Podcast Series Focuses on How to Forgive

Tim Markle, a contributing writer and speaker for the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI), has teamed up with Stoughton Health to create a series of informational podcasts on the basics of forgiveness. 

Markle is a multi-talented and versatile professional who says his two major aspirations in life are helping individuals with developmental disabilities and educating people about the benefits of forgiveness. The podcasts are part of the hospital’s Stoughton Health Talk series hosted by Melanie Cole. The ever-expanding program lineup featuring Markle includes:

  • Forgiving Yourself ( 10 min. 42 sec.) – “You’d be surprised at the number of people who come to my course on forgiveness and realize that the person that they have the most resentment against is themselves.” Markle says. “This is something so many people are struggling with.”
  • Swimming in Unforgiveness (17 min. 58 sec.) – Markle discusses resentment, anger, and forgiveness, and how the world encourages us to deal with it as opposed to how we should deal with it.
  • Preparing to Forgive (9 min. 20 sec.) – “One of the core parts of forgiving is that there has been a hurt, somebody has violated our concept of right or wrong. They have hurt us. There is an actual injury that has been done” according to Markle. “One of the steps in forgiving is admitting that and acknowledging it. And then, looking at how has that hurt changed my life?”
  • Doing the Work of Forgiveness (10 min. 54 sec.) – “How do you actually go about forgiving someone?” Markle asks. “Using Dr. Enright’s forgiveness model, we talk about the path you can take and actions you make to really forgive.”
  • The Art of Forgiveness (11 min. 15 sec.)  Research has shown that by forgiving someone who has deeply hurt you, you gain positive health benefits by letting go of resentment and the urge to seek revenge. In this podcast, Markle describes how forgiveness creates a higher quality of life, a healthier body, and a more positive attitude.

The Stoughton Health Talk Podcast series reflects the growing popularity of podcasts. According to Edison Research and Triton Digital, more than 104 million Americans listen to podcasts on at least a monthly basis. Stoughton Health is one of more than 100 leading hospitals and health systems using the DoctorPodcasting production system. The facility is located about 20 miles east of Madison, WI.

For the past 11 years, Markle has been an Outreach Specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Waisman Center. His current roles there include: 1) Director of the Southern Regional Center for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs; 2) Family Discipline Coordinator for the WIsconsin Maternal and Child Health Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities–the WI LEND Program; and, 3) Senior Outreach Specialist with the Youth Health Transition Initiative and Genetic Systems Integration Hub.

In those various capacities, Markle works to improve the lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities and neurodegenerative diseases, some of life’s most challenging conditions. He also develops curriculum for a variety of audiences, provides training for both children and adults, and is a prolific speaker.

Markle has a Masters in Counseling (MC) from John Carroll University  (a Jesuit Catholic University in Cleveland, OH) and a Master of Arts in Christian Studies (MACS) from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School north of Chicago. He also studied at Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, OH), where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy.

As the capstone project for his MACS degree, Markle developed a six-week course that focused on how to forgive and why forgiveness is indispensable for dealing with anger, depression, anxiety and trauma.  The course is based on the ground-breaking work of Dr. Robert Enright, co-founder of the IFI. Stoughton Health, along with two local churches, has thus far hosted five sessions of the course. Markle is also the founder of a forgiveness education organization called Forgiveness Factor.


Learn more:

2020: A Record-Setting Year for Dr. Robert Enright and the International Forgiveness Institute

While “perseverance” and “grit” may  be apt descriptors for what turned out to be perhaps the most peculiar year in modern history, forgiveness researcher Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, has a different take on 2020: “Without question, it turned out to be our most productive year since I began studying forgiveness three decades ago.”

Scientific Research Studies:

To illustrate his point, the man Time magazine called “the forgiveness trailblazer,” rattled off the 11 scientifically-based manuscripts he and various team members completed and had published or accepted for publication during the year. Covering a wide range of cultural diversity, and encompassing studies in seven countries with both adult and child participants, those studies included (click title to read more):

Forgiveness Presentations:

In addition to his first love (scientific research on forgiveness, as evidenced by the list above), Dr. Enright developed and delivered targeted forgiveness presentations in the U.S. and around the world during 2020. His more noteworthy audiences included:

  • Staff and imprisoned people at Her Majesty’s Prison – Edinburgh, Scotland.
  • Doctors and medical specialists attending an online conference on polyclonal immunoglobulins in patients with multiple myeloma – Bratislava, Slovakia. 
  • Pediatricians, oncologists, and cancer treatment specialists attending the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Educational Conference – Madison, Wisconsin.
  • Faculty and research associates at the Pan-European University – Bratislava, Slovakia.
  • School administrators and teachers – Belfast, Northern Ireland.
  • Students and faculty of Liberty University – Lynchburg, Virginia.
  • Rotary Club members – Richmond, California.

