We present here the first four of our Nine Principles Underlying Forgiveness Education as practiced in the forgiveness programs we are implementing in countries around the world. In the next post we examine the final five. Most of the principles are taken from two books: Forgiveness Therapy by R. Enright and R. Fitzgibbons, published by the American Psychological Association (APA) in January of 2015 and The Forgiving Life by R. Enright, also by APA.
1) What is discussed initially does not center personally on the child, but instead on story characters. The child sees first that story characters have conflicts. Next the child sees that there are many ways to solve and deal with conflicts and forgiveness is one of those ways. Next, the child sees that forgiveness does not directly solve a situation of injustice. Instead, forgiveness is one way of dealing with the consequences of injustice.
2) Once a child understands what forgiveness is and what it is not and understands the nature of interpersonal conflict (when one person acts badly, others can be hurt), he or she is ready to explore the pathway of forgiveness, the “how to” of forgiveness. This, again, is best taught by having the child first see others (story characters) go through forgiveness as a way to model it.
3) It is my opinion, and perhaps this could also be tested scientifically but to date has not, that children will learn better if you as the teacher first practice forgiveness before teaching it. A soccer coach who has never played the game might prove to be less effective than someone who has been immersed in the game. It probably is the same with forgiveness. So, the challenge is for you to be a forgiver first and then a teacher of forgiveness.
4) Throughout the implementation of forgiveness education, you make the important distinction between learning about forgiveness and choosing to practice it in certain contexts. The program is careful to emphasize the distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation. A child does not reconcile with an unrepentant child who bullies, for example.
Enright, Robert D. (2012-07-05). The Forgiving Life (APA Lifetools) (Kindle Locations 5053-5056). American Psychological Association. Kindle Edition.