Barriers to Forgiveness, Part 10: Inexperience

Sometimes a person is not stubbornly closed to consider forgiveness. Sometimes a person is not distorting the meaning of forgiveness or being distracted or even too impatient to walk its path. Sometimes a person even knows the path of forgiveness….but is not forgivingly fit enough to walk it well. Sometimes a person just has not had the experience to get it right. As an analogy, a person might want to join in the marathon run, but has never trained for one. All of the good intentions in the world, all of the knowledge in the world, will not aid the person in finishing the task. It can be the same with forgiveness. The person may have read about “bearing the pain” and understand what this is and what it is not, but it remains strangely vague and unfamiliar because of a lack of experience with it. The person needs practice for it to become familiar.

school 5We all need to be schooled in the art of forgiveness to be able to find and stay on the path and then to complete the journey. Forgiveness education is one way for children, adolescents, and adults to learn about forgiveness…..to practice it and then to practice it some more…….before tragedy strikes, before confusion and discouragement set in. We have the opportunity to help youth overcome a major barrier to forgiveness—inexperience—by helping them to learn about forgiveness, and to practice it, and to become proficient at it. Can you see the great advantage of meeting injustice while a person already is forgivingly fit, being familiar with the “how to” of forgiveness?  We need forgiveness education…..now.

Robert

Barriers to Forgiveness, Part 5: Not Knowing How to Forgive

“But, I just don’t know how to forgive.  How do I go about it?”

I have heard this so often…..and it breaks my heart because it should not happen.  How have people’s teachers somehow failed to show a growingBarriers child the path to forgiveness? Don’t we work hard—very hard—to show a child how to find his or her way home so that, when lost, there is a map in the memory?  Why do we fail to work even harder to place the map of forgiveness in a child’s mind?  To have to grope in the dark for the forgiveness path when one’s heart is bleeding is not fair.  When we neglect to show children the path out of darkness and into the light of forgiveness, we are neglecting a key point of being human….a key point in surviving tragedy and others’ mayhem.

Children need forgiveness education to know that, when forgiving, a first step is the freedom to admit injury.  Another has withdrawn love from me and I am hurting.

Teaching kids to forgiveFacing such a reality helps people to see the injustice for what it is.  It can give a person courage to look injustice in the eye and call it by its name.  Such courage can propel a person to commit to forgiving, committing to reducing resentment and offering goodness in spite of the hurt.

The courage helps a forgiver to then see the inherent worth of the one who did the hurting…..not because of what was done, but in spite of it.Forgive - Kids Hands

The courage helps the forgiver to let compassion grow in the heart as a response of mercy to those who have not had mercy on the forgiver. Eventually, the forgiver begins to find meaning in the suffering and to reach out to the offender, at least within reason so that the forgiver protects the self from further serious injury.

This path is vital to a restored emotional health.  We need to see this and to have the courage to teach children how to forgive so that they do not ask, in confusion, as adults: “How do I forgive?  I do not know the path.”

Robert

Adverse Impacts of Childhood Bullying Extend Into Adulthood

The negative impacts of childhood bullying are much more pervasive and long-lasting than researchers previously believed, according to a just-published study.

Those bullied in childhood had increased levels of psychological distress at ages 23 and 50, according to the British study that covered a 50-year timespan.  Victims of frequent bullying had higher rates of depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol dependence, and suicidality than their non-victimized peers nearly four decades after exposure. Additionally, childhood bullying victimization was associated with a lack of social relationships, economic hardship, and poor perceived quality of life at age 50.

While those impacts for adults were undocumented up until now, the study also confirms what researchers have long known—that childhood bullying can be devastating.

“Not only do victims of bullying have elevated symptoms of anxiety and depression in childhood and adolescence,” the study reports, “they also show increased rates of self-harm, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, and psychotic symptoms. As a result, victimization by bullies is increasingly considered alongside maltreatment and neglect as a form of childhood abuse.” bullying Graph

The new study was published in the July 2014 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry:  Adult Health Outcomes of Childhood Bullying Victimization: Evidence From a Five-Decade Longitudinal British Birth Cohort. Data were from the British National Child Development Study, a 50-year prospective cohort of births in 1 week in 1958. The authors studied data from 7,771 participants whose parents reported bullying exposure at ages 7 and 11 years, and who participated in follow-up assessments between ages 23 and 50 years. Of the three well-respected researchers who completed the study, one is a Newton International Fellow while another is a British Academy Mid-Career Fellow.

“Like other forms of childhood abuse, bullying victimization has a pervasive effect on functioning and health outcomes up to midlife,” the study concludes. ”Our findings. . .emphasize the importance of gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the persistence and pervasiveness of the impact of childhood bullying. These risk mechanisms could become suitable targets for intervention programs designed to reverse the effects of early life adversity later in the life course.”

And at least one researcher is already addressing those risk mechanisms.

Dr. Robert Enright, a University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor, says his research and interventions may be the only ones in the world focusing on pent-up anger as the source of bullying. Dr. Enright, called “the forgiveness trailblazer” by Time magazine, has been researching forgiveness for more than 25 years, has created the International Forgiveness Institute to disseminate the results of his work, and has produced Forgiveness Education Curriculum Guides for students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade that are being used around the world.

Now Dr. Enright has just released a new curriculum guide called “The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program: Reducing the Fury Within Those Forgiveness-Brothers-HugWho Bully.”This guide can be used by school counselors, social workers, and teachers. It is for students in grade 4 (age 9) through grade 9 (age 14) and is intended for use with those who are showing bullying behavior.

