Forgiving School’ because they have imbedded the virtue of forgiveness into 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.”

“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.” Becki Fulmer, The Corrymeela Community, Belfast

“I will continue to teach the program every year until I retire as I only see HUGE positive life-changing behavior changes in the students who are touched by the program. My wish is that all students in Milwaukee Public Schools and other districts could be touched in some way by the powerful message the program delivers.” Amy Domagalski, teacher, Milwaukee Public Schools

……and another quote from Amy: “The Program has assisted many students in decreasing some of their severe anger levels which allows my classroom to function and created a calmer, comforting, and soothing learning environment for not only my students but for myself as well.” Amy Domagalski, teacher, Milwaukee Public Schools


Business Owner Forgives Men Who Robbed and Shot Him

WDIO-TV, Duluth, MN – Business owner Colin Mackin said he forgives the two men who shot him in the chest while burglarizing his store, and has moved on.

forgiveness handcuffsBrandon Tyson and Robert Neft have both pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted murder for the December incident. On Monday, a judge sentenced each to 12 1/2 years in prison.

“The thing about being bitter and holding grudges is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die,” according to Mackin, owner of ILF Smartphone Clinic in Duluth. “It just doesn’t really accomplish anything.”

Read the full story: “Men Sentenced in Duluth Attempted Murder, Victim Offers Forgiveness.”

My brother and I are not getting along. Whenever I try to tell him that I forgive him he just gets angry and it actually is making matters worse. Do I drop the attempt to forgive him and if I do, then what can I do to get rid of this anger that has built up in me?

When you forgive, you do not have to go directly to the person who hurt you to proclaim your forgiveness. You can show your forgiveness by a smile, by paying attention when he speaks, by showing respect. Eventually, he may be ready to deal directly with your forgiveness, but for now the most loving thing seems to be to take the softer, indirect approach with him. Your inner world of forgiveness can still be healing for you under this circumstance.

For Scientists: A Critique of the Enright Forgiveness Inventory in China (EFI-Mandarin Version)

A colleague of ours recently attended a national conference in which a Master’s thesis in Canada by Hanson (2005) was extensively discussed.  The author asserts that the Enright Forgiveness Inventory (EFI) inadvertently assesses tolerance and not forgiveness in China.

The conclusion was reached by having university students rate the items regarding what the students think the scale’s intent is. The consensus was that it assesses tolerance and not forgiveness. Thus, Hanson questions the validity of the scale in the Chinese culture. We have four rebuttals to his conclusion.

Chinese symbols for tolerance
Chinese symbols for tolerance

First, as Hanson points out in the document, Chinese students have far more exposure to the concept of tolerance, based on Confucianism, than to forgiveness, thus possibly biasing them in that direction when making their judgements.

Second, a good scale’s intent will not be obvious to participants, otherwise social desirability can confound the results. As pointed out above, we deliberately chose items, in the initial construction of the instrument, that had no relationship with social desirability and a strong relationship with the one-item question about forgiveness.

Chinese symbols for forgiveness
Chinese symbols for forgiveness

Third, we have a study in Taiwan reported in the “in press” book entitled,  Forgiveness Therapy (APA Books), which clearly shows as high a correlation as is possible (when using a one-item scale) between participants’ EFI scores and the degree to which participants have forgiven the person targeted on the EFI.  Although Taiwan and China have traditional and simplified versions, respectively, of the Chinese language, these are nonetheless more similar than different and people in each of these cultures can understand one another. In other words, a study in Taiwan can help shed light on Hanson’s assertions in China.

Fourth, items on the EFI such as feeling “tender” and “caring” and seeing the other as “loving” have little to do with tolerance (a respectful putting-up-with) and much to do with forgiving.  If someone were tolerating and not forgiving, he or she would not score high on these items, thus reducing the correlation between the EFI and the one-item forgiveness question.

We critique the Hanson effort here so that the unsuspecting researcher who consults his thesis is not misled by his conclusion.


The Clash of Diversion and Persistence

Yesterday, I was talking with a thoughtful person who works for a high-powered company.  His insight is that, even though this is a solid company for which he likes to work, there is a problem.  That problem, very obvious to him, is this: the end-point or goal of the company is to make money.

His point was this: Making money, a thousand years ago, used to be a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.  Now people in modern cultures do not even think twice about this.  The central goal of too many companies is to make money.

Money-MeansWhen means to ends (such as making money) become desired ends, then our purpose in life can get fuzzy.  After all, if the means is the end we have stood our priorities on their heads and so our quest for genuine meaning in this life gets obscure.

When we do not know why we are here, we feel pain and experience confusion.  When the pain and confusion settle in, there tends to be a quest for diversion, entertainment, a moment’s pleasure spent to block the pain and avoid thinking about the confusion.

Diversions themselves now have become a large part of our ends in modern societies.  After all, how much per capita per year is spent on entertainments and diversions?  When diversions then become ends, we weaken in persistence toward meaningful goals.  After all, diversions call for change, variety, pumping adrenaline for a few hours of pain reduction.

When we lose sight of true goals and fall into diversions and fall into the trap of constant variety, we lose our sense of persistence and our strong will weakens.

So, then, what does all of this have to do with forgiveness?  Precisely this:  I have seen that too many people come rushing into the practice of forgiveness with enthusiasm and passion, but then just cannot sustain the effort over months and years as they quest for the next “new thing.”  And even that “new thing” gets old fast when diversion and pleasure and money-making are the culturally-created ends.

And so forgiveness does not mature and when the pains of injustice come, there is no strength to meet the pains with mercy and love and so the pains are passed to others who now must divert from their pain…..and on it goes.

We need, first, insight that this is happening.  Then we need to take a courageous look at our wills to persevere in the necessary issues that make us and others more human and forgiveness is one of these.  And we need to persevere in these necessary issues and not let diversions dominate….for the good of humanity.  Long live forgiveness.  Long  live our pursuit of it.


Read. Digest. Repeat.

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.   Gilbert K. Chesterton

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.   Martin Luther King, Jr.  Sun Thru Trees

Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.   Marianne Williamson

Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love?’ These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will be many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.  Henri Nouwen

Forgiveness has a way of cutting through anger, anxiety and depression and restoring emotional health. By forgiving, an individual refuses to let anger and resentment prevail.    Dr. Robert Enright

Read more forgiveness quotes at: BrainyQuote.com.