What does science say is the most difficult unit of your Forgiveness Process Model of 20 steps?

We first have to keep in mind that the science basically is looking for generalities or that which is typical.  So often, this quest for the normal or typical overlooks the individually personal characteristics of many people. With that said, we tend to find that many people say the initial decision to forgive, to commit to the forgiveness process, is the most difficult unit of the Forgiveness Process Model.  I think this might be the case because change or transition can be scary.  If you think about it, moving to a new city or starting a new job or starting a new exercise program as you walk through the gym doors for the first time can be a challenge.  Starting on a forgiveness path represents hard work and unknown challenges.  I think this is why many people say that this is the hardest part of the forgiveness process.

For additional information, see  The Four Phases of Forgiveness. 

When I forgive my husband for his forgetfulness (he forgets to bring in the mail, he forgets to help with the dishes, and other annoying issues), it only seems to encourage his behavior that gets to me.  It is as if my forgiving is the ticket for him to keep it up.  Can you help me with this?

Yes, I think I can offer some possible insights.  I am guessing that your husband is interpreting your act of mercy in forgiveness as permission to keep everything as it currently is.  When we forgive, we should consider bringing the moral virtue of justice alongside the moral virtue of forgiveness.  When you forgive and your anger diminishes, then might be the time to gently bring up the theme of justice: How can he be fair to you, to share the load?  This may get his attention and also send the message that forgiveness also is tough-minded enough to gently ask for fairness.

Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.

I’m not buying forgiveness.  Someone was really, really rude to me recently.  Forget this person!  As I forget, I have no need of forgiveness.  Anyway, forgiveness is more of an illusion than anything else.  When we forgive we artificially convince ourselves that what the other did was not so bad.  This is not for me.

First, I am sorry that you have been treated very badly.  Your anger is typical for those recently and deeply hurt.  We never put pressure on people to forgive, especially when the wounds are fresh and a legitimate time for anger is needed.  Please keep in mind that once some time passes, your feelings about forgiveness may change.  I am not saying that they absolutely will, but I am encouraging you to be open to a possible change in your attitude toward forgiveness.  Finally, and only when you are ready, you might want to explore more deeply what forgiveness actually is.  When we forgive, we do not condone what the other person did.  What happened was wrong, is wrong, and always will be wrong. What changes in forgiveness is our stance toward the other person.  We begin to see the worth in the other person, not because of what happened, but in spite of this.  I wish you well in your emotional healing.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined. 

Who has the greater capacity to forgive: college students or their parents?

We cannot make an absolute statement as an answer to your question because some college-aged children may forgive to a greater degree than their parents, especially if the student has a lighter injustice to overcome.  Yet, we have done studies showing that, on the average, the middle-aged parents tend to forgive to a greater degree than do their college-attending children.  I think this is because of the parents’ greater maturity and perhaps because they have suffered more in their longer life and thus have had more to overcome.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

First Ebola, Now Coronavirus: Liberia Suffers Again

Monrovia, Liberia – More than 4,800 people died from Ebola between 2014 and 2016 in Liberia—the West African country hardest hit by the outbreak. Now, just four years later, the country of 4.8 million people is facing a new threat — the deadly uncertainty of the coronavirus epidemic.

Government officials in the capital city of Monrovia, where confirmed cases are just starting to ramp up, are optimistically reporting that Liberia can draw on its Ebola experience to overcome COVID-19. Doctors in the trenches, however, still fear the country is woefully under-equipped for a large outbreak.

Already decimated by back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003, Liberia’s economy is still reeling from the impact of Ebola. About half of all Liberian’s live on less than two US dollars a day (1.75 euros), according to the World Bank. The healthcare system is generally acknowledged as underfunded, fragile, and lacking the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed for healthcare workers.

Liberian authorities are acutely aware of the risk. Coronavirus cases remain relatively low for now, but they are rising rapidly. In neighboring Guinea—which was also hit by Ebola, and which suffers many of the same problems—infections have skyrocketed.

Perhaps most troubling, nearly one-third (28%) of all the confirmed coronavirus cases in Liberia have been among health workers themselves, according to the National Public Health Institution of Liberia (NPHIL). The organization’s director has said that fighting the virus outbreak will be difficult because the entire country has only one ventilator to help critical COVID-19 patients breathe.

On April 11, Liberian President George Weah declared a 14-day State of Emergency and locked down Monrovia, the country’s largest city with 1.5 million residents. Liberia’s legislature recently extended the country’s State of Emergency to 60 days. Despite those stay-at-home orders, confusion has reigned as false information about the coronavirus has been disseminated causing panic in some of the city’s overcrowded districts and frequent clashes with security officials.

A police officer tries to clear the streets of a market on the first day of lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Monrovia.

Doctors Without Borders – Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are racing to respond to the coronavirus pandemic not only in Liberia but also in the more than 70 countries where they run existing programs.  Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Liberia have now risen past 100 while the number throughout Africa now exceeds 30,000.

Worldwide, the response to COVID-19 has relied heavily on large-scale lockdowns of populations and physical distancing measures, with the aim of reducing transmission and preventing health systems from becoming overwhelmed. But for people dependent on daily activities for their very survival, such as day laborers and those living in Monrovia’s overcrowded settings, self-isolation and lockdowns are not realistic.

“Most recommendations for protecting  people against the virus and slowing down its spread simply cannot be implemented here,” says Cristian Reynders, a field coordinator for MSF operations. “How can you ask homeless people to stay at home to avoid infection? Those living in tents in camps don’t have homes.”

Soap is a luxury in Liberia and usually is not found at public handwashing stations like this one.

