On Doing Forgiveness “Push-Ups”

I go to the local gym frequently because I must stay as fit as I can for world travel centered on forgiveness education presentations. This is a very popular gym that frequently has 100 people working out at any one time. So, you get to see varying levels of fitness by the patrons of the gym.

One thing I have noticed over the past two years is this: there is a particular group of pushupspeople, in a younger generation (I do not want to specify which generation this is), who can do, at most, about 6 push-ups at any one time. I am talking about the group as a whole; I am not just singling out one or two people…..and I am not doing this to criticize them.

I bring this up for the following reason: Somehow, in this particular generation (because it is common to every one of the gym patrons I have seen over a two-year period) the people (as students growing up) were never challenged in their education to do push-ups. My generation, in contrast, had what they used to call the Marine Corp Physical Fitness challenge during gym class. The challenge consisted of doing 60 push-ups at any one time. It is painfully obvious to me, as I walk through this gym, that the idea of doing 60 push-ups in a row was absent during their educational years…….and the consequence is that they cannot. Their upper bodies are not strong and this seems to hold across the board for all whom I see in this generation.

And this brings me to the point of this blog. If we do not challenge children to learn about FEforgiveness, to practice it, to stay at it, then when they are adults and are hurt by injustices, they will be weak in their response. They will not know how to forgive, they may not stay at it. Not being able to do push-ups is hardly an inconvenience in modern First-World societies. Not being able to forgive could be deadly.

What we do in schools matters for adulthood. Do educators really know the consequences of not encouraging students to do their forgiveness “push-ups”?

We need forgiveness education…………now.

Robert

Why We Need Forgiveness Education…….NOW

“I was too busy trying to survive.  I did not have room to bring forgiveness into my world.”

ArgumentThese two sentences, spoken by someone who lived with an abusive partner for decades, is one of the strongest rationales I have ever read for forgiveness education, starting with 4-year-olds or 5-year-olds.
Do you see that the person, as an adult, did not have the energy and focus to add something new to her arsenal of survival?

What if forgiveness was a natural part of her survival arsenal starting at an early age?

We do this for learning how to speak and write coherent sentences.

We do this for learning how to add so that a budget can be maintained.

We do this for learning how to be just or fair as corrections and punishments are swift to come once one enters the school door and then misbehaves in the school setting.

I think it is tragic that educational institutions and societies fail to make forgiveness a PakistanChildrennatural part of life through early education. Isn’t a central point about education to help people make their way in society?  And isn’t a central point of making one’s way in society having the capacity to confront grave injustices and not be defeated by them?  And isn’t a central point of confronting grave injustices the knowledge of how to forgive?  And isn’t a central point of knowing how to forgive the thinking about forgiveness and the practice of it in safety, before the storm of evil hits?

And isn’t a central point of knowing forgiveness and practicing forgiveness to aid in the  survival of people who could be crushed by others’ cruelty?

Why do we spend time helping children learn to speak and write, learn essential mathematic skills, and be just…….but completely neglect teaching them how to overcome gHoly Family School-Belfastrave injustices?

Education in its essence will be fundamentally incomplete until educators fold into it the basic strategies for overcoming grave injustice and cruelty so that students, once they are adults, never have to say, “I was too busy trying to survive. I did not have room to bring forgiveness into my world.”

And the tragedy of this incompleteness is this: We now know scientifically-supported pathways to forgive. We have scientifically-tested forgiveness curricula for children and adolescents.

It is time to make “room to bring forgiveness into my world.”

Robert

The Importance of Forgiveness Education: A Report from Jerusalem

Dr. Robert Enright

My world travels are bearing fruit and I am glad this is the case. Forgiveness deserves this. For the very latest news, see my recent update:  “Forgiveness Education Around the World.

My current thinking about the importance of forgiveness education is here: Does Forgiveness Have a Place in Contentious Regions of the World? A Case for Forgiveness Education.” 
 
Finally, I was asked to create an Executive Summary on our ideas about forgiveness therapy and forgiveness education for peace leaders in Jerusalem. You can read that one-page document here: “Forgiveness as the Path to Peace.”
It is snowing in Jerusalem….damp and cold……but my heart is warm from the reception here for forgiveness education.
Robert
PS: I would very much appreciate your thoughts about this blog post, about my world travels, and about the direction we have taken with international forgiveness education. Thank you for your feedback.

Perseverance and Forgiveness

2002…. That is the year the International Forgiveness Institute began writing forgiveness education curriculum guides for teachers. We started with first grade classrooms in Belfast, Holy Family School-BelfastNorthern Ireland. When we started knocking on principals’ doors to discuss this life-giving project, we were met with skepticism.

“You will not last more than three years,” was what we heard consistently. Three years? Why three in particular?

