More on Why We Need Forgiveness Education

On the Psychology Today website, I recently posted an essay entitled, Why We Need Forgiveness Education.  One person’s comment on this piece does seem to suggest that, indeed, we need forgiveness education starting at a young age.  The commentator’s point is that forgiveness is costly, perhaps too costly for some.  Forgiveness becomes so costly when for-reca person now senses the obligation, upon forgiving, to stay in a relationship that is highly abusive.

The assumption that a forgiver, because of forgiveness, now must stay in the deeply hurtful relationship is not correct.  Forgiveness does not obligate a person to remain in a hurtful relationship.  The assumption equates forgiving and reconciling and they are quite different.  Reconciliation is based on trust as two or more people come together again.  One can forgive from a distance without reconciling, if the other may do harm and is not trustworthy based on past and current behavior.

If we all had forgiveness education from childhood through adolescence and then applied the learning in adulthood, the assumption that equates forgiving and reconciling would not come up.  The lesson would have been learned in school……a long time ago.  Yet, current educational practices rarely make room for forgiveness education.research6

It seems to me that much of the misery in our own hearts could be eliminated if we took the time to learn the lessons of forgiving.  Such lessons would question those assumptions which keep us from forgiving because we falsely see danger in the act of forgiveness when that danger actually does not exist.

We need forgiveness education for our little ones…………now.

Robert

Dr. Enright Joins Two New Digital Media Ventures

Dr. Robert Enright, world-renowned forgiveness researcher and educator, has been selected by two of the nation’s premier blog sites to add his forgiveness expertise as a regular contributor.

Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute
Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute

1. Psychology Today is a New York City-based print magazine that will celebrate its 50th year of continuous publication in 2017. Its new blog site, according to the publication, is  “devoted exclusively to everybody’s favorite subject: Ourselves.”

To make and keep their new blog site relevant, Psychology Today has gathered a group of renowned psychologists, academics, psychiatrists and writers to contribute their thoughts and ideas on what makes us tick. According to the website,  “We’re a live stream of what’s happening in Psychology Today.”

The forgiveness blog section on Psychology Today’s website is called “The Forgiving Life”–which is also the title of one of the eight books Dr. Enright has written. Here are links to the first four blogs Dr. Enright has produced for the new site this month:
Dec. 7 – Forgiveness Saved My Life: Reflections from Prison
Dec. 16 – Afraid of Mingling with the Relatives This Holiday Season?
Dec. 17 A New Approach to School Bullying: Eliminate Their Anger
Dec. 20 Is It True That Forgiveness Is “Ridiculous“?

Arianna Huffington’s New Venture

2. You’ve probably heard of Arianna Huffington, the 66-year-old digital media pioneer, bestselling author, and founder of The Huffington Post–the online news powerhouse that has spread its influence around the world in dramatic fashion. Oh, yes, and she is one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People.”

Huffington stepped down in August as editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post (affectionately called HuffPost), which she founded in 2005 andthrive-global-arianna-huffington sold to AOL six years later for $315 million, to concentrate full time on her new venture–Thrive Global. The new entity is partly based on her runaway bestselling 2014 book, Thrivewhich defines a new math for success based on the variables of well-being, wisdom, wonder and generosity.

One of the entities under the Thrive Global umbrella is The Thrive Journal–an online blog site that the company says goes “beyond informing and entertaining to action. Our goal is to help you bring about changes in your life by giving you concrete, actionable tips laid out in five pathways: Calm, Joy, Purpose, thrive-logoWell-Being, and Productivity. These microsteps and tips are embedded in every piece of content we produce.”

