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.“
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, Northern 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 preserve 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 you 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.
“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. You 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.
This 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.
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 than 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.
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, but 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.
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?
We have forgiveness education curriculum guides for teachers, parents, and school counselors in our Store. The guides show you, step-by-step, how to implement forgiveness education for about one hour a week or less to children as young as age 4 or as old as age 17. The medium for instructing students on forgiveness is through stories. We have summaries of these stories for your examination and use as you wish.
Our research shows that as students learn about forgiveness, they become less angry and can increase in academic achievement. After all, if someone is fuming internally, it is hard to pay attention to the regular school subjects.
Take a look below at what teachers in Milwaukee’s central-city are saying after teaching forgiveness for 12 to 15 weeks, about one hour a week:
Highlights of the evaluations (four-year averages) are as follows:
• 91% of the teachers found the forgiveness curriculum materials easy to use.
• 78% of the teachers observed that the students increased in cooperation as a result of learning about forgiveness.
• 71% of the teachers observed that, as a whole, the students improved in their academic achievement as a result of learning about forgiveness.
• 91% of the teachers thought that they became a better overall instructor as a result of teaching the forgiveness curriculum.
• 93% of the teachers thought that they became a better person as a result of teaching the forgiveness curriculum.
• 84% of the teachers thought that their classrooms as a whole began to function better as a result of the forgiveness curriculum.
• 76% of the teachers thought that the school as a whole began to show improvement because of the forgiveness education program.
Think about the love that one person has given to you some time in your life. That love is eternal. Love never dies. If your mother gave you love 20 years ago, that love is still here and you can appropriate it, experience it, feel it. If you think about it, the love that your deceased family members gave to you years ago is still right here with you. Even though they passed on in a physical sense, they have left something of the eternal with you, to draw upon whenever you wish.
Now think about the love you have given to others. That love is eternal. Your love never dies. Your actions have consequences for love that will be on this earth long after you are gone. If you hug a child today, that love, expressed in that hug, can be with that child 50 years from now. Something of you remains here on earth, something good.
Children should be prepared for this kind of thinking through forgiveness education, where they learn that all people have built-in or inherent worth. One expression of forgiveness, one of its highest expressions, is to love those who have not loved us. If we educate children in this way, then they may take the idea more seriously that the love given and received can continue……and continue. It may help them to take more seriously such giving and receiving of love. We need forgiveness education……now.