In our previous blog post, we described the first four of our “Nine Principles Underlying Forgiveness Education.” Here we discuss the final five. These are mostly taken from the book, Forgiveness Therapy, by R. Enright and R. Fitzgibbons, published in January, 2015 by the American Psychological Association.
Principle 5) Once a child understands what forgiveness is and has seen story characters forgive, then it is time for a child to start trying to forgive someone for a real offense against the child. This is best accomplished initially by choosing a small offense (being pushed on the playground, for example) and only later building up to more serious injustices.
6) As children learn about forgiveness, the instruction should be developmental. By this we mean that at first the child can see a story character forgiving one other story character for one offense. Then the child should begin to reason that if a story character can forgive one person for one offense, maybe that story character can forgive that same other person again and again, learning to generalize forgiveness across situations.
7) Next in the developmental sequence, the child learns that the generalization can occur across divergent other people so that he or she can forgive a variety of people for a variety of offenses.
8) Then in adolescence comes the more mature idea that “I can be a forgiving person.” In other words, forgiveness is not just something that one does in a behavioral sense, but instead forgiveness can go beyond actions to an internalized response that is part of the self, part of one’s identity as a person. It is here that the desire to forgive becomes more stable and enthusiasm for this moral virtue begins to develop. It is what Aristotle called the love of the virtues.
9) The developmental pathway of forgiving leads next to a motivation of giving forgiveness away to other people in the community. The adolescent, as part of a class assignment, might consider talking with counselors or families, as examples, to introduce them to what forgiveness is, how people forgive, and the benefits for self and others when forgiveness is properly understood and practiced.