Not Everyone Quickly Embraces Forgiveness

As we all know, a new idea can sometimes be difficult to introduce and advance. Here, for example, is the story behind Dr. Robert Enright’s very first attempt to help people in prison learn to forgive:

The year is 1985 and Dr. Enright has advanced to become a “full professor of educational psychology” at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Fresh off a sabbatical leave during  which he crystalized his ongoing forgiveness research strategy, the young professor learned about an organization that funded forward-looking scientific research projects so he submitted a proposal–one that would help imprisoned people learn to forgive.

Dr. Robert Enright, as a young University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor of Educational Psychology and founder of the International Forgiveness Institute (inset) along with a more-recent photo.

That proposal was, literally, his very first grant attempt in the science of forgiveness.  Up to that point in the social sciences, there had been no journal articles ever published with an empirical emphasis on person-to-person forgiving. Dr. Enright was obviously a pioneer in that field.

The intake worker from the granting agency not only called Dr. Enright in for an interview but ended that interview by saying, “This is a great idea. I am going to rate your proposal as #1.” Thinking the grant business was going to be easier than he had thought, the applicant went back to his university office to await the inevitable check in the mail.

About a month later, Dr. Enright received a very nondescript rejection letter from the  organization. Confused by the contradiction between high praise and quick rejection, he phoned the person who rated his project #1 and asked why the grant was rejected.

“Professor Enright,” the interviewer answered with disdain, “you embarrassed me! I went into the funding meeting with enthusiasm for your work but the rest of the group was incredulous and said, ‘Give Enright money to help prisoners forgive??  Why, they should be asking forgiveness from us!! Proposal rejected!!'”

While rejections obviously hurt, Dr. Enright did not give up. He fine-tuned his proposals and spent more time analyzing potential funding organizations. Since that first refusal, he has successfully generated significant dollars for his scientific research projects on forgiveness and forgiveness therapy that he has conducted in venues around the world.

Five years ago—30 years after this initial rejection—-he was approached by counselors at a men’s maximum security prison.  They asked him if it might be a good idea to start a forgiveness therapy program to assist the imprisoned men to forgive those who had hurt them when they were children or adolescents. 

“That sounds like a pretty good idea to me,” Dr. Enright replied, as he smiled to himself………. It only took three decades for people to catch up with the idea that learning to forgive may be an important next-step in correctional rehabilitation.  That conversation now has started forgiveness therapy research programs in correctional institutions within the United States with plans to expand into Brazil, Pakistan, and possibly Israel.

Moral of the story: Sometimes good ideas are worth a 30-year wait. 

 

Another Powerful Use for Forgiveness Therapy: Rehabilitating People in Prison

When International Forgiveness Institute founder Dr. Robert Enright first proposed Forgiveness Therapy for incarcerated people in a correctional facility, his approach was met with an equal amount of derision and skepticism. After all, it had never been tried with a prison population anywhere else in the world.

That was 35 years ago. Today, Dr. Enright’s methodology is being lauded–and more importantly, implemented–because of its positive, demonstrated results with people in prison.

As just one example of the current popularity and credibility of Forgiveness Therapy for prisoners, a podcast featuring Dr. Enright’s work entitled “Rehabilitating those who are “Forgotten”: People in Prison was downloaded by individuals in 225 US cities and 22 foreign countries in just the first three weeks after it was recorded on Aug. 9th.

The podcast was hosted and broadcast by Dr. Alexandra Miller, a popular psychologist, family relations specialist, and author who has also featured Dr. Enright on a previous podcast entitled “How to Forgive.”  The most recent 67-minute podcast discusses two rehabilitation research projects recently completed by Dr. Enright  and research colleague Dr. Maria Gambaro, Ph.D., with 103 men in a maximum-security prison in the United States.  Access the podcast.

Dr. Enright began exploring the possibility of sharing his forgiveness interventions with incarcerated individuals in early 2015 and he initiated his first in-prison research project later that year. Project team members included Dr. Gambaro and associates from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and the University of the Philippines-Diliman, Philippines.

Why Forgiveness Therapy Works for People in Prison. . .

"Unjust treatment from others can lead to inner pain, which can lead to anger. Unresolved anger can deepen and linger, turning to what we call excessive anger, compromising one's psychological health and behavior. Excessive anger can turn to rage (very intense, potentially violent anger) which can fuel crime, a lack of cooperation within the prison system, and increased recidivism rates. When the excessive anger is caused by unjust behavior from others, prior to a person's crime, conviction, and imprisonment, then we can reduce and even eliminate the excessive anger through the empirically-verified treatment of Forgiveness Therapy.

