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:

The Generosity of the Rev. Desmond Tutu

I first met Rev. Tutu in March, 1995.  Well, I did not exactly meet him….I met his voice.  We were holding the first conference on person-to-person forgiveness ever held at any university in the world and we were doing so at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Rev. Tutu was kind enough to give the opening remarks by recorded audio to what now is an historical event–the first academic forgiveness conference.

I was immediately impressed with his warmth and wisdom.Rev Tutu 2  He talked of the African word ubuntu, of how we are all persons because of other persons.  He urged us all to try to overcome the animosities that have wounded the world because of a lack of forgiveness.  It was a challenge that is still with me, 19 years later.

Rev. Tutu recently has expanded his vision of stopping animosities worldwide by asking all of us to take the bold step of trying to learn to forgive as a global calling—for each of us—now—-for the good of humanity as well as for ourselves as we unburden from resentments that can pollute human interactions.

The new plan, announced recently by Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu, concerns the Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge, a free online program starting May 4, 2014, designed to teach the world how to forgive.

The 30-day program is based on a systematic process of forgiving that the Tutus present in their new book, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Healing Our World.

We have seen how Rev. Tutu guided the Truth and Reconciliation Commission with such compassion as he absorbed a country’s intense pain borne out of grave injustice.  We have read his book, No Future without Forgiveness.  He has lived forgiveness.  He has embodied it.  We can’t wait for his global initiative.  We hope you take a look and benefit from a man and his daughter who have known suffering.


Desmond and Mpho Tutu Challenge the World to Forgive

Cape Town, South Africa, April 3, 2014 Desmond Tutu and his  daughter Mpho Tutu today announced the Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge, a free online program starting May 4, 2014, designed to teach the world how to forgive. In early registration people from over 100 countries have already signed up to participate.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in Mpho-Desmond Tutuleading non-violent opposition to South Africa’s apartheid system of racial domination. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he chaired created a way to address the overwhelming suffering and grief that were the legacy of over four decades of racial oppression. Since then he has taken his deeply human approach to resolving conflict to many other countries including Northern Ireland and Rwanda. His daughter, Mpho Tutu, has helped rape victims and refugees displaced by war and is currently completing a Ph.D. on the topic of forgiveness.

“Forgiving is a choice. A choice I have seen profoundly transform lives time and again,” says Archbishop Tutu, the face of forgiveness around the world. “As Nelson Mandela said when he walked free after 27 years of prison, ‘I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.’ Mpho and I share a vision to bring the transformative power of forgiveness to people everywhere and to see it spread through families, communities, countries and our whole world.”The Book of Forgiving

Together the Tutus bring their hard-earned and practical insight into the process of forgiving to a global audience in the Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge. The 30-day program is based on a systematic process of forgiving that the Tutus present in their new book, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Healing Our World. 

Registration is open at When the Tutu QuoteChallenge starts, May 4th, everyone registered will receive daily inspirational emails for the following thirty days from the Archbishop and Mpho with a link to log in to an online forgiveness community. There they will be guided through practical exercises on how to forgive, have opportunities to join discussions and share their own stories. During the Challenge there will be resources such as films, music and exclusive interviews with forgiveness heroes, experts, cultural icons and leaders including Sir Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Alanis Morissette and more.

Archbishop Tutu is an Honorary Board Member of the International Forgiveness Institute.

I have heard that when we forgive it is for the one who does the forgiving. Yet you seem to say on this website that those who forgive do it for the one who acted badly. Which is it and why?

We have to distinguish between what forgiveness is in its essence and the consequences when we forgive.  In its essence, forgiveness is a moral virtue practiced for the good of those who have hurt us. Forgiveness is centered in mercy and love for those who offend us.  One of the consequences of forgiving is that you experience emotional healing.  So, in its essence forgiveness is for others.  In one of its consequences, forgiveness is for you.

Generalizing from the Particular to the Universal

You know how it goes.  You go into a department store and have an unpleasant encounter with the person at checkout…..and you never go back there again.  The particular incident has given you a bad feeling for the entire organization.

You break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and, at least for a while, you think that no one really can be trusted.  This one relationship makes you mistrustful of such relationships in general.

Generalization.  It can help us when the generalization is true and can distort reality for us when false.  For example, when we touch poison ivy in one woods, it is wise to avoid it in the next….and the next.  The effects of poison ivy generalize regardless of which plant we touch.  On the other hand, one boyfriend’s bad behavior does not predict another person’s forgive2aistock_000008713045xsmallbehavior.  In this case, generalization closes down our mind and heart when there is no need for this.

When you are hurt by someone, you have to be careful not to generalize this to many, most, or all others.  Not everyone is out to hurt you.  Such generalization can form the unhealthy foundation for a world view that is pessimistic and inaccurate.  Has this happened to you?

If so, it is time to fight back against this.  Try saying the following to yourself as a way to break the habit of a false view of others:

I have been wounded by another person. For today, I will not let his/her wounds make me a bitter person who thinks negatively about people in general. I will overcome any tendency toward this by seeing others as having special worth, not because of what they have done, but in spite of this.  We are all on this planet together; we are all wounded.  Not all are out to wound me.