On the Vital Importance of Forgiveness Education

From the pen of Patrick Wells, producer, director, video journalist:

“Formal Forgiveness Education, invented by Robert Enright, is the best idea the Human Race has had since Jesus preached Forgiveness.”

Many people on the planet continue to exist within a tribe, sect, gang, race or mentality, unable to overcome hatred or prejudice against another group. This frequently manifests itself as violence. Learning how to forgive may be the best and fastest way to end systemic negativity against “other peoples.”

The best opportunity we have is to treat forgiveness as a skill and teach it at an early age in our elementary schools. If we can convince our children of the power and importance of forgiveness, when they become adults they will certainly be able to make effective use of this vital skill.

Peace Symbol
“Forgiveness has the potential to transform our communities that have not known peace for decades and reshape our world.”

First published in WashingtonPost.com, 2010. Read the full article: Embracing Forgiveness Education to Reshape our World.”

If you could give just one reason why forgiveness is something good, what would that one reason be?

As your question implies, you are aware that there is more than one reason why forgiveness is good.  To meet your challenge, I would say that the major reason why forgiveness is good is because it is linked to love, particularly what we call service love or agape love.  When you forgive you are exercising this kind of love toward someone who has not been loving to you as seen in his or her unjust actions.  Thus, forgiveness is good because it meets injustice with the heroic virtue of love.  I call it heroic because it is so difficult to offer agape love in the face of others’ injustice.

Teen Sends a Forgiveness Message a Year After Her Death

Fox 13, Springville, Utah – In October 2011, Reesa Kammerman tried to commit suicide–four times. She was 14 years old.

Reesa went through more turbulence in life than most teenagers. In addition to trying to take her own life, and after revelations of rape and molestation, her father got her into therapy. She came back with a smiling face, and once again began doing the things she loved, like playing guitar, but her sunshine was short-lived.

ReesaReesa was killed in a single rollover car crash on July 28, 2013. She was revived three times. Showing her will to survive, the then-16 year old hung on to life for 16 days, in a coma, before finally slipping away.

Her heartbroken father, Michael, had lost his daughter and then nearly a year after her death, he discovered a video of daddy’s little girl, spilling her secrets.

“My mom left when I was 9 for me to raise my 4 little brothers,” Reesa writes on a notepad in the video. “I was raped three times!” she continues.

“I hated my life,” she wrote. “I didn’t want to live anymore.”

But then, somehow, from the depths of darkness, a young woman found her light and a delivered a message she perhaps wanted to share with the world.

“I have a million reasons to live,” Reesa goes on to say. “I love my family.”Be Gentle 2

“Forgive!”

“Forgive anyone who has ever hurt you.”

“Forgive that one person who wasn’t there when you needed them the most!”

“Most importantly…forgive yourself!”

Michael decided to post the video on the Internet because “I felt that this is a message that needs to be shared. If it even helps one person, Reesa would be happy.”

Read the full story: Teen girl’s message of forgiveness surfaces after her death. Watch the full “Reesa’s Legacy Video.”

On Being Gentle with Yourself when Hurt by Others

Be GentleGuarding against your own false accusations against yourself is very important. At the same time, please add the practice of being gentle with yourself.  By this I mean, try to foster a sense of quiet within, an acceptance of yourself within.  Try to respond inwardly to yourself as you would toward someone whom you love deeply.  In other words, allow yourself to be imperfect and when you are, please guard against a harsh inner voice that condemns.  You have been wounded and so you need that sense of self-acceptance in all aspects of your life right now.

The next time you make an error, be aware of how you are talking to yourself internally.  Check to see if you are using the inner-whip against yourself and then stop this immediately.  Instead, please turn to this: I am wounded inside. I do not need another wound, especially one that is inflicted from within.  It is time to be gentle with myself.

Robert

Please convince me that forgiveness is not some kind of a cop-out. As I see it, when people forgive they are avoiding conflict. It seems to involve a lack of courage.

Forgiveness is a response to injustice and as such it never ignores justice.  Instead, it is a response of mercy in the face of such injustice. To give mercy as a conscious choice when experiencing another person’s injustice is a heroic act of virtue, hardly a lack of courage.

When people practice forgiveness, they do not ignore justice, but instead give mercy and strive for justice at the same time.  The justice sought is likely to be good because it is not mingled with resentment.  Thus, forgiveness hardly is a cop-out.  Did I convince you?

Think about the recent tragedy of mass shooting that happened in California. The mass shooter felt inferior and disrespected by others due to his short stature. It seems that he did have real experiences of being bullied in the past, but what if there were someone who could not really recall being bullied by others but still had serious anger toward a specific group of people because of their potential mistreatment (or historical mistreatment)? Another similar example is this: Think about a racial minority who does not think that he has ever been mistreated due to his racial background (or cannot recall such an incident), but he knows that those with the same racial background as his are often mistreated by others. He now has serious anger toward a certain group of people; his anger is real and is directed toward certain people. Is forgiveness still relevant in this case without a specific incident of injustice? Is it possible for someone to forgive unknown others? If yes, how would that process of forgiving unknown others look different? Thank you very much for your time.

Philosophers talk about secondary forgiveness in which Person B forgives someone who hurt his family member, Person A.  Person B is legitimately hurt, although not directly, by the injustice perpetrated on Person A.  Thus, he has a right to forgive if he chooses because he has been indirectly hurt by the injustice.

In the other example, of an ethnic or racial minority who has not been directly hurt, the norms of a given society still can be hurtful to his group.  Thus, this person can forgive the abstract entity of society.  The process can be more difficult because it is so abstract.  One cannot see the norms themselves, only the outcome of those norms (such as behavioral or verbal disrespect).  The forgiver may not even have specific people in mind and thus the process begins and ends with this abstract entity of “society.”  Other than the one or ones singled out for forgiving, the process would proceed similarly to that in which Person B is hurt by Person C and then forgives Person C.