Media Interviews, Podcasts, Video Productions:

As a highly-sought-after media personality, Dr. Enright’s 2020 media interviews included:

  • A 67-minute podcast hosted and broadcast by Dr. Alexandra Miller, a popular family relations psychologist, on Rehabilitating those who are ‘Forgotten’: People in Prison. The podcast was downloaded by individuals in 225 US cities and 22 foreign countries in just the first three weeks after it was recorded in July.
  • A multi-segment forgiveness video produced for Revolution Ventures, Bangalore, India.
  • A “therapeutic music-discussion video” with song-writer/performer Sam Ness that was produced for those struggling with anguish caused by COVID-19. The therapeutic video, called “How to Beat the Coronavirus Lockdown Blues,” was distributed worldwide through venues including YouTube.
  • A video interview at the International School of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel.
  • Interview for DER SPIEGEL/Spiegel online, a German weekly news magazine that has the largest circulation of any such publication in Europe.
  • Interview with author Aaron Hutchins for Maclean’sa current affairs magazine with 2.4 million readers based in Toronto,  Canada.
  • Interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung GmbH, Germany’s largest daily newspaper.
  • Podcast interview with Dr. Peter Miller, Sport and the Growing Good: 8 Keys to Forgiveness.
  • Live interview, The Drew Mariani Show (national), Relevant Radio.
  • Interview with Dr. Max Bonilla, International Director, Expanded Reason webinar, Madrid, Spain.

BLOGS AND MORE:

The activity doesn’t stop there. During 2020, Dr. Enright:

  • Authored 12 new forgiveness-related blogs for Psychology Today and 12 more for “Our Forgiveness Blog” on the International Forgiveness Institute website.
  • Provided written responses on the IFI website for 208 “Ask Dr. Forgiveness” questions.
  • Together with Jacqueline Song, IFI researcher and creator of the IFI’s Driver Safety Campaign, distributed more than 5,000 “Drive for Others’ Lives” bumper stickers requested by website visitors and funded by a grant from the Green Bay Packers Foundation.

Peace Education Goal: Emotional Healing for Individuals, Families, Communities

During his 30 years of studying the moral virtue of forgiveness, Dr. Robert Enright has become convinced that forgiveness is the missing piece to the peace puzzle. While recording major milestones in pursuit of that peace premise throughout his career, Dr. Enright is now complementing those extensive efforts by pursuing “peace education” initiatives designed to inform, inspire, and engage educators who are working to enhance peace efforts around the world. 

Peace education hopes to create in the human consciousness a commitment to the ways of peace. Just as a doctor learns in medical school how to minister to the sick, students in peace education classes learn how to solve problems caused by violence. Peace educators use teaching skills to stop violence by developing a peace consciousness that can provide the basis for a just and sustainable future.

As “the forgiveness trailblazer” (TIME magazine), Dr. Enright’s most recent peace education efforts include these three just-published studies:

An addition to peace education: Toward the process of a just and merciful community in schools

Published in the Aug. 6, 2020 issue of Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology®, this qualitative research study with teachers in the US and China demonstrated that justice and mercy need to be partners in school disciplinary policy:

 “Peace education may be more complete if both justice and mercy are part of the disciplinary process of schools. Justice by itself, as a traditional method of discipline in schools, will not necessarily address the resentments that can build up in both those offended and those offending. Mercy offers a second chance and the recognition and acknowledgment that many carry emotional pain which must be addressed for thriving in the school setting.”

Authors: Lai Y. Wong, Linghua Jiang, Jichan J. Kim, Baoyu Zhang, Mary Jacqueline Song, Robert D. Enright.