“Because when people come from foreign lands to help Belfast, those well-meaning people never stay more than three years,” was the retort.

It became apparent that people go to Belfast with high expectations, great enthusiasm, and lots of adrenaline as they embark on their new adventure. Then the reality strikes. By year three the fatigue sets in, the streets of Belfast are all too familiar. It is now work and not adventure. Goodbye, Belfast!

The IFI has had a presence in Belfast for 14 years now. So far, we have beaten the odds by staying almost 5 times longer than expected.

This issue of perseverance and endurance has me thinking. How can one endurancepreserve the idea of forgiveness in families, schools, places of worship, and places of employment? That seems easy……for about three years, but what about the next 10 or 20 or even 40 years?

How can forgiveness endure when there are so many diversions in life, so many new and good and novel ways to introduce new curricula to schools or new programs to businesses?

It takes a team and at least one person with an iron-clad will in the short-run. Forgiveness can too easily fade from the scene without this.

How will you preserve forgiveness in your own heart and in your most
important relationships? How will Drifting 2you keep it from drifting out to sea, almost unnoticed as it fades? The first step is to realize that this can happen….and then not let it happen.
Robert

Why Our Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program Matters

“Bullying will not be tolerated in this school.”

“You are entering a no bullying zone.”

Consciousness raising is good precisely because it challenges each of us to be our best self, to do good for others.

Yet, sometimes some students are so emotionally wounded that their anger overwhelms the attempt at consciousness raising.  The students are so very wounded that they cannot listen well.  Some are so wounded that they refuse to listen.  Even others are so mortally wounded that they find a certain pleasure in inflicting pain on others.  It is when it gets to that point—others’ pain equals pleasure for the one inflicting it—that we have a stubborn problem on our hands.  No signs, no consciousness raising, no rally in the gym, no pressure to be good is going to work…..because the gravely wounded student is now beyond listening.

Yet, we have found a hidden way to reverse the trend in those who are so hurting that they derive pain from hurting others.  It is this:  Ask the hurting students, those labeled so often as bullies, to tell their story of pain, their story of how others have abused them.  Tell Your StoryYou will see this as the rule rather than the exception: Those who inflict pain over and over have stories of abuse toward them that would make you weep.  In fact, we have seen the weeping come from the one who has bullied others, the one who has inflicted serious pain onto others.  He wept because, as he put it, “No one ever asked me for my story before.”  His story was one of cruel child abuse from an alcoholic father who bruised him until he bled.  And no one ever asked him about this.  And so he struck out at others.  Once he told his story, he began to forgive his father and his pain lessened and thus his need to inflict pain on others slowly melted away.

We all have a storyThis is what our Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program does.  It aids counselors and teachers in bringing out the stories in the pain-inflictors so that their own pain dramatically decreases.  As this happens, through forgiveness, bullying behavior is rendered powerless……because in examining their own hurt they finally realize how much hurt they have inflicted…..and with their own emotional pain gone, they have no desire to live life like this any more.

Come, take our anti-bullying curriculum and save the life of at least one child and help prevent inflicted pain on countless others.

Robert

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 so 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 Good Old Daysthan 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 important 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

We Must Treat the Cause and Not Only the Symptoms of Bullying

Well-meaning people are making progress in confronting the student-bullying problem across the world…..and yet most of these professionals are not looking closely enough at the real problem to find the best solution.

Here is one example: An educator encourages the bullied students to find ways to calmly stand their ground when being bullied. This can be a way of diffusing the bullying behavior. It seems to work at least in the short-term, Bullied Boy at Wallbut the one bullying could start the mayhem all over again in the next week or two.

Here is a second example: A graduate student finished a masterful review of the bullying literature in the psychological sciences. She reported that a key research topic presently is to examine the coping strategies of those being bullied. Those who seek social support from friends and teachers cope better with the effects of bullying than do those victims who cry.

Help the victim, yes, but what about those who bully? How can we help them and what help do they need?

We suggest the untried—untried—theme that may seem counter-intuitive today, but will appear obvious to many in the future: Yes, help the victim, but also help the one who is bullying to get rid of his or her anger, which is fueling the bullying.

Inside those who bully. . .
Inside those who bully. . .

Those who bully have been victimized by others. Help them to reduce their resentment toward those who were the victimizers and the bullying behavior will melt away. Why? Because wanting to harm others comes out of a position of profound woundedness within. Angry people are wounded people and angry, wounded people are the ones who lash out at others, even when these “others” did nothing whatsoever to provoke the verbal or physical attack.

We point principals, teachers, and parents to our anti-bullying forgiveness program intended to melt that anger in the one who bullies…..so that victims are no longer victims…..because the one bullying has no need any more to throw his wounds onto others. Forgiveness heals those wounds.

Who is ready to give this a try?

Robert