How to Follow the Path of Forgiveness

Greater Good, The Science of a Meaningful LifeAnyone who has suffered a grievous hurt knows that when our inner world is badly disrupted, it’s difficult to concentrate on anything other than our turmoil or pain. When we hold on to hurt, we are emotionally and I forgivecognitively hobbled, and our relationships suffer.

Forgiveness is strong medicine for this. When life hits us hard, there is nothing as effective as forgiveness for healing deep wounds. I would not have spent the last 30 years of my life studying forgiveness if I were not convinced of this.

That’s how Dr. Robert Enright, a a licensed psychologist and a professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, begins his own review of his recently-published book 8 Keys to Forgiveness on the website of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Enright is one of the world’s leading experts on forgiveness, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, and the man Time magazine calls “the forgiveness trailblazer.” In the Greater Good article, he provides an outline of the basic steps involved in following a path of forgiveness:

1. Know what forgiveness is8 Keys to Forgiveness
and why it matters

2. Become “forgivingly fit”
3. Address your inner pain
4. Develop a forgiving mind through empathy
5. Find meaning in your suffering 
6. When forgiveness is hard, call upon other strengths 
7. Forgive yourself
8. Develop a forgiving heart

If you shed bitterness and put love in its place, and then repeat this with many, many other people, you become freed to love more widely and deeply. This kind of transformation can create a legacy of love that will live on long after you’re gone.

Read the complete article: “When another person hurts us, it can upend our lives.”
Read the article in Huffington Healthy Living.
Read more about the book: 8 Keys to Forgiveness.

How to Pass Forgiveness to the Next Generation: Forming Forgiveness Communities

How can we pass forgiveness to subsequent generations?  Let us begin to explore some answers to this question through the implementation of forgiving communities.

By “forgiving community” we mean a system-wide effort to make forgiveness a conscious and deliberate part of human relations through: discussion, practice, mutual support, and the preservation of forgiveness across time in any group that wishes to cultivate and perfect this virtue (alongside justice and all other virtues). The Forgiving Community is an idea that can become a reality wherever there is a collection of individuals who wish to unite toward a common goal of fostering forgiveness, developing the necessary structures within their organization to accomplish the goal, and preserving that goal for future generations. We will consider The Family as Forgiving Community here and in a subsequent post, we will consider The School as Forgiving Community.

The central points of the Family as Forgiving Community are these:

1. We are interested in the growth of appreciation and practice in the virtue of forgiveness not only within each individual but also within the family unit itself.

Family 32. For family members to grow in the appreciation and practice of forgiveness, that virtue must be established as a positive norm in the family unit. This necessitates that the parents value the virtue, talk positively about it, and demonstrate it through forgiving and asking for forgiveness on a regular basis within the family.

3. For each member of the family unit to grow in the appreciation and practice of forgiveness, that virtue must be taught in the home, with materials that are age-appropriate and interesting for the children and the parents.

4. Parents will need to persevere in the appreciation, practice, and education of forgiveness if the children are to develop the strength of passing the virtue of forgiveness onto their own families when they are adults.

To achieve these goals, one strategy is the Family Forgiveness Gathering.

Family Forgiveness Gathering
The parents are encouraged to create a time and place for family discussions. We recommend that the parents gather the family together at least once a week to have a quiet discussion about forgiveness. They are to keep in mind that to forgive is not the same as excusing or forgetting or even reconciling and that forgiveness works hand-in-hand with justice.

Questions for the family forgiveness meeting might include:family 3

– What does it mean to forgive someone?
– Who was particularly kind and loving to you this week?
– What did that feel like?
– When the person was really loving toward you, what were your thoughts about the person?
– When the person was really loving, how did you behave toward that person?
– Was anyone particularly unfair or mean to you this week?
– What did it feel like when you were treated in a mean way?
– What were your thoughts?
– Did you try to forgive the person for being unfair to you?
– What does forgiveness feel like?
– What are your thoughts when you forgive?
– What are your thoughts specifically toward the one who acted unfairly to you when you forgive him or her?
– How did you behave toward the person once you forgave?
– If you have not yet forgiven, what is a first step in forgiving him or her? (Make a decision to be kind, commit to forgiving, begin in a small way to see that the person is in fact a person of worth.)

The parents are reminded that they do not have to know all the answers.

Robert

Forgiveness – “The Beginning of All Things”

As a teenager in 1986, newsman David Gregory (former Meet the Press moderator) had been with his mother when she was arrested for drunk driving, capping her long struggle with alcohol through much of Gregory’s childhood. She immediately joined AA and has since remained sober. But deep wounds remained. Here is an excerpt from Gregory’s new book How’s Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey: 

And then I asked Mom the question straight out. “Do you think I have forgiven you for the arrest?”

David Michael Gregory
David Michael Gregory

“No. I don’t think you have,” she said. “I think because it’s the focal point of who are you today. It’s when you got tough.”