A philosophical and psychological examination of “justice first”: Toward the need for both justice and forgiveness when conflict arises

Published in the April 16, 2020 issue of Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology®, this study examined justice and forgiveness between communities in conflict:

“The idea of ‘justice first’ between communities in conflict may be insufficient and therefore is depriving people within communities of emotional healing through the exercise of forgiving. The concern here is with the build-up of resentment or unhealthy anger as justice is not realized, especially over a long period of time. Yet, this resentment, and the psychologically-negative effects of this resentment, can be substantially reduced through the practice of forgiving, which has empirically-verified evidence for reducing such anger and significantly improving mental health. Learning to forgive and to put forgiveness into practice can start, not across communities, but instead within one’s own family and community for emotional healing.”

Authors: Mary Jacqueline Song, Robert D. Enright.


Effectiveness of forgiveness education with adolescents in reducing anger and ethnic prejudice in Iran

Published in the August 24, 2020 issue of Journal of Educational Psychology, this study (along with other similar studies) demonstrates that forgiveness education can be an important means of reducing anger and ethnic prejudice in Eastern and Western cultures.

“This research investigated the effectiveness of a forgiveness education program on reducing anger and ethnic prejudice and improving forgiveness in Iranian adolescents. Participants included 224 male and female students (Persian, Azeri, and Kurdish) in 8th grade who were selected from 3 provinces: Tehran, Eastern Azerbaijan, and Kurdistan. The results indicated that the experimental group was higher in forgiveness and lower in ethnic prejudice, state anger, trait anger, and anger expression compared with the control group. This difference was statistically significant in the follow-up phase.”

Authors: Bagher Ghobari Bonab, Mohamad Khodayarifard, Ramin Hashemi Geshnigani, Behnaz Khoei, Fatimah Nosrati, Mary Jacqueline Song, Robert D. Enright.

NOTE: Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology® is a publication of the American Psychological Association (APA) Division 48–Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Violence: Peace Psychology Division.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Fred McFeely Rogers, also known as Mister Rogers, was an American icon to generations of children–television host, producer, children’s television presenter, actor, puppeteer, singer, composer, author, educator, environmentalist, and Presbyterian minister. Most famously, he was the creator and host of the preschool television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which aired nationally for more than 30 years (1968 – 2001) on public television.

The series was aimed primarily at preschool children ages 2 to 5 but was loved by television viewers of all ages because of the messages of love and wisdom liberally administered by its host. Fred Rogers believed and conveyed his conviction that every child has importance, every child has potential, and every child is deserving of love.

Without question, Fred Rogers (almost always clad in the signature zip-front red cardigan sweater knitted for him by his mother) was a champion of forgiveness. Here is some of what he said and believed:

“Forgive while you can. Forgiveness is so powerful but do it while you can because life is extremely short to just stay angry at someone.”
—–
Like all of life’s important coping skills, the ability to forgive and the capacity to let go of resentments most likely take root very early in our lives.”
—–
“The only thing evil can’t stand is forgiveness.”
—–
“Forgiveness is mandatory; reconciliation is optional.”

Fred Rogers  (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003)  pioneered the use of television to nurture and educate young children. His 30-year-long collaboration with child psychologist Margaret McFarland reinforced the strong universal values he delivered to untold millions of children who now make up much of the American public. His programs were critically acclaimed for focusing on children’s emotional and physical concerns, such as death, sibling rivalry, school enrollment, divorce, and compassion.

The values he integrated into all his activities included all of the five moral qualities most important to forgiving another person– inherent worth, moral love, kindness, respect and generosity.

“Love seems to be something that keeps filling up within us.
The more we give away, the more we have to give.”
—–
“There’s no person in the whole world just like you,
and I like you just the way you are.”
—–
“You are special. It’s you I like.”
—–
“Everyone longs to be loved. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.”

A shy, somewhat awkward, overweight, and sometimes bullied child growing up in the 1930s, Fred Rogers wasn’t comfortable at all with anger. Although he shied away from conflict, he also knew anger’s enormous power for good. Because of that, he wanted to help children to feel anger, to be willing to name it, to do something with it. Anger, he knew, when used well, can build entire neighborhoods of care. Interestingly, that’s the same sentiment that Dr. Robert Enright, forgiveness researcher and founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, incorporates into his Forgiveness Therapy interventions.