Forgiveness Therapy may be one of the few existing mental health approaches which offer the opportunity to be free of excessive anger, perhaps for the first time in the person's life."

From the Abstract of Dr. Enright's first research project (2016) in a maximum-security prison - Proposing Forgiveness Therapy for those in Prison: An Intervention Strategy for Reducing Anger and Promoting Psychological Health.

Both the anecdotal and actual results of that initial project were extremely positive. In one group of 12 inmates receiving Forgiveness Therapy, their anger, anxiety, and depression went down significantly. The men themselves credited the forgiveness group experience for those positive outcomes and the facility’s warden asked that the program continue and expand.

Dr. Enright’s research has shown that Forgiveness Therapy can substantially improve the emotional well-being of incest survivors, people in court-ordered drug rehabilitation, terminally-ill cancer patients, emotionally-abused women, primary and secondary school children, and–now–both female and male prison inmates.

In a similar study in South Korea, Forgiveness Therapy was tested against both an alternative skill streaming program and a no-treatment control group. The 48 female participants were adolescent aggressive victims ranging in age from 12 to 21 years old. After 12 weeks, findings showed that the participants receiving Forgiveness Therapy reported statistically significant decreases in anger, hostile attribution, aggression, and delinquency at posttest and follow-up assessments. Additional results included improved grades at the posttest.

“The reality of Forgiveness Therapy is that as those who are imprisoned learn how to give the gift of forgiveness to those who abused them, their inner world becomes healthier,” Dr. Enright says. “Anger has a way of landing some people in medical facilities and eventually contributes to their serious crimes and long prison terms. Forgiveness Therapy can put an end to that poisonous anger.”

One success story Dr. Enright cites is an imprisoned person he calls Jonah (not his real name). Jonah personally told Dr. Enright, during one of his follow-up visits to the facility, that “forgiveness saved my life.” Jonah also wrote an article for the prison newsletter outlining how confronting his anger enabled him to change his life.

“Jonah has been set free inside even though his body is imprisoned and will be for many years to come,” Dr. Enright explained. “The past pain will not continue to crush him because he has an antidote to the build-up of toxic anger–forgiveness.”

Testimonials from other imprisoned Forgiveness Therapy participants include these:

  •  “I have been imprisoned now 6 different times.  I am convinced that on my first arrest, had I read your book, 8 Keys to Forgiveness, I never would have experienced the other 5.”
  • “My first imprisonment occurred when I was 12 years old.  If you can find a way to give 12-year-olds Forgiveness Therapy, they will not end up as I have in maximum security prison.”

Dr. Gambaro, one of those who helped spearhead the initial Forgiveness Therapy work, has as one of her goals to help imprisoned people prepare for re-entry back into society and reduce the chances that they will return to the facility.

More than 10.3 million people are in prison around the world, according to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (2018 data) including more than 2.2 million in the U.S. and more than 1.65 million in China.

“When you look at a population of imprisoned people, 95 percent of them are released back in the community,” Gambaro adds. “No matter what you think of those who are imprisoned, they could be your neighbor, someone on the road, or someone at the gas station. Our goal is to help them reintegrate into society so they don’t reincarcerate.”

Given the positive results demonstrated by his own prison projects, as well as similar results expected  from research starting soon in other areas of the world, Dr. Enright says, “Our aspiration is that Forgiveness Therapy will become a well-accepted protocol for people in prison and eventually become available to all in the prison system who need it.”

Learn more about Dr. Enright’s work with imprisoned people:

South African Study: Individuals with Higher Intelligence are Better at Self-Forgiveness

Potchefstroom, South Africa – A just-released scientific study from a theology professor at one of South Africa’s largest universities has determined that individuals with higher emotional intelligence are more effective at self-forgiveness because they can better address “the emotional and spiritual challenges linked to the process of self-pardon.” 

The study was published on May 25, 2020, in In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi, the acclaimed official journal of the Reformed Theological Society. Although the study immediately generated some controversial backlash, its author says his findings should come as no surprise.

“Research has also shown how important emotional intelligence is for the success of a marriage, relationship(s), self-discipline, physical wellbeing, social popularity and the workplace,” according to researcher Wentzel Coetzer. “The literature is quite conclusive.”

