“THE ANTI-BULLYING FORGIVENESS PROGRAM” — FREE FOR A LIMITED TIME

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Initiated in 2006 by the PACER Center, it is the designated 31-day period each year when schools, organizations, and communities across the country–and in more and more countries around the world–join together in their battle to confront and stop bullying and cyberbullying. 

As its contribution to that initiative, the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) is making its groundbreaking guide, The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program, available free of charge for a limited time. Developed by Dr. Robert Enright, this program is an invaluable tool for school counselors, social workers, teachers, and homeschooling parents.

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bulling may be verbal, social (hurting someone’s reputation or relationships), or physical. Cyberbullying is that which takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets–often called “online bullying.”

Bullying is a problem that can derail a child’s schooling, social life, and emotional well-being. According to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics, about 1 of every 5 students ages 12-18 reported being bullied at school during the 2017 school year. While some adults have a tendency to ignore bullying and to write it off as a normal part of life that all kids go through, bullying is a real problem with serious consequences.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s website Stopbullying.gov, being bullied can lead to negative health and emotional issues, including:

  • Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities the person used to enjoy. These issues may, and often do,  persist into adulthood.
  • Health complaints and mental health issues.
  • Decreased academic achievement (both GPA and standardized test scores) and school participation. The bullied are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
  • Negative behavioral changes including substance abuse and, in extreme cases, suicide. 

Countless anti-bullying techniques and programs have been developed over the past several years with administrators and teachers reporting varying levels of effectiveness. The IFI program is significantly different than most of those because it is not based on confrontation and/or disciplinary action. Instead, Dr. Enright’s approach focuses on the behavior of the one doing the bullying because “hurt people hurt people.”

That pithy observation is more than a clever phrase; it’s a sad truth. Dr. Enright’s scientifically-conducted research projects have repeatedly confirmed his contention that “hurt people hurt others because they themselves have been hurt. We’ve all been hurt in one way or another and those hurts cause us to become defensive and self-protective. We instinctively may lash out at others so that hurting becomes a vicious cycle full of pent-up anger.”

"Unless we eliminate the anger in the hearts of those who bully, we will not eliminate bullying."
                                              Dr. Robert Enright

Forgiveness can be a powerful way of reducing pent-up anger, Dr. Enright says about his strategy of incorporating forgiveness education into his anti-bullying approach.

“It is our contention that bullying starts from within, as anger, and comes out as displaced anger onto the victim,” according to Dr. Enright. “Forgiveness targets this anger and then reduces it, thus reducing or eliminating the displaced anger which comes out as bullying.”

The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program is for children in grades 4 (age 9) through grade 9 (age 14). It includes 8 lessons, each taking from 30 to 60 minutes. All of the material needed to teach these lessons is self-contained in this guide; there are no other textbooks or materials to purchase. The manual is now being offered free for a limited time and is available only in the electronic version. To order, email your request to the IFI Director at director@internationalforgiveness.com. Indicate whether you would like the Standard or Christian version. ⊗


Additional Information:

How can I keep the light of forgiveness burning in my heart? There are so many distractions in contemporary culture. Forgiveness could be easily forgotten.

A key is this: Know that what you call “the light of forgiveness” is important to you. Know further that it could fade in you if you do not give it the attention it deserves. Aristotle emphasized practice as a way to grow in the virtues. The more you practice forgiveness, the better you become at it. The better you become at it, then the more you develop what Aristotle called a love for the virtue.

In my book, The Forgiving Life, I focus on what I call the strong will. You need this strong will to persevere in the practice of forgiveness, even though all around you are opportunities to ignore forgiveness and seek pleasure to avoid pain. Forgiveness can be painful work, but the pain, in my view, is far less than carrying the pain of deep resentment for many years.

I wish you the best in your persevering journey to develop a love of the virtue of forgiveness.

Learn more at The Forgiving Life.

If I forgive another, I am worried that I then will no longer see the truth: What they did was wrong. Can you help me with this?

There is a large difference between forgiving people and excusing their behavior. Forgiving necessitates this: You continue to see their actions as wrong, but those actions no longer are the exclusive or primary way in which you think about those people. You begin to see them as far more than their actions against you. Again, you do not invalidate the wrong, but you make room in your heart for the person as person. Reconciliation then is possible if they are trustworthy and do not continue to harm you.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

I forgave my ex-partner and all was forgiven and forgotten. This was years ago. All of a sudden, I find myself angry all over again after three years. Did I not go through the forgiveness process the first time?

Forgiving others is not a perfect straight line that gets you to the end of anger and then all anger is finished. The late Lewis Smedes said that forgiving is an imperfect process for imperfect people. Sometimes anger does resurface and it is good to once again go through the forgiveness process. This time, it likely will be a shorter journey, well worth your time and effort. Anger does not necessarily go away completely and so please be gentle with yourself as you forgive again. You may have to do this in the future and this is not unusual.

For additional information, see Forgiveness for Couples.

I had an argument with a friend. As I felt badly about this, I texted him and apologized. I never heard back from him. I am now angry with him about ignoring me. What else might I have done to make this better?

Please realize that you are not responsible for his behavior. You did a kind act in apologizing. You might wait some more because his forgiving is not necessarily on your timeline for this. He simply may need more time. Yet, how he responds ultimately is up to him. If he never responds, then I agree with you: You may have to forgive him for that. Also, you should go in peace knowing that you have done what you can to renew the friendship.

For additional information, see Why Forgive?

What if the other person insists that I did wrong, but I examine my conscience and see that no wrong was committed. Furthermore, I know I did not intend wrong toward that person. I see the action as reasonable. What do I do then?

Under this circumstance, you might want to say something like this, “I am sorry that my actions caused you such stress.” Notice that you are not saying that **you** caused the stress. Your **actions** have been stressful for that person. There is a large distinction between **you as a person** and your **actions.** So, you can feel sorry that the other is responding to your actions in such an intense way while at the same time not admitting to actual wrongdoing.

Learn more at Forgiving is not. . .

How can I know when I have done wrong so that I can apologize? Sometimes I am not sure if I have simply made a mistake or actually done wrong. Can you help me identify legitimate wrongs so I can start the seeking-forgiveness process?

Your conscience is one way for you to judge wrongdoing from a simple mistake. Your conscience leads you to a sense of feeling guilty when you do wrong compared to simply being imperfect in making a mistake. Also, think of your intent in what you did. Did you deliberately decide to go against your own standards or not? If you intended to do wrong, and then acted on that desire, then you engaged in wrongdoing.

Another area is the action itself. Some actions are wrong in and of themselves, such as disrespecting another person. So, conscience, intention, and action all can help you decide if you have done wrong. One area that is not as straightforward is the other’s reactions to you. Sometimes, for example, a person will be very angry with you and tell you that you did wrong. If, however, your conscience is not bothering you on those actions and if you truly did not intend to do wrong, then the other may be over-reacting.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?