Fred Rogers graduated magna cum laude from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1962 with a Bachelor of Divinity and was ordained a minister of the United Presbyterian Church in 1963. He often commented that  his mission as an ordained minister, instead of being the pastor of a church, was to minister to children and their families through television. In carrying out that ministry, he left a legacy of love that reached millions of children and adults alike.


 “As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has—or ever will have—something inside that is unique to all time.”
Fred Rogers


Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood emphasized young children’s social and emotional needs, and unlike another very popular public television program, Sesame Street, did not focus on cognitive learning. Writer Kathy Merlock Jackson, author of two books about Fred Rogers, wrote,  “While both shows target the same preschool audience and prepare children for kindergarten, Sesame Street concentrates on school-readiness skills while Mister Rogers Neighborhood focuses on the child’s developing psyche and feelings and sense of moral and ethical reasoning.” 

President George W. Bush presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award to Fred Rogers July 9, 2002. Photo by Paul Morse, George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Mister Rogers died of stomach cancer in 2003 at age 74 leaving behind his wife of 50-years, Joanne, and two sons, James and John. For his body of work, he received virtually every major award in television and education including a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 1997 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the nation’s highest civilian award in 2002. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999. The Smithsonian Institute has a permanent Fred Rogers exhibit that includes one of the red cardigan sweaters he wore on his TV show.

An amazingly productive educator and entertainer, Fred Rogers also:

  1. Recorded more than 300 videos that are available on the Mr. Rogers Neighborhood YouTube Channel including 13 videos on anger and forgiveness;
  2. Authored some 150 books and publications including “It’s You I Like,”  and
    A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a timeless treasure full of his own instructions for living your best, kindest life;
  3. Wrote more than 300 songs including one of his favorites “You Are Special”  that he regularly performed; and,
  4. Created a non-profit production company, now called Fred Rogers Productions that carries on his legacy in memoriam.

Fred Rogers was known for his creativity, kindness, spirituality, and commitment to the well-being of children. He used his many diverse talents to inspire, nurture, and educate. As TIME magazine lamented, “It’s sad that we no longer have Rogers, who died in 2003—but how lucky we were to have him at all.”


Explore more:

A NEW STRATEGY FOR PEACE IN THE WORLD. . . THE ENRIGHT GROUP FORGIVENESS INVENTORY

A team of researchers led by Dr. Robert Enright has taken forgiveness from its traditional focus on individuals to a higher magnitude by concentrating on group forgiveness—an area of intervention that has dramatic implications for its ability to enhance peace efforts in the world.

Dr. Enright’s team, composed of 16 experienced researchers who collected data from 595 study participants in three different geographic and cultural settings of the world, developed and confirmed the veracity of a totally new measure of intergroup forgiveness—The Enright Group Forgiveness Inventory (EGFI). Additionally, the team created and piloted a unique group administration process that operationalized the EGFI in a structured way.

“Our concept of intergroup forgiveness for this study was rooted in what groups, as opposed to the individuals who compose them, have the capacity to do,” says Dr. Enright, a professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute. “The study supported the conclusion that this new measure had strong internal consistency, as well as convergent and discriminant validity.”

In other words, to paraphrase Dr. Enright’s synopsis of the EGFI, it works. That is the conclusion reached by Dr. Enright’s 16-member research team in their study report,  Measuring Intergroup Forgiveness: The Enright Group Forgiveness Inventory. The study was published earlier this year in Peace and Conflict Studies Journal (Vol. 27, No. 1), as the lead article for that issue of the journal.

To realistically test the measure, the team selected  groups of people within countries that have historical conflicts that remain salient today. One group of participants was recruited from Asia with subsamples from Mainland China and from Taiwan. Another group of participants was recruited from Slovenia that contained subsamples from two different political parties with a history of violence toward each other. A third group of participants was recruited from the United States with subsamples that included a group of White Caucasian participants and a group of African American participants.

The new Inventory has 56 items across seven subscales and each subscale has eight items. Those subscales measure a group’s motivation and values regarding forgiveness, peace, and friendliness toward the other group. Similar to the Enright Forgiveness Inventory (EFI)—developed in 1995 and now the worldwide measurement tool of choice for assessing one person’s forgiveness of another—the EGFI has five questions at the end of the scale that are intended to assess pseudo-group-forgiveness or false forgiveness.