“Bullying behavior does not occur in a vacuum, but can result from deep inner rage, not resulting from those who are bullied but often from others who have hurt them in family, school, or neighborhood,” Dr. Enright says. “The purpose of our guide is to help such students to forgive those who have deeply hurt them so they no longer take out their rage on others.”

Dennis Blang
Director
International Forgiveness Institute

Solution to Rampant Bullying–Forgiveness Education

Yet another tragic school incident, this one involving two 11-year-old boys. Yet another case of bullying gone uncurbed. Yet another example of amazing forgiveness.

An 11-year-old boy at Pacific Christian School in Auckland (on the north island of New Zealand), was stabbed in the right temple by an 11-year-old classmate wielding a pair of school scissors on Tuesday (June 24, 2014). Bullying-AppleThe injured boy was taken to Starship Children’s Hospital, where he remains in critical condition in a coma. Doctors are unable to determine if he will ever fully recover.

The boy’s assailant, an 11-year-old classmate, was taken into custody and turned over to Child, Youth and Family care. According to The New Zealand Herald, “the stabbing shocked the country given the ages of those involved.”

The injured boy’s uncle said his nephew’s parents have already forgiven the other boy. “We don’t hold grudges, we remember the Lord’s Prayer. That’s how they feel.”

In the wake of the stabbing, which happened just moments after the teacher left the room,  Pacific Christian School has been accused of “knowing about classroom bullying but failing to act,” the Herald reported.

“That’s not at all unusual,” says Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute based in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. “In most cases, teachers don’t know how to handle students that bully and administrators are unable to provide clear guidance except for disciplinary procedures.”

AISDBulliedinSchool2Earlier this year, Dr. Enright developed The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program: Reducing the Fury Within Those Who Bully based on his more than 20 years of scientific forgiveness research and his Forgiveness Education Curriculum Guides that have been tested and in full use for more than a dozen years by schools in places like Belfast, Northern Ireland, and more recently in Monrovia, Liberia (West Africa), and Israel-Palestine.

“It is our contention that bullying starts from within, as anger, and comes out as displaced anger onto the victim,” Dr. Enright said. “Forgiveness targets this anger and then reduces it, thus reducing or eliminating the displaced anger which comes out as bullying.”

Unless we eliminate the anger in the hearts of those who bully,” Dr. Enright believes, “we will not eliminate bullying.”

Dennis Blang
Director
International Forgiveness Institute

Anger Is at the Heart of War

In today’s news, we read that Israel and Hamas are on the brink of all-out-war. In Belfast, Northern Ireland, today one group is verbally Forgiveness is Peacethreatening violence because a parade commission banned them from a particular parade route. Anger. Toxic anger. It is at the heart of war. Yes, there are land disputes and ethnic disputes adding to the war and threat of violence, but disputes can be handled without violence…..if the hearts are without toxic anger. Our science shows this: forgiveness education reduces toxic anger. We need forgiveness education…..now….so that future generations can be protected from angry hearts in those who hold power. Maybe they will use their power more wisely when schooled in forgiveness.

Robert

On Playing Among the Bomb Threats: A Call for Forgiveness Education

Today I am in the Middle East, in an open-air restaurant, reflecting on the human condition.

The personal water crafts are dancing on the Mediterranean Sea, which looks today like it is a liquid diamond in the sun.  Boys are showing their bravado by jumping off of a 50 foot wall into this liquid jewel, a playground for those with imagination and a willingness to take some risks.

All of those at play seem oblivious to the fact that they are in a playground about 20 miles from another country which has sworn retribution.

Now to a nursery where innocent babies are sleeping peacefully as if Nursery in Palestine 2they are safe. They are in an upper room in a school, in a daycare center. Beneath them are the older children whose classrooms quite literally are bomb shelters with thick metal casings for the windows and heavy concrete to keep the mayhem at bay.

The contrast between the playfulness and peace existing alongside the threats and the bomb shelters is jarring.  How can human beings be willing to blow apart those on the water crafts or to tear the limbs off of the sleeping innocents, all in the name of something that is far less important that those at play and rest?

How have human priorities gotten so twisted that the latest “ism” takes precedence over persons?  Can we train the minds and hearts of the young to see that limbs are fragile, that the human soul can be wounded in such a way that those who are wounded now go on missions to destroy….even on days in which the Mediterranean Sea dances with delight and babies sleep though an illusion of peace?  We need forgiveness education…..now.

Robert

Forgiveness as Preventing Further Chaos After the Original Injustice

An admired colleague of mine lost her child to kidnapping and murder when the child was just entering her teenage years.  This event was so shocking, so vicious that it started to enter into the mother’s heart.  She said that she would have gladly killed the man if she could and would have done so while she smiled.  Yet, in time she realized that her entire being was being transformed by the effects of the resentment living within her….and she did not like at all who she was becoming.Why Forgive

The killer was about to take a second victim, the mother, as she emotionally degenerated because of the stress and monstrous nature of the act.  She chose to forgive instead and her life took on great meaning.  She became a conduit of good for her other children.  She began to Injustice 6show them a new way, one based on goodness instead of the absence of goodness.  The children were able to see this new way and to take that goodness into their own hearts.  A life of meaning and purpose in service to others grew in the heart of the family.

The killer did not claim them as other victims and there was triumph.  The mother came to realize that  profound injustice can kill without even touching another–but it did not happen here.  There is something so powerful about realizing that forgiveness helps us stand against the chaos of cruelty and triumph over it even when the grave injustice has had its way for a while. It no longer continues to have its way because the absence of good (the chaotic injustice) is met by goodness itself and goodness is the one that seems to win in the long run.

Robert