“You mean you think I hold on to the grittiness that I developed because of living with your alcoholism as a teenager?” I asked.

“Yes,” Mom replied. “Frankly, Davey, I have had to think a lot about forgiveness since I got sober. And I think it is used more as a word rather than an action. But since I’ve had my faith reactivated through the program, I’ve realized that it serves no purpose not to truly forgive.”

She is aware that forgiving is not a simple process. “I think there is daily work on forgiveness,” Mom said. “I don’t think forgiveness is the end of anything. I think it’s the beginning of all things.”

I forgive my mother.

Read the full excerpt from the October 2015 AARP Bulletin – A Newsman’s Struggle to Forgive.
Purchase the book at Amazon.comHow’s Your Faith?

Forgiveness: Why is it so hard?

AEON Magazine, London, Melbourne, New York – “Science is discovering what religion has always known: forgiveness is good for us. But that doesn’t make it any easier.”

That’s the opening of an article for AEON Magazine titled “Letting Go” by California writer Amy Westervelt, who writes on health issues primarily for The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian.  In this article, she documents the science proving that forgiveness is healthy, but struggles to figure out why is it so hard.

After studying and interviewing forgiveness experts like Dr. Robert Enright, Professor Frederic Luskin, and Oprah Winfrey’s favorite life coach, Iyanla Vanzant, here is some of what Westervelt concluded about why forgiveness is so hard:

Forgiveness is a relatively new academic research area, studied in earnest only since Dr. Enright began publishing on the subject in the 1980s. The first batch of studies were medical in focus. Forgiveness was widely correlated with a range of physical benefits, including better sleep, lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease, Hard workeven increased life expectancy; really, every benefit you’d expect from reduced stress.

The late Kathleen Lawler, while working as a researcher in the psychology department at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, studied the effects of both hostility and forgiveness on the body’s systems fairly extensively. ‘Forgiveness is aptly described as “a change of heart”,’ she wrote, in summarising a series of studies focused on the impact of forgiveness on heart health. Meanwhile, Duke University researchers found a strong correlation between improved immune system function and forgiveness in HIV-positive patients, and between forgiveness and improved mortality rates across the general population. . . .

Dr. Enright has established himself as ‘the father of forgiveness’, creating a therapeutic protocol for how to practise it that was officially sanctioned by the American Psychology Association and the United Nations. He thought the Catholic Church could be doing more to Being Humanemphasise its deep history in the subject, and spreading the gospel of forgiveness to the masses, and said so in a speech at the Vatican. . . .

While researchers have spent the past 20 years proving the physical and mental benefits of forgiveness, it’s the step-by-step forgiveness guides they’ve developed that might turn out to be academia’s most important contribution to the subject.

Like Vanzant’s pop-psych version, the protocols that Enright and Luskin have developed offer specific steps towards forgiveness rooted in decades of research and clinical experience. While the various approaches differ, all include practical guidance and the basics are consistent: feel the feelings you need to feel, express them, then leave them in the past where they can no longer have power over you.

What all of the researchers and pop-psych proponents of forgiveness agree on is that it takes practice and that it is hard work. Vanzant compares it to pulling out a tooth without Novocaine. Luskin described it as re-training the brain. ‘You can get upset about anything – you can also get un-upset about anything, it’s just a matter of learning how,’ he said.

Forgiveness works, and that’s what makes it so damn hard. Time does not heal all wounds. This too shall not pass. Letting go of hurt and anger is a grind, and forgiveness only works if you practise it regularly, and are prepared to fail often without giving up. But the pay-off is so huge it just might be worth it.

Read the full article “Letting Go” and watch a related video–a classic Iranian documentary that draws a forceful, poetic appeal for dignity from the harrowing images of leprosy.

Checking in Regarding Your Unfolding Love Story

In March of 2014, we posted a reflection here in which we encouraged you to grow in love as your legacy of 2014.

The challenge was this: Give love away as your legacy of 2014.

Our challenge to you now is this: Give love away as your legacy of 2015.

Leave a Legacy 2One way to start is by looking backward at one incident of 2015 so far. Please think of one incident with one person in which you were loved unconditionally, perhaps even surprised by a partner or a parent or a caring colleague.

Think of your reaction when you felt love coming from the other and you felt love in your heart and the other saw it in your eyes. What was said? How were you affirmed for whom you are, not necessarily for something you did? What was the other’s heart like, and yours?

Can you list some specific, concrete ways in which you have chosen love over indifference? Love over annoyance? If so, what are those specifics and how are they loving? We ask because 2015 is about 75% over as we move into October. Have you engaged in 75% of all the loving responses that you will leave in this world this year?

Tempus fugit. If you have not yet deliberately left love in the world this year, there is time…..and the clock is ticking.

Robert