For this study, the inventory was translated into Mandarin Chinese and Slovene by native speakers of each language. The Inventory was then administered and assessed with individual participants as well as with the designated groups of participants. That strategy allowed the project team to compare a group-based assessment of forgiveness with traditional self-report assessment of forgiveness.

That assessment was a crucial element of this latest study because the bulk of past research has simply extended measures of forgiveness between individuals to groups. In fact, Dr. Enright et al. produced a study in January 2015 (Journal of Peace Psychology) entitled “Examining Group Forgiveness: Conceptual and Empirical Issues” that  was one of the first to propose: 1) a benchmark definition of group forgiveness; and, 2) specific concepts for developing a group forgiveness measuring tool.

Incorporating that earlier work, the newly-developed EGFI scale of intergroup forgiveness is based on a definition of forgiveness between groups and is operationalized using group behaviors rather than individual cognition and emotion.

“Our findings suggest the EGFI is a reliable and valid measure of intergroup forgiveness,” the study group concludes in its final report. “This new measure can facilitate the work of peace advocates and researchers.” The study also indicates the Inventory could be used to:

  • Assess where and when to intervene with conflicting groups;
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of conflict resolution efforts;
  • Assess where groups have been unjust to one another and, therefore, where they could benefit from conflict reduction efforts;
  • Assess group forgiveness interventions;
  • Evaluate progress when groups go through interventions such as peace and reconciliation commissions;
  • Assess change in forgiveness from pre to post intervention; and,
  • Advance our understanding of effective interventions. 

Meet the Group Forgiveness Study Team:

  • Robert D. Enright, University of Wisconsin-Madison and International Forgiveness Institute
  • Julie Johnson, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Matthew Hirshberg, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • John Klatt, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Benjamin Boateng, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Preston Boggs, University of Wisconsin-Madison 
  • Chelsea Olson, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Peiying Wu, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Baoyu Zhang, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Fu Na, Beijing Normal University – Beijing, China
  • Mei Ling Shu, Beijing Normal University – Beijing China
  • Tomaz Erzar, University of Ljubljana – Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Tina Huang, National Chung-Cheng University – Taiwan (officially the Republic of China)
  • Tung-En Hsiao, National Chung-Cheng University – Taiwan
  • Chansoon (Danielle) Lee, National Council of State Boards of Nursing – Chicago, IL
  • Jacqueline Song, International Forgiveness Institute, Madison, WI (native of the Philippines)

The Handbook of Forgiveness Covers All the Bases

A recently-published compilation of forgiveness research being called “the authoritative resource on the field of forgiveness” includes an appraisal of Dr. Robert Enright’s Process Model of Forgiveness—the four-phase procedure now being used and recommended worldwide as “the pathway to forgiveness.”

The Handbook of Forgiveness, Second Edition, consolidates research from a wide range of disciplines and offers an in-depth review of the science of forgiveness. The 394-page book includes 28 pages of references to forgiveness research evaluations and a 16-page index listing virtually every imaginable topic on the subject. It is edited by well-known forgiveness researchers Everett L. Worthington, Jr. (Virginia Commonwealth University), and Nathaniel G. Wade (Iowa State University).

Chapter 25 of the 32-chapter anthology is entitled “A Review of the Empirical Research Using Enright’s Process Model of Interpersonal Forgiveness.” It is authored by Dr. Suzanne Freedman (University of Northern Iowa) and Dr. Enright who have a long history of collaborative forgiveness exploration. The review chapter describes the Process Model, provides a summary of the empirical (verifiable) findings, and details the latest application of the model: forgiveness education with children and adolescents.

The Process Model of Forgiveness was first outlined by Dr. Enright and the Human Development Study Group in 1991. It was first empirically tested in 1993 by Dr. Enright and fellow-researcher Msgr. John Hebl.  Through randomized experimental and control group clinical trials, the Process Model has shown to improve emotional well-being in multiple settings across diverse cultures around the globe.


“For information ranging from the biological roots to the psychological fruits of forgiveness,this is, hands down, the single-stop, go-to source.”
David Myers, Hope College (Holland, Michigan)
Co-author, Psychology (12th Edition) and Social Psychology (13th Edition)


The Handbook of Forgiveness also includes a chapter written by John Klatt (University of Wisconsin-Madison) and two researchers from the Federal University of Paraíba (in the city of João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil)–Eloá Losano de Abreu and Julio Rique. That chapter is an 11-page review of forgiveness philosophies, concepts and practices in South America and Latin America. Dr. Enright has co-authored numerous multi-national forgiveness research projects with both Klatt and Rique. 