Similar to the new blog site developed by Psychology Today, the Thrive Global blog site will feature a wide array of international wellness experts, psychologists, medical doctors and other professionals. Here are links to the first five blogs Dr. Enright has produced for Thrive Global:
Nov. 25Forgiveness and the Presidential Election of 2016: 7 Tips
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ov. 30 Reflections from Prison: “Forgiveness Saved My Life” 
Dec. 4 Forgiveness, the Marathon, and the Inspired Work of Art
Dec. 8 – How Evil Works
Dec. 17 
Afraid of Mingling with the Relatives This Holiday Season? 4 Tips from Forgiveness Therapy

Forgiveness, the Marathon, and the Inspired Work of Art

marathon4So, then, what do forgiveness, running the marathon, and contemplating a magnificent work of art all have in common?

They are all hard to accomplish, said one.

They are all impossible if we are realistic about the human endeavor, said another.

They are all cruel ideals to make each of us feel inferior, said the third.

And yet, I wonder.  Surely, one can forgive those who offend.  Some can run the marathon.  I know someone who finished the Boston Marathon nine years in a row.  And contemplating great art is feasible as long as we let the beauty speak to us rather than our trying to define it and therefore reduce it.

Michelangelo - The Pieta
Michelangelo – The Pieta

Forgiveness, running the marathon, and contemplating great art all stretch us, ask us to see farther down the road, challenge us to grow beyond our current self.

They all awaken in us the call to greatness.  They all challenge us to see that life is more than going to work, collecting a paycheck, and kicking back on the weekend, only to repeat the cycle seemingly endlessly until we retire.

Forgiveness is a heroic virtue because it asks us to so stretch ourselves that we are good to those who are not good to us.  The marathon shows us that we can go beyond our expected capacity, that we have a reserve that can be discovered by the strong will.  The contemplation of inspired works of art challenges us to see that there is more to this world than we can see and hear and taste and touch in our ordinary surroundings.  There is a greatness awaiting us, if only we have the courage to look.

forgivenesssetsyoufreeWe all can begin by forgiving a loved one for a minor injustice.  We all can start to walk and then run and lift that weight even if it does not translate into over 26 miles of challenge.  We all can create and contemplate what others around us create even if none of these will see its way to a Florentine gallery.  And we can keep raising the bar on whom to forgive, what exercises challenge us, and what magnificent art really is.

We all can start stretching ourselves today.  Forgiveness, the marathon, and inspired great art are all calls to us to move forward, to be better than we are today, to reach and then achieve.

Robert

Reflections from Prison: “Forgiveness Saved my Life”

Security was tight.  Oh that….I had forgotten that I had the New York subway schedule in the winter jacket.  Sorry about that.  No paper allowed.

After going through two secured doors, we went into the courtyard.  It razor-wire8was night and so the floodlights were bouncing off the razor wire that wrapped each fence.  That wire looked almost festive as it gleamed and sparkled.  But, of course, it represented a darker reality than the dance with the floodlights let on.

A little farther on we met Jonah (not his real name), who was coming to attend the talk on forgiveness.

“Hey, do you remember me?” Jonah asked as he extended a big warm hug.

“Yes, of course.  How are you?” I said.  It had been a while and I was very glad to see him.

Jonah’s is one of the many success stories we hear once those in prison go through forgiveness therapy.  He went from max to medium because his constant anger diminished.  Forgiveness has a way of doing that.  As a person, as Jonah puts it, “gives the gift of forgiveness” to those who abused him, his inner world becomes healthier.

“Forgiveness saved my life,” he said with earnest and serious eyes.  He knows of what he speaks.  Anger landed him in medical facilities and eventually contributed to serious crime and long prison terms.  Yet, his anger was cured by understanding, through forgiveness therapy, that the abuse he experienced as a young man turned to a anger-1462088poisonous anger which was destroying him.

“No one cares how angry you are.  It’s yours and yours alone when someone gets to you in a big way.”  He had to confront that anger, struggle to forgive the one who was so unfair, and now Jonah can meet me with a warm, wonderful smile, a hug, and a vitality for life that is so unexpected in juxtaposition to the floodlights and the officers and the dancing razor wire.

