This is a situation that is not as unusual as you might think. My advice is to assess the situation before you proclaim your forgiveness to him or her. You can forgive from the heart and then show this by your actions. You can even strive for a reconciliation without your verbally expressing forgiveness. Of course, reconciliation is best accomplished when the other acknowledges the wrong, you forgive and express this, and the other receives this and changes. Yet, the world is not always so neat and tidy as this. A key issue is this: Your forgiveness is not diminished if you do not verbally proclaim it and if the other does not accept it. You can go in peace knowing you have done the best that you can when you forgive from the heart.
The negative impacts of childhood bullying are much more pervasive and long-lasting than researchers previously believed, according to a just-published study.
Those bullied in childhood had increased levels of psychological distress at ages 23 and 50, according to the British study that covered a 50-year timespan. Victims of frequent bullying had higher rates of depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol dependence, and suicidality than their non-victimized peers nearly four decades after exposure. Additionally, childhood bullying victimization was associated with a lack of social relationships, economic hardship, and poor perceived quality of life at age 50.
While those impacts for adults were undocumented up until now, the study also confirms what researchers have long known—that childhood bullying can be devastating.
“Not only do victims of bullying have elevated symptoms of anxiety and depression in childhood and adolescence,” the study reports, “they also show increased rates of self-harm, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, and psychotic symptoms. As a result, victimization by bullies is increasingly considered alongside maltreatment and neglect as a form of childhood abuse.”
The new study was published in the July 2014 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry: Adult Health Outcomes of Childhood Bullying Victimization: Evidence From a Five-Decade Longitudinal British Birth Cohort. Data were from the British National Child Development Study, a 50-year prospective cohort of births in 1 week in 1958. The authors studied data from 7,771 participants whose parents reported bullying exposure at ages 7 and 11 years, and who participated in follow-up assessments between ages 23 and 50 years. Of the three well-respected researchers who completed the study, one is a Newton International Fellow while another is a British Academy Mid-Career Fellow.
“Like other forms of childhood abuse, bullying victimization has a pervasive effect on functioning and health outcomes up to midlife,” the study concludes. ”Our ﬁndings. . .emphasize the importance of gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the persistence and pervasiveness of the impact of childhood bullying. These risk mechanisms could become suitable targets for intervention programs designed to reverse the effects of early life adversity later in the life course.”
And at least one researcher is already addressing those risk mechanisms.
Dr. Robert Enright, a University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor, says his research and interventions may be the only ones in the world focusing on pent-up anger as the source of bullying. Dr. Enright, called “the forgiveness trailblazer” by Time magazine, has been researching forgiveness for more than 25 years, has created the International Forgiveness Institute to disseminate the results of his work, and has produced Forgiveness Education Curriculum Guides for students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade that are being used around the world.
Now Dr. Enright has just released a new curriculum guide called “The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program: Reducing the Fury Within Those Who Bully.”This guide can be used by school counselors, social workers, and teachers. It is for students in grade 4 (age 9) through grade 9 (age 14) and is intended for use with those who are showing bullying behavior.
“Bullying behavior does not occur in a vacuum, but can result from deep inner rage, not resulting from those who are bullied but often from others who have hurt them in family, school, or neighborhood,” Dr. Enright says. “The purpose of our guide is to help such students to forgive those who have deeply hurt them so they no longer take out their rage on others.”
International Forgiveness Institute
Yet another tragic school incident, this one involving two 11-year-old boys. Yet another case of bullying gone uncurbed. Yet another example of amazing forgiveness.
An 11-year-old boy at Pacific Christian School in Auckland (on the north island of New Zealand), was stabbed in the right temple by an 11-year-old classmate wielding a pair of school scissors on Tuesday (June 24, 2014). The injured boy was taken to Starship Children’s Hospital, where he remains in critical condition in a coma. Doctors are unable to determine if he will ever fully recover.
The boy’s assailant, an 11-year-old classmate, was taken into custody and turned over to Child, Youth and Family care. According to The New Zealand Herald, “the stabbing shocked the country given the ages of those involved.”
The injured boy’s uncle said his nephew’s parents have already forgiven the other boy. “We don’t hold grudges, we remember the Lord’s Prayer. That’s how they feel.”