That means, of course, that the COVID-19 playbook that wealthy nations have come to know—stay home as much as possible, keep a six foot distance from others, wash hands often—will be nearly impossible to follow in much of the developing world. Even hand-washing is problematic in Liberia where 35% of residents do not have regular access to soap and water, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Public hand washing stations in Liberia—which were effective in the fight against Ebola—are often as simple as two buckets—one filled with chlorinated water, and one to catch the wastewater. Sanitation, however, is as problematic in big cities as it is in rural areas. In Monrovia, less than half the city’s 1.5 million people have access to working toilets, according to Liberia’s Water and Sewer Corporation.


The fight against coronavirus will not be won until every country in the world can control the disease. But not every country has the same ability
to protect people.

Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr,
Director of ICA, a global health organization at Columbia University in New York City


Monrovia residents who display coronavirus systems are currently taken to a military hospital where they—along with other “high risk contacts” are tested and, if necessary, treated, according to the Acting Director General of the NPHIL. According to the organization, Liberia has only one lab in the entire country that is available for COVID-19 testing.

Bishop Kortu Brown with students prior to the lockdown that closed all Liberia’s schools.

Because the lockdown included the closing of schools across Liberia on March 16, Forgiveness Education classes and after-school forgiveness programs have also been disrupted. Education providers, however, including those working with the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI), are racing to launch remote learning options as students once again face the prospect of staying out of school for months.

“We are now using an extension-outreach approach so children can continue to learn about forgiveness,” says Bishop Kortu Brown, Chairman/CEO of Church Aid and national coordinator of the Liberia Forgiveness Education Program that was established by IFI-co-founder Dr. Robert Enright more than 8 years ago. “Instead of teaching students in a classroom, our teachers prepare notes that are distributed to children at home. Parents then help deliver the message and assess the performance of their children.”

Forgiveness Workshops like this one in December have been suspended because of the lockdown in Liberia. Bishop Brown (center in green-white shirt) led the session.

Bishop Brown, who is also president of both the Liberia Council of Churches (LLC) and the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL), said those organizations are spearheading “a massive coronavirus awareness campaign,” helping train COVID-19 contact tracers, and distributing food and hygiene materials.

“Meanwhile,” Bishop Brown added,  “we call on all churches and Liberians, in general, to continue to observe the preventive measures and to continue to pray for the safety and wellbeing of the country.

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My father has a temper and from all I can tell, he learned this from his father.  So, is anger an inherited trait?

By “inherited trait” I am guessing that you are not talking about a fixed biological characteristic, but instead are using that as a metaphor for anger being learned, over and over, across the generations.  If that is what you mean, then yes, I do think that anger can be passed down through the generations and probably can last for centuries.  This is why your insights are so valuable.  You now see this.  I would recommend that you forgive your father for his temper.  Not only may this help your relationship with your father but also be a protection for your own children in the future as you see your vulnerability for passing along the family pattern of anger.

For additional information, see Why Forgive? 

You talk about seeking support in the forgiveness process.  I have a dilemma about that.  I have a good friend (Friend A) with whom I would like to discuss my forgiveness path toward a different friend (Friend B).  Yet, Friend A and Friend B also are friends.  My question is this: How can I get support from Friend A without revealing that my problem is Friend B?  I ask because I do not want to put Friend A on the spot by having to keep my secret from Friend B.

I recommend that when you talk with Friend A, you do not reveal that the one who hurt you is Friend B.  You can talk specifics of the problem, but not talk any specifics about who was unjust to you. When we write case studies in publications, the editors always ask that we mask certain details so that we do not reveal the identities of those people in the case studies.  You can do the same.  Do not reveal names or specific places where the injustice occurred.  It is reasonable to mask the identity of those whom you are discussing in a situation such as yours.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

Do I have to find a particular kind of meaning after I forgive?

There is no one meaning for you to find once you have forgiven.  Some people find meaning in the forgiveness process itself, as they now highly value it.  Some people find meaning in the revelation about how many people are walking around with emotional wounds.  Others find meaning as they discover what love in its service-to-others sense means.  So, try to find the meaning that seems to fit today with your particular forgiveness journey.

For additional information, see Why Forgive? 

I started the forgiveness process, but I am stuck on the idea that I might be able to have some compassion for the one who injured me.  This is not possible.  So, am I flunking the forgiveness test?

You definitely are not “flunking the forgiveness test” if you are unable to feel compassion toward the other.  Please keep in mind the following points: First, forgiveness takes time and so please be gentle with yourself. Second, we are not necessarily in control of our emotions, especially one as delicate as compassion, or a tender suffering along with the other.  Third, please resist trying to force compassion.  It likely will come only with time and the continual practice of forgiving.  This could be many months.  Fourth and finally, you do not have to forgive in its complete sense to have forgiven the person.  Even if you can see his or her mistakes, pain, and confusion, this may be sufficient for your forgiving, at least for now.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined. 

How can one keep motivated to stay with the forgiveness process if it is not working after a few months?

First, please keep in mind that it can take many months to forgive, especially if the injustice was severe and you are deeply hurt.  I recommend that you focus on your strong will.  You probably have had to use that strong will at times in the past, for example, to overcome a soft-tissue injury, or to persevere on a work or school project.  Try to remember one incident of appropriating and persevering in this strong will.  Now apply it to forgiving.  You have a challenge and staying with that challenge by continuing to practice forgiving may lead to even a small improvement in your anger, in your well-being, and possibly even in your relationship with the other person.  Any of these as small improvements might increase your motivation of staying with the forgiveness process.

For additional information, see  The Four Phases of Forgiveness.