What is a major stumbling block in my suggesting forgiveness education at my local private school?

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.

Is it possible that the more a person forgives, then the more human that person becomes?  

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.

What is your opinion of family members who keep saying, “You should forgive the person for what was done”?

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.

Does it take a long time to forgive someone?

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.

Is it wrong to get angry with God when reacting to other people’s injustice? I feel that such a reaction is natural.

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.

Might pride block forgiving? In other words, pride might lead a person to stand firm and say to the self, “I never will forgive unless the other apologizes!”

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?”

I can sympathize with my sister who hurt me, but I have a hard time empathizing with her (stepping inside her shoes, so to speak, and feeling what it is like being her). Can I ever feel compassion for her without empathy?

Not being able to empathize with your sister today does not mean you will never be able to do this.  Empathy can open the door to compassion.  Sympathy, or feeling sorry for her, also may be such a door to the eventual development of compassion.  Yet, as you are seeing, empathy is the deeper, more challenging perspective.  Here are some questions that might help you with empathy toward your sister:  Was your sister hurt by others some time in the past?  How deeply was she hurt?  Is she still carrying those wounds?  Can you see your sister’s struggles in life?  Your answers may induce a greater empathy for her as you see her wounds from her perspective.