A theology professor at North-West University in Potchefstroom (68,000+ students), about 35 miles south of Johannesburg, professor Coetzer focused his study on analyzing what he calls “the four prominent pastoral-psychological models identified in the forgiveness literature.”

The first of those four models was developed by psychologist Dr. Robert Enright (The Enright Forgiveness Process Model) while the second of the four models was developed jointly by Dr. Enright and psychiatrist Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons (Forgiveness Therapy). Professor Coetzer also outlines his belief that self-forgiveness has been more or less neglected by forgiveness researchers and is “even occasionally described as the ‘ stepchild ‘ of research on forgiveness.” 

Despite that, professor Coetzer outlines that one of the earliest psychological definitions of self-pardon was that of Enright (1996).” In fact, it was just one of Dr. Enright’s early contributions to the History of Forgiveness Therapy. The co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, who was labeled “the forgiveness trailblazer” by Time magazine, Dr. Enright’s definition of self-forgiveness hasn’t changed since he developed it nearly 25 years ago:


“Self-forgiveness may be defined as a willingness to abandon self-resentment in the face of one’s own acknowledged objective wrong, while fostering compassion, generosity, and love toward oneself.”
Dr. Robert Enright


Citing Dr. Enright’s definition and subsequent research, professor Coetzer uses his study to emphasize that self-forgiveness must not be “a self-serving mechanism to simply avoid the pains associated with owning up to ones offenses.” Rather, he says, authentic self-forgiveness must include:

  • accepting full ownership of one’s transgressions;
  • accepting responsibility rather than casting it unto others;
  • acknowledging guilt or shame;
  • refusing to consider yourself as a victim; and,
  • attempting to repair the damage.

Professor Coetzer  also emphasizes that the bitterness towards ourselves due to offenses and failures can be just as damaging and debilitating as not forgiving others. That can lead, he says, to emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, distrust, negative self-esteem, social withdrawal and neurotic characteristics. Accordingly, he concludes, these actions should be dealt with by “canceling the debt.”

Self-forgiveness, as outlined in this study (and as detailed in Dr. Enright’s seven self-help forgiveness books), is a rational decision affirming your intention to treat yourself as a valuable person. This implies, among other things, that you are no longer vindictive toward yourself and you are no longer going to try to punish yourself for failures of the past. On the contrary, you will consider yourself worthy.


Learn more about Self-Forgiveness from Dr. Robert Enright:

Beirut Explosion Levels Forgiveness Structure

Beirut, Lebanon – A massive explosion in Beirut’s port on Tuesday killed at least 135 people, injured more than 5,000, and displaced some 300,000 others from their homes. At least 100 people remain missing following the explosion that damaged more than 50% of the city. Debris from damaged buildings litters the streets of Beirut following the Tuesday explosion that has been called “one of the world’s largest non-nuclear detonations.” Beirut is home to 2 million people. (Ramy Taleb photo)

According to the Lebanese government, the source of the explosion was 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, an explosive chemical often used as fertilizer and sometimes in bombs, which had been stored in a port warehouse after being confiscated from an abandoned Russian-owned ship in 2014. Unconfirmed reports also indicate that the warehouses were storing more than 200 surface-to-air missiles.

Once known for its dynamic food, music and culture, Lebanon is now in the midst of an economic crisis with rolling blackouts, a shortage of food, rising COVID-19 rates, and a monthly inflation rate of 56%. (Ramy Taleb photo)

The blast destroyed or damaged most structures over an area of about 160 acres (larger than the entire Disneyland Park in Anaheim, CA) including a building that served as a headquarters and operations base for Forgiveness Education projects in Lebanon. The Foundation for Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Lebanon (FFRL), a Beirut non-profit organization, was using the building as the center for its “Play for Peace” program.

Play for Peace is part of FFRL’s Forgiveness and Peace Curriculum that is designed to build bridges between participants from diverse backgrounds–Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian, Muslim, Christian and others–through football (better known elsewhere as soccer, the world’s most popular sport). The program operates in partnership with Al Shabab Al Arabi Club Beirut, a 40-year-old Lebanese football club. Watch a 3:36 Play for Peace video. 

“Yesterday we were in Bourj Hammoud checking on our Play for Peace families who live there,” says Ramy Taleb, founder and director of FFRL. “Most of their houses are gone or broken, just like our building.  These families are now in desperate need of support for medical and general humanitarian assistance.

