Forgiveness therapy for abusers is being implemented now in both medium and maximum security prisons. The thought behind this work is that those who wound others often have been wounded prior to their crimes.
This same kind of thinking underlies our Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Curriculum (available here on our website). If those who bully are taught to forgive the people who have filled them with resentment and unhealthy anger, then we may have taken away a major motivation to hurt others.
If the younger generation were fortified with forgiveness education from the early elementary grades through high school, I hypothesize that domestic violence would statistically-significantly decrease from its current levels. Thank you for the very interesting ideas.
A major stumbling block is time. Teachers have many mandated requirements and so forgiveness education may be seen as one more pressure. Yet, if you can ascertain the requirements in that school, perhaps forgiveness may fit into one of those. For example, if a school mandates social programs for students getting along, then forgiveness would fit nicely into that. You may have to work within the framework of already-existing social programs if forgiveness will become part of a classroom’s and a school’s offerings. When you keep in mind that our curriculum guides produced here at the International Forgiveness Institute require only about one hour of class time for about 12 or so weeks for an entire school year, then you can see that we have tried to lessen the burden of instruction so that it is possible to offer forgiveness education in any school.
If a person forgives for the other person’s benefit and because forgiveness is good in and of itself, then the forgiver is practicing forgiveness as a moral virtue. If a person forgives with the principle of love (in service to others), then this person is practicing forgiveness on a very high level. I do think, in these cases, that the forgiver is bringing out some of the very best that humanity has to offer.
We have to be careful not to pressure people to forgive. Family members who say that someone “should” forgive another have to take into account: a) how familiar the unjustly-treated person is with forgiveness; b) the depth of the injustice; c) how long ago the injustice happened; and d) how often the other person has engaged in the offense. The less familiar, the deeper the hurt, the shorter the time, and the more often the injustice has occurred, then the more difficult it may be to forgive. It is better if a person is drawn to the beauty of forgiveness rather than pressured into it.
The length of time will vary depending on how experienced a person is with the practice of forgiveness, how deeply the person was hurt, who hurt the person, whether or not the other person is still being hurtful, and whether or not the other has apologized and seems sincere in that. Even if you are faced with the situation in which you have not practiced forgiveness much, you are deeply hurt, by someone who is supposed to love you, with on-going injustice and no apology, it still is possible to forgive. It may take six months; it may take a year. Yet, you likely will sense the progress being made (reduced anger, a confidence in the process, as examples). So, do not think about forgiveness as “all or nothing.” In other words, you will not need a year before you start to feel some psychological relief. The positive changes can be rewarding and increase your motivation to keep on the forgiveness path.
Even though it may seem natural to you, your getting angry with God (over injustices which you experience from people) is not good theology. If God is all holy and sinless, then your forgiving God implies wrongdoing. I prefer keeping a sound theology and understanding that God allows for the free-will actions of people, even if those actions are unjust. People are the ones who behave badly, not God. Rather than forgiving God, I suggest that you try to practice acceptance of what is allowed and then to forgive persons. In this way, you do not diminish the attributes of God.
Yes, I do think that at times pride can lead to such a statement. We have to be careful, however, because some cultures and faiths require an apology prior to forgiving. If pride is blocking the forgiveness process, it might help if the person requiring the apology contemplates this question: “Are you hurting yourself by insisting on the apology? Might you be preventing yourself from reducing resentment and being set free from emotional disruption as you wait for a prior response from the other?”