Jonah is set free inside even though his body is imprisoned and for many years to come.  The past pain will not destroy him and any insensitivities, frustrations, and challenges that are part of max and medium security prisons will not crush him because he has an antidote to the build-up of toxic anger: forgiveness.

Forgiveness therapy is beginning to gain traction in prisons because counselors are beginning to see that it is one of the few approaches to corrections that actually works.  To forgive is to take the floodlight of analysis off of the self and place it, paradoxically, on the one who did the harm.  It is to tell a wider story of whom that other is.  Forgiveness therapy allows the person to see the abusing person’s vulnerability, woundedness, and anger that “put me on the hook” as one of my friends in prison describes it.  As the heart softens toward those who are cruel, one’s own inner poisons find an antidote in growing compassion. And it works.

One of the main insights I now see is this:  As those in prison realize that womenthey are capable of giving the heroic virtue of forgiveness to others, they understand that they, themselves, are stronger than they had thought.  They realize that they are givers, human givers, men.  “I am a man” not a number, is a common new and growth-producing insight, one that helps those in prison to stand tall in the face of grave challenges.  “I am a woman” will be next as we move soon toward a max facility for females.

Long live forgiveness therapy in prisons.  Oh,bird and by the way, did you notice that throughout this little essay, I never once used the word “prisoner”?  You see, the word “prisoner” is a sweeping term, encompassing a person’s entire being by their address, by where they reside.  Jonah knows he is more than “a prisoner.”  He is a man, one who  forgives.

Robert

Forgiveness and the Presidential Election of 2016: 7 Tips

The presidential election results and the tumultuous aftermath have left people scarred and angry.  I have heard often that people are afraid oftrump-clinton the fallout in their own families: brother against brother, partner against partner.  Here are 7 tips to help you bind the wounds and move forward well:

  1. It is important to realize that when you forgive, you are not throwing justice under the bus.  Yes, forgive, but fight the good fight for what is good in the country.
  1. Each side has an argument against the other side. Yet, my questions are these: What are the intentions of the people at whom you are so angry?  Do you think they are saying, “My method is bad and my desired outcome is equally bad”?  Even if you disagree with the actions, can you see that the desired end—from the others’ viewpoint—is the quest for the good, even if you election-symbolthink that is misguided?
  1. Did you know that many of the people on the other side once were children who suffered hurt in childhood.  He ran to his mother when he fell down and bruised his knee.  She talked with her father, through her tears, when bullied at school.  These are real-life persons with real-life struggles and wounds that started a long time ago, when they were growing up.
  1. You may not be aware of this, but those on the other side did notdonkey-elephant have an easy time in adolescence, because, well, few make it through that time period unscathed.  Did you know that people on the other side have been wounded by rejection of peers when in adolescence, struggled with romantic attempts that were awkward for them, and fought through the demands of high school?
  1. Did you know that people on the other side have hopes and dreams?  They, like you, are hoping for a little place to live, a well-meaning job, and meaningful relationships.  And did you know that none of this is coming easily to many of them?  Some are really hurting inside because of this.
  1. Did you know that each one of the people on your side avotend on the other side are striving for a little happiness in this troubled world?  It is not easy to find that happiness.  Sometimes we look in the wrong places, but it is for happiness nonetheless that we seek.  Those who have hurt you are seeking happiness and it may not be the way you would have chosen, but that is their quest nonetheless.  They are human.  They are fallible.  They share with you one important thing: a common humanity.
  1. Can you, each of you on the other side of the divide, commit to election2016doing no harm to the other?  I know you are angry, but what now will you do with that anger?  Will you pass it along to your children?  to you partner?  to your co-workers?  Or, will you stand with the pain, that eventually will end, for the sake of the humanity of those who have hurt you…..as well as for those who are innocent bystanders who now could be hurt by that anger?

Perhaps it is time to forgive as you seek justice.  The two, forgiveness and justice, go well together.