Bourj Hammoud is a municipality about a kilometer east of Beirut’s port area (where the explosion occurred) and one of the most densely populated districts in the Middle East that includes large numbers of refugees.  According to Mercy Corps (a global team of humanitarians working in Beirut), refugees now account for about 30% of Lebanon’s population.

“Today we went back to Bourj Hammoud with our youth group from Saida (a city in southern Lebanon also known as Sidon). We listened, we wept, we began to clean up so families can somehow rebuild,” Taleb said. “Many of these families were in need of assistance even before the explosion. Lebanon has always been a country of great resilience, but when is enough, enough?”

Ramy and Roula Taleb operate the Foundation for Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Lebanon. With their two children, the couple live south of Lebanon’s capital of Beirut.

Taleb’s frustration reflects the complexity of the situation in Beirut. While searchers are still pulling bodies from the rubble, the explosion destroyed the country’s main grain silos, spilling and contaminating 15,000 tons of their contents. That, together with the COVID-19 pandemic, is pushing Lebanon toward a major food shortage.

“We desperately need help,” Taleb says. “Our families need help. Our children need help. We always appreciate any support that we can get and now is when we need it most just to survive.”


Please support the people in Lebanon who survived the horrific explosion. Watch a 56-second video of the destruction in Bourj Hammoud as described by Ramy Taleb then click the picture above to let those in Lebanon know they are in your heart.


Learn More:

Photos and Media Coverage of the Beirut Explosion:

Tribute to a Freedom Fighter – Zindzi Mandela

 South African Broadcasting Centre, Johannesburg, SA, – Zindziswa Mandela, an internationally-known South African freedom fighter, speaker, writer and diplomat who made forgiveness a hallmark of her life, passed away on July 13 after being diagnosed with COVID-19 in a Johannesburg hospital. She was 59-years-old.

“Zindzi” to all who knew her, was the youngest daughter of global peace and forgiveness icons Nelson Mandela  and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. She had served as her country’s first Ambassador to Denmark  (2015-2020) and had recently been named Ambassador to Liberia. Also known as Zindzi Mandela-Hlongwane (her first husband was Zwelibanzi Hlongwane), she is survived by her four children and her second husband Molapo Motlhajwa.

Born two days before Christmas in 1960, Zindzi was 18 months old when her father was arrested and charged with sabotage and treason. For 20 years, he had directed peaceful, nonviolent acts of defiance against the South African government and its racist policies.  Zindzi was only 3 years old when Nelson was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison where he eventually spent 27 years–much of it at hard labor.

Zindzi Mandela was a freedom-fighting activist in her own right who also adopted her father’s vision of forgiveness and peace.

At age 12, Zindzi wrote to the United Nations, urging it to intervene to protect her mother (also an anti-apartheid activist) who was sent to prison for 12-15 months at a time, mostly in solitary confinement and often tortured. In 1976, Zindzi accompanied Winnie when she was banished by the apartheid government to Brandfort, the site of a former concentration camp built by the British during the Second Boer War.

Zindzi and her mother were unceremoniously dumped at house 802 in Brandfort which had no running water, no electricity, no floors and no ceilings. Neither of them could speak the local Sotho language. A few years later the house was firebombed.

Zindzi rose to international prominence in 1985 when the white minority government offered to release Nelson Mandela from prison if he denounced the violence perpetrated by his movement, the African National Congress, against apartheid–the brutal system of racial discrimination that was being enforced in South Africa. Zindzi was the one who read her father’s letter rejecting the offer at a packed Soweto football stadium that was broadcast around the world.

Five years later, Nelson was released from prison and famously decided to forgive his captors and oppressors while moving forward in the spirit of reconciliation, in order to achieve a “rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”

Zindzi with her father Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first Black president.

Largely through his own negotiations, Zindi’s father persuaded white South Africans to share power with the black majority–an almost unbelievable transformation of the apartheid state into a colorblind democracy that soon after elected him to be its first Black president. He is often called “the father of South Africa” and in 1993 he received a Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1994, Nelson published his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, much of which he had secretly written while in prison. The book inspired the 2013 movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedomthat tells the complicated and not always uplifting story of the man who went from prisoner to president. Multi-disciplinary African artist Lindiwe Matshikiza portrayed the adult Zindzi in the movie while African child-actress Refilwe Charles played a younger Zindzi. Watch the 2 min. 31 sec. trailer.