For additional information:

The Value of Forgiveness

2020 brought plenty to be angry about. There’s been a global pandemic, a national reckoning with racial injustice, an economic crisis and a presidential election – all of it debated each day on social media. But University of Northern Iowa (UNI) education professor Suzanne Freedman, who has specialized in forgiveness research over nearly three decades, says now may be a good time to remember the benefits of forgiveness, empathy and understanding.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Offsetting his dreary assessment of this unusual year with a final note of optimism, writer Steve Schmadeke used the paragraph above to set the stage for an informative article about the benefits of forgiveness that was printed last week in the online periodical INSIDE UNI. The article featured the forgiveness philosophy of Dr. Suzanne Freedman, a UNI professor of human development who is also a former graduate student and long-time research associate of Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute. Here are some of Dr. Freedman’s pronouncements as quoted in the UNI article:

What are the benefits of forgiveness?

I am often asked, “Why should I forgive?” and my response is always the same: “What’s the alternative?” Although forgiveness cannot undo the injury or damage, it allows us to move forward in our lives free from the negative effects of anger, hatred and resentment. It offers us a way to heal while still acknowledging that what happened to us was wrong, unfair and extremely hurtful.

Freedman3Research has found that benefits of forgiveness for children, adolescents and adults include greater psychological and physical well-being, including decreases in anger, anxiety and depression. It also shows increases in hope, self-esteem, feelings of peace, improved relationships and academic achievement for students in school, as well as decreases in blood pressure, headaches and stress.

How does forgiveness deal with anger?

We have a right to feel resentment and anger. Many people criticize forgiveness because they mistakenly believe that anger is not part of the process. In fact, the opposite is true. We need to express our anger before we can forgive. Forgiveness involves admitting that one has been hurt, working through the feelings related to that hurt and then moving beyond them. The other important point is that the offender does not deserve our compassion because of their hurtful actions. However, we give it nevertheless.

Is self-forgiveness a real thing?

Self-forgiveness is a real thing. We have a model of self-forgiveness that is similar to our model of forgiving another. Self-forgiveness occurs when we have to forgive oneself for committing a deep, personal and unfair hurt. However, like in forgiving others, it occurs in the context of deep, personal and unfair hurt. 

This can be hurt you have suffered due to your own actions. People who find self-forgiveness may be less likely to engage in self-destructive behavior or even hurt others. 

Freedman5

Our society needs to do a better job of helping people realize that they can move on from their worst pains or actions. When individuals view themselves from the lens of only their hurtful behavior, they are not recognizing the fact that all human beings have inherent worth. Forgiving yourself will make it easier for individuals to become more forgiving of others, too.

Read the full UNI article: The Value of Forgiveness


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ABOUT DR. SUZANNE FREEDMAN:
A professor of human development at the University of Northern Iowa, Dr. Freedman earned both her Masters Degree and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied under and conducted research with Dr. Robert Enright. Her dissertation was a landmark study that was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology: Forgiveness as an Intervention Goal with Incest Survivors.

At the University of Northern Iowa, Dr. Freedman teaches a variety of development courses including Studies in Forgiveness–an online, continuing education course designed primarily for upper-class psychology, counseling, and clinical students preparing to work with clients as helping professionals.

Dr. Freedman can be reached at freedman@uni.edu


MORE FORGIVENESS COMMENTARY FROM DR. FREEDMAN:

New Manual for Mental Health Professionals Recommends Use of Enright Forgiveness Therapy

A hot-off-the-press instructional manual recommends that mental health professionals adopt and employ the Enright Process Model of Forgiveness when counseling individuals who profess Pentecostal and Charismatic Christian beliefs. Those two movements together make up about 27% of all Christians and more than 584 million people worldwide, according to the Pew Research Center.

The new book, Counseling and Psychotherapy with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians, was written by Geoffrey Sutton, a licensed psychologist and prolific author who has experience providing services to Christians from many traditions. Born in London, England, Sutton is a Professor of Psychology (Emeritus) at Evangel University in