Robert

“Post-Truth” and Forgiveness: Is Forgiveness Objectively True or Relative to Us All?

…..And so, the award for best word goes to……..”post-truth.”

Thus speaketh The Oxford Dictionaries in assigning “post-truth” as the word of the year.word-of-the-year3

We start with a half truth here because, well, “post-truth” is two words, not one.

Even so, this award raises questions such as this:  If there is such a thing as post-truth (or placing the narrative or emotions above what is actually true) then does it follow that the term forgiveness itself is not objectively true?  Might forgiveness mean whatever people in certain communities or cultures say that it is?

We do not think so.  If you examine Chapter 15 of the book, Forgiveness Therapy (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015), you will see that the meaning of forgiveness does not differ in its essence across spiritual and philosophical traditions from West to East.  Yes, there are different religious and cultural rituals surrounding what it means to offer forgiveness, but the term itself still means the offering of goodness toward those who are not good to us.

If you examine Chapter 13 of the same book, you will see that when researchers try to measure the degree to which people forgive others, then you will find that regardless of the various cultures studied (again, factsacross West, Middle East, and East), research participants tend to mean the same thing when they use the word forgiving.

While there certainly are “post-truth” narratives that attempt to persuade and to convince, regardless of the truth, rhetoric will never win the day entirely.  Why? It is because there are essences to certain things……and forgiveness happens to be one of them.

Long live forgiveness…..may it outlive the fad of the “post-truth” attempt at power over truth-seeking.

Robert

……….But…..Forgiveness Adds an Extra Burden to the Abused Person

“Forgiveness is fundamentally unfair.  Here we have a deeply abused person and now we ask her, in her woundedness, to reach out to one who hurt her.  She now has two burdens, the original abuse and having to forgive.  Please, let us first help her with the wounds from the abuse and put forgiveness on the shelf for her sake!”

So goes the most pervasive criticism of what forgiveness is and what it criticismsupposedly does in 2016.  This criticism is likely to change over time and a new one emerge because, well, that is the way it is with forgiveness.  There always seems to be one major criticism that is in season and acts as a barrier to forgiveness.

Thirty years ago, that in-season criticism was the equating of forgiving and reconciling.  Once the logic was worked out that forgiving cannot be forgive-vs-recon2the same as reconciling, that one faded.  After all, forgiveness is a virtue (as is justice and kindness and patience); reconciliation is not a virtue, but instead is a negotiation strategy of two or more people coming together once again in mutual trust.  One can forgive and not reconcile.  Thus, they differ.

Let us now turn to the current in-season criticism of forgiveness.  Yes, forgiveness is a burden if:

………we pressure someone into forgiving;

………we tell the person that the only motivation for forgiving is to be good—-very good—-to the person who was not good to the one who might forgive;

………we critically judge the would-be forgiver for not forgiving.

Yet, we can unburden the forgiver, as well as forgiveness itself, when we realize that:

………forgiveness is the forgiver’s choice.  It is not our place to pressure someone to forgive (or not to forgive).  Give the person freedom to make the decision;

………there are many motivations to forgive.  One healthy motivation that often exists early in the process is the desire to be free from emotional pain.  The forgiver is motivated to become emotionally whole.  The forgiver, at this stage of the process, is not so interested in doing wonderful things for the one who was not wonderful.  These are very different motivations and need to be distinguished, especially early in the process;

………it is wrong to condemn a struggling person who is ambivalent blog-4about forgiveness.  Maybe the person needs more time; maybe the person needs more information about what forgiveness is (and not the colloquial misunderstandings that cloud the understanding).  Again, it is the choice of the one who was abused.

When we unburden the abused person by clarifying these issues, then it is clear that we are not placing a new burden on the person by discussing forgiveness.  Notice that I did not say “suggesting forgiveness.”  Let us discuss and then let the person decide.

So, what will be the new criticism of forgiveness that could block, without justification, a person from exploring forgiveness?

Robert