After viewing the movie, Zindzi said it “reasonably portrayed” her father’s shift from embracing violence to his post-prison insistence on forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. At the same time, she added, that shift created a good deal of friction between the two before she, too, embraced “the forgiving life.”  

Another popular movie about the Mandela family was Invictus, a 2009 biographical sports drama directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman (as Nelson Mandela), Matt Damon (the country’s rugby team captain) and Bonnie Henna (the South African television personality who played Zindzi). The story is based on the John Carlin book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation about the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

The tagline for the movie Invictus was: “His people needed a leader. He gave them a champion.” The movie received positive critical reviews and earned Academy Award nominations for Freeman (Best Actor) and Damon (Best Supporting Actor) at that year’s Oscars. According to TSFX, an Australian educational resource center, Invictus “demonstrates the power forgiveness has to not only unite conflicting teams but to reconcile citizens of nations as well.”

Throughout her adult life, Zindzi had embarked on various humanitarian activities as well as participated in local politics while embracing and reinforcing the legacy her father lived. When Nelson Mandela died in 2013, Zindzi spoke at his funeral saying that she and her father repeatedly talked about how they wanted the world to embrace one thing–FORGIVENESS.

Along with her many other accomplishments, Zindzi is the author of Black As I Am, a collection of poems she wrote when she was 16, and a childrens’ book Grandad Mandela authored jointly by Zindzi and Nelson Mandela’s great-grandchildren. That books is included in the Bookroo: Children’s Book Experts list of the best 38 books about forgiveness.

Due to coronavirus lockdown requirements, only a handful of people were able to attend Zindzi’s funeral. South Africa, with 58 million people, is the African country hardest hit by coronavirus with more than 320,000 diagnosed cases and more than 4,600 deaths. Government projections estimate that the death toll could rise to 50,000 by the end of the year.


Learn more about forgiveness as practiced by Zindzi and Nelson Mandela:

“FORGIVENESS IS A HEALING PROCESS. . .”

This quote is from The Gate of Light, a 2018-book by Lars Muhl, a Danish writer, mystic and musician. After years as a successful singer-songwriter in Denmark, Muhl began his self-studies of comparative religion, esoteric knowledge and philosophy and since 1988 he has focused on Aramaic, Christian and Jewish mysticism. He has written numerous books on these subjects and hosts workshops and lectures in Denmark and around the world.

Both the quote and the book were referred to the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) by Ivy Huang, a writer and mystic in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Ivy is a long-time financial supporter of the IFI who donates through a PayPal monthly recurring payment. Ivy says she discovered the IFI while researching the etymology (origin) of the word ‘immunity’ which roughly translates to ‘forgiveness of disease’ in Sanskrit.

“Forgiveness–the release of unresolved memories and emotions–can lead to not only greater psychological well-being, but also physical benefits,” Ivy says. “On a grander scale, I believe that forgiveness can grant us collective peace.”

Like Ivy, you too can help make a difference in the world by supporting the IFI’s Forgiveness  Education Programs for grade school students now operating in the U.S. and more than 30 countries around the world. Click the DONATE button to take a stand and SEND YOUR GIFT OF LOVE.

A School Anti-Bullying Program That Works!

No one argues about the need to stop bullying in schools. Bullying’s adverse effects not only impact the child when the bullying occurs but typically impact a victim’s health and emotions throughout the person’s lifetime (see “The Impact of Bullying” box below).

That reality has become a growing topic of concern in the academic community with bullying being cited as a universal problem in countries around the world. Over the past several decades, literally hundreds of school-wide anti-bullying programs have been developed and implemented. That raises the question, of course: Do school antibullying programs work?

The typical answer from those professionals studying that question is: “Not so well. We need to do better.”

And sure enough, that’s the inauspicious conclusion of a just-completed systematic review of  scientific publications covering the past 20 years. According to the study, Whole‐school Antibullying Interventions,  a full 50% of all the school programs reviewed  failed to “show significant effects on bullying prevalence” or  found negative results including an actual increase in bullying.

The study, published in April by the peer-reviewed journal Psychology in the Schools,  was conducted by university researchers in Brazil. While their study found that anti-bullying interventions resulted in increased reporting of bullying occurrences (with resultant increases in the use of punitive discipline), at the same time many of the programs failed totally–primarily due to inadequate time for training and implementation as well as lack of support.