In the wake of the stabbing, which happened just moments after the teacher left the room, Pacific Christian School has been accused of “knowing about classroom bullying but failing to act,” the Herald reported.
“That’s not at all unusual,” says Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute based in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. “In most cases, teachers don’t know how to handle students that bully and administrators are unable to provide clear guidance except for disciplinary procedures.”
Earlier this year, Dr. Enright developed The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program: Reducing the Fury Within Those Who Bully based on his more than 20 years of scientific forgiveness research and his Forgiveness Education Curriculum Guides that have been tested and in full use for more than a dozen years by schools in places like Belfast, Northern Ireland, and more recently in Monrovia, Liberia (West Africa), and Israel-Palestine.
“It is our contention that bullying starts from within, as anger, and comes out as displaced anger onto the victim,” Dr. Enright said. “Forgiveness targets this anger and then reduces it, thus reducing or eliminating the displaced anger which comes out as bullying.”
Unless we eliminate the anger in the hearts of those who bully,” Dr. Enright believes, “we will not eliminate bullying.”
International Forgiveness Institute
To forgive, at least in part, is an act of the will. We need to be motivated to exercise that will. Thus, the motivation to forgive is very important. Without that, the person may quit the forgiveness process when it requires hard work and focus.
I would say that they are very fortunate, indeed, not to have a serious injustice from another. I further would say that this kind of life will not last forever because of the nature of this world. So, please begin to learn about forgiveness now so that when the storms of life come, you will be ready.
Editor’s Note: Robert Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, just returned from a trip to the treacherous Middle East to promote Forgiveness Education. Here is his report:
After three grueling years of trying to break into the Middle East with forgiveness education, we have finally succeeded.
The Mar Elias Schools were started over 30 years ago for integrated education between Arab Christian and Muslim students. The ethos of the school is respect, tolerance, and compassion. About 55% of the families in this region are below the poverty level. The founder of these schools, Elias Chacour, is a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
The head principal, who runs the high school, is ready to implement forgiveness education this fall in grades 5 through 12 (similar grading system to US schools). The English teachers will provide the instruction.
In the meantime, we will be busy translating the teacher curriculum guides for grades 1-4 into Arabic so we can implement the forgiveness program with these grades in the 2015-2016 school year. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs are still under discussion. There are no English courses from pre-kindergarten through grade 4 so all of the instruction will be in Arabic.
The plan is to implement this forgiveness education program only in the Mar Elias Schools for the 2014-2015 academic year and then make plans (for 2015-2016) to fold in a nearby Jewish school to implement forgiveness education simultaneously with the Mar Elias Schools so that they can have cross-community dialogue among teachers and students on the topic of forgiveness.
In the 2014-2015 academic year, we will conduct Skype sessions focused on forgiveness education with the 11th and 12th grade Israeli students communicating with Edgewood High School students in Madison and students in Monrovia, Liberia, Africa.
I will return to the Mar Elias schools in January, 2015 to continue discussions with the principals who are anxious to expand forgiveness education in the coming years.
By the way, the first floor of the Mar Elias High School is a bomb shelter—required by the Israeli government. There are thick metal casings around the windows and heavily reinforced concrete. Can you imagine attending a school with a mandated bomb shelter in it??
Footnote: During his time in Israel, Dr. Enright was accompanied by Rev. Joan Deming, Executive Director of Pilgrims of Ibillin, a US not-for-profit organization that strategically and financially supports the Mar Elias Educational Institutions. Rev. Deming helped open doors at the MEEI by introducing Dr. Enright to principals and administrators. When not in Israel, Rev. Deming resides in Madison.
Picture a wide-eyed, innocent 6-year-old child. She is full of life and expectation for her future. When age 21, she married an abusive man who was cruel to her. They had 2 children together before he abandoned the family. She never had forgiveness education. Her anger spilled over to her children who grew up unhappy and angry. Now imagine that this 6-year-old child had forgiveness education from age 6 through age 18. When she encountered her cruel husband, she immediately began to forgive him. He was still cruel and still abandoned the family. Yet, she stood firm in her forgiveness, reduced her anger, and gave a legacy of love rather than anger to her growing children. We **need** forgiveness education.