I work in Taiwan and was wondering if you have done any work there and what cross-cultural difference you might see with the United States.

Yes, we have done research on forgiveness in Taiwan. Perhaps the most important difference is this: People in Taiwan seem to need an apology from the offending person before forgiving occurs. It is a matter of honor or saving face, I think. Also, we found that when people in Taiwan forgive, they tend, more than in the United States, to say that what happened is not a problem now. This does not mean that they are excusing or condoning. Instead, I think they are putting the incident behind them.

What can one do in a school setting if parents are opposed to teachers teaching their children about forgiveness?

In our experience, we have not to date encountered this situation and we have worked with many teachers across the world. If it were to happen, I suggest that you explore, if the parents are willing, their assumptions about forgiveness education. Do the parents think that you are teaching the child a particular religion?  Another issue you might consider is this: Are the parents angry about something or someone in their own life and so are opposed to they, themselves, forgiving?  You do not want to become the parents’ therapist, of course, but being aware of their possible anger will at least be an insight for you. At some point, you could consider saying, “Sometimes people have been deeply hurt by others and so they do not want to forgive. They consider it too painful and they are not ready.” It then is up to the parents to take this and work with the insight or not.

You have a specific process for adults to follow if they want to forgive. Do you have a similar process for children?

Children usually do not have the cognitive maturity to deal with 20 units of a rather complex process. I recommend starting smaller with children by introducing them to the concept of inherent worth: We all have built-in, unearned value. As a child begins to see this in loved ones, you can start to generalize this by asking: Do you think that people who are unfair to you and hurt you have built-in worth? Why or why not?

The Good Old School Days

OK, everyone, it is time to reflect on those good old school days of yore, those care-free days when everyone thought we did not have a care in the world. Yet, sometimes we carry burdens from those days and we do Good Old Days2so in the silence of our own hearts. When was the last time that you, as an adult, had a discussion about your days in elementary, middle, or high school? When was the last time you had such a discussion with an emphasis on the emotional wounds you received back then? I am guessing that such discussion-times have been quite rare.

I wonder how many of you reading this still have some unresolved issues from the good-old-days. It is in school, within the peer group, at recess, on the sports team that our current sense of self is shaped, at least to a degree. Sometimes we are influenced by those days to a greater extent than we realize.

So, it is time for a little quiz. Please think about your days in school and see if you can identify one person who was unjust to you, so unjust that when you think about the person now, it hurts. This person is a candidate for your forgiveness. I have an Good Old Days3important question for you: How has this person inadvertently influenced your own view of yourself? How has this person’s actions made you feel less than who you really are? Do you see that it is time to change that?

My challenge to you today is to take steps to forgive him or her for those behaviors long ago that have influenced you up to this very moment. It is time to take a better look at what happened, to forgive, and then to ask the question after you forgive: Who am I now as I admit to the injustice, admit to it negatively influencing how I have seen myself all these years, and who am I now as I stand in forgiveness?

Perhaps the good old days will seem a little brighter once you forgive. You will have lifted a silent burden.

Robert

Suppose a child was never introduced to forgiveness and now as an adult wants to forgive. What would you suggest for him/her to do?

First, the person should start small. By this I mean, do not start with a person who has been thunderously unfair. Instead, begin with a different person who might be annoying but not gravely unfair. The book, 8 Keys to Forgiveness, or the book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, would be a good guide for beginning the forgiveness process.

If I forgive my own child for misbehavior I am concerned that this is giving the wrong message. I might be creating a sense of entitlement for that child who now comes to expect forgiveness and so continues to misbehave.

As you forgive, be sure to included justice as well.  Yes, forgive when you are feeling resentful, but then ask something of the child so that correction occurs.  When you ask for fairness when you are less angry, then what you ask may be even more fair than if you ask when fuming with anger.