Dr. Jichan J. Kim

Those findings come as no surprise to many psychologists. In fact, the report actually documented and reinforced what educational psychologist Dr. Jichan J. Kim first reported more than four years ago in his University of Wisconsin-Madison doctoral thesis: The Effectiveness of a Forgiveness Intervention Program on Reducing Adolescents’ Bullying Behavior.

Dr. Kim’s thesis includes a 29-page literature review in which he documents the unusually large number of research projects demonstrating the ineffectiveness of most school-wide anti-bullying programs including:

  • A 2007 review of 45 separate school-based anti-bullying studies involving 34,713 individuals that concluded “the positive changes were too small to be supported as significant;”
  • Another 2007 examination of 16 major anti-bullying programs across 11 different countries that showed mixed results with less than half the programs demonstrating desirable effects;
  • A 2008 evaluation of 16 studies across 6 nations involving a total of 15,386 K-12 students that showed the interventions tended to influence students’ attitudes and self-perceptions but not their bullying behavior; and,
  • Studies completed in 2012, 2014, and 2015 (one involving 560 school psychologists and school counselors) supporting the lack of evidence-based interventions.

Despite all the negative assessments he uncovered, Dr. Kim believes there is one approach that might be effective–helping adolescents exhibiting bullying behavior to forgive those who have offended them in the past. That approach, Dr. Kim says, is still not widely used and is, therefore, still not a compelling component of the scientific literature although he is confident it “can be beneficial.” 

Dr. Robert D. Enright

That intervention approach, in fact, is  the one advocated in The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program developed more than 8 years ago by Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute. The program not only incorporates lessons-learned from Dr. Enright’s more than 40-years of forgiveness research, it also integrates the scientifically-quantifiable forgiveness process he developed and , perhaps most importantly, it focuses directly on the one doing the bullying.

“Those who bully usually have pent-up anger and as a result they displace their own wounds onto others,” Dr. Enright explains. “Our program is meant to take the anger out of the heart of those who bully so that they no longer bully others.”

Dr. Enright says his research has taught him to take an approach 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.”


How to Beat the Coronavirus Lockdown Blues

World-renowned psychologist Dr. Robert Enright has teamed up with acclaimed songwriter-performer Sam Ness to produce a “therapeutic music-discussion video” for adults who are struggling with the anguish created by the COVID-19 lockdown.

Called “Forgiveness,” the hour-long video incorporates original compositions written and performed by Ness with related summary discussion bites on the virtue of forgiveness to create what Dr. Enright calls  “forgiveness therapy through music” or simply “music of the heart.” The video production is available at no cost on YouTube.

“Every person in the world is dealing with some form of pain or toxic anger from being hurt in the past,” Dr. Enright said in explaining why he and Ness produced the video. “The COVID-19 lockdown has a tendency to amplify those internal feelings and cause additional stress so this is the ideal time to practice forgiveness by being good to yourself (self-forgiveness) and good to others.”

The Forgiveness video includes a rolling discussion between Ness and Dr. Enright, a University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor and co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute. The exchanges summarize the four phases of the patented Enright Forgiveness Process Model that has become the standard for forgiveness and forgiveness therapy around the world.

“Sam has added high artistry to the language of forgiveness with his voice and his guitar,” Dr. Enright says. “Instead of reading a book to learn how to forgive, Sam’s songs provide forgiveness therapy through music.

With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down most television and movie productions for now, would-be viewers of those non-existent productions are looking for something new to watch as they shelter in place, according to Dr. Enright. “This video is just what they need—emotional self-improvement.”

In addition to the song “Forgiveness,” Ness performs two other original compositions on the video: “Storm Inside of Me” (a ballad about self-forgiveness) and “I’ve Come for Grace” (a song he wrote about life’s trials while he was undertaking a 96-mile winter hike through the Highlands of Scotland).

The 22-year-old Ness, a native of Sauk City, WI, began his song-writing career at age 15 and performed in show choir musicals throughout his high school years earning him scores of awards including two Wisconsin Tommy Awards for Outstanding Lead Performer and more than a handful of  Outstanding Male Soloist Awards.

After high school, Ness passed up scholarship offers to study theater from half-a-dozen prestigious universities and music conservatories. Instead, he hitch-hiked and hopped busses for nearly a year across Scotland, England, France, Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland while learning the fine art of “busking” (street performing).


The complete video production is available at no cost on


The following year, Ness busked across much of New Zealand before signing on for a 23-show tour across Thailand and Cambodia. Since returning to Wisconsin, he finished writing and recording an album, “Lullabies & Faerie Tales.” He was nominated for several Madison-area music awards and won the Male Vocalist of the Year Award in 2019. Most of his music is available on his website: www.samness.us.

Ness will be traveling throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota this summer (COVID-19 permitting) as part of a solo musical tour featuring performances in 19 separate venues including resorts, lounges, wineries and brewpubs. View the Schedule.

That tour has been arranged and scheduled by Jonathan Little Productions, a talent agency owned by Jonathan Little—a life-long radio broadcaster and promoter of local artists. Little also helped arrange and produce the “Forgiveness” video. He received the Madison Area Music Awards Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 and was inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 2008.

“As this new video demonstrates, forgiveness is a paradox in which people are kind to those who were unkind to them, according to Dr. Enright. “That’s something we can all benefit from in this time of coronavirus lockdown. Forgiveness has the power you can use to free yourself from past hurts so you can live a better life.”

For Additional Information:

 

First Ebola, Now Coronavirus: Liberia Suffers Again

Monrovia, Liberia – More than 4,800 people died from Ebola between 2014 and 2016 in Liberia—the West African country hardest hit by the outbreak. Now, just four years later, the country of 4.8 million people is facing a new threat — the deadly uncertainty of the coronavirus epidemic.

Government officials in the capital city of Monrovia, where confirmed cases are just starting to ramp up, are optimistically reporting that Liberia can draw on its Ebola experience to overcome COVID-19. Doctors in the trenches, however, still fear the country is woefully under-equipped for a large outbreak.

Already decimated by back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003, Liberia’s economy is still reeling from the impact of Ebola. About half of all Liberian’s live on less than two US dollars a day (1.75 euros), according to the World Bank. The healthcare system is generally acknowledged as underfunded, fragile, and lacking the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed for healthcare workers.

Liberian authorities are acutely aware of the risk. Coronavirus cases remain relatively low for now, but they are rising rapidly. In neighboring Guinea—which was also hit by Ebola, and which suffers many of the same problems—infections have skyrocketed.

Perhaps most troubling, nearly one-third (28%) of all the confirmed coronavirus cases in Liberia have been among health workers themselves, according to the National Public Health Institution of Liberia (NPHIL). The organization’s director has said that fighting the virus outbreak will be difficult because the entire country has only one ventilator to help critical COVID-19 patients breathe.

On April 11, Liberian President George Weah declared a 14-day State of Emergency and locked down Monrovia, the country’s largest city with 1.5 million residents. Liberia’s legislature recently extended the country’s State of Emergency to 60 days. Despite those stay-at-home orders, confusion has reigned as false information about the coronavirus has been disseminated causing panic in some of the city’s overcrowded districts and frequent clashes with security officials.

A police officer tries to clear the streets of a market on the first day of lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Monrovia.

Doctors Without Borders – Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are racing to respond to the coronavirus pandemic not only in Liberia but also in the more than 70 countries where they run existing programs.  Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Liberia have now risen past 100 while the number throughout Africa now exceeds 30,000.

Worldwide, the response to COVID-19 has relied heavily on large-scale lockdowns of populations and physical distancing measures, with the aim of reducing transmission and preventing health systems from becoming overwhelmed. But for people dependent on daily activities for their very survival, such as day laborers and those living in Monrovia’s overcrowded settings, self-isolation and lockdowns are not realistic.

“Most recommendations for protecting  people against the virus and slowing down its spread simply cannot be implemented here,” says Cristian Reynders, a field coordinator for MSF operations. “How can you ask homeless people to stay at home to avoid infection? Those living in tents in camps don’t have homes.”

Soap is a luxury in Liberia and usually is not found at public handwashing stations like this one.

That means, of course, that the COVID-19 playbook that wealthy nations have come to know—stay home as much as possible, keep a six foot distance from others, wash hands often—will be nearly impossible to follow in much of the developing world. Even hand-washing is problematic in Liberia where 35% of residents do not have regular access to soap and water, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Public hand washing stations in Liberia—which were effective in the fight against Ebola—are often as simple as two buckets—one filled with chlorinated water, and one to catch the wastewater. Sanitation, however, is as problematic in big cities as it is in rural areas. In Monrovia, less than half the city’s 1.5 million people have access to working toilets, according to Liberia’s Water and Sewer Corporation.


The fight against coronavirus will not be won until every country in the world can control the disease. But not every country has the same ability
to protect people.

Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr,
Director of ICA, a global health organization at Columbia University in New York City


Monrovia residents who display coronavirus systems are currently taken to a military hospital where they—along with other “high risk contacts” are tested and, if necessary, treated, according to the Acting Director General of the NPHIL. According to the organization, Liberia has only one lab in the entire country that is available for COVID-19 testing.

Bishop Kortu Brown with students prior to the lockdown that closed all Liberia’s schools.

Because the lockdown included the closing of schools across Liberia on March 16, Forgiveness Education classes and after-school forgiveness programs have also been disrupted. Education providers, however, including those working with the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI), are racing to launch remote learning options as students once again face the prospect of staying out of school for months.

“We are now using an extension-outreach approach so children can continue to learn about forgiveness,” says Bishop Kortu Brown, Chairman/CEO of Church Aid and national coordinator of the Liberia Forgiveness Education Program that was established by IFI-co-founder Dr. Robert Enright more than 8 years ago. “Instead of teaching students in a classroom, our teachers prepare notes that are distributed to children at home. Parents then help deliver the message and assess the performance of their children.”

Forgiveness Workshops like this one in December have been suspended because of the lockdown in Liberia. Bishop Brown (center in green-white shirt) led the session.

Bishop Brown, who is also president of both the Liberia Council of Churches (LLC) and the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL), said those organizations are spearheading “a massive coronavirus awareness campaign,” helping train COVID-19 contact tracers, and distributing food and hygiene materials.

“Meanwhile,” Bishop Brown added,  “we call on all churches and Liberians, in general, to continue to observe the preventive measures and to continue to pray for the safety and wellbeing of the country.

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CORONAVIRUS ANXIETY LEVELS ARE SOARING

As more cities, states, and entire countries go into full lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, psychologists and pandemic experts are warning that we may soon have yet another health crisis on our hands: deteriorating mental health.

“People really need to prepare for self-isolation,” says Dr. Steven Taylor, author of The Psychology of Pandemics and a clinical psychologist at the University of British Columbia. “It’s not enough to stock up on toilet paper. They need to think about what they are going to do to combat boredom.”

Fortunately, the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) has a solution that will not only provide a diversion from shelter-in-place rules but help you, your children, and all your family members increase your emotional, physical, and mental health despite these stressful times.

LOCKDOWN LESSONS: LEARN TO FORGIVE AT HALF PRICE!

For a limited time only, the IFI is offering its individual and family Curriculum Guides at the never-before-offered price of HALF OFF – a 50% DISCOUNT from the regular price. We’ve reduced the price of all our Curriculum Guides to $15.00 from the regular price of $30.00. That’s the equivalent of purchasing one Guide and getting a second Guide for FREE. 

Mix or match, you can select from our 14 grade-level Curriculum Guides                                (pre-kindergarten through 12th grade), our two Family-Learning Programs, and our        End-of-Life Manual. These are the same tested and proven study guides now being used by parents, teachers, and homeschooling families in the US and more than 30 countries around the world.

Incorporating the latest social-emotional learning principles, these guides teach both children and adults about the five moral qualities most important to forgiving another person–inherent worth, moral love, kindness, respect and generosity. Each guide encompasses 8 or more lessons (one-half to one hour per week for each lesson) and includes Dr. Seuss and other children’s book summaries that help reinforce moral principles.

THE PERFECT SHELTER-AT-HOME FAMILY PROJECT

Through repetitious, peer-reviewed testing, IFI researcher Dr. Robert Enright has scientifically demonstrated that learning how to forgive through Forgiveness Education Curriculum Guides can:

  • IMPROVE EMOTIONAL HEALTH – by reducing anger, anxiety, depression, and/or PTSD symptoms.
  • ENHANCE PHYSICAL WELL-BEING – by lowering blood pressure, reducing stress hormones, and enhancing one’s immune system.
  • IMPROVE PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS – with family, friends, and community.
  • BOOST SELF-ESTEEM AND SELF-IMAGE – while increasing hopefulness about the future.

LIMITED TIME OFFER – ORDER NOW 

We’ve slashed the price of all the IFI  
Forgiveness Education Curriculum Guides by 50% for a limited time only.
Instead of the regular price of $30.00, Forgiveness Guides are now $15.00.
.
This offer expires on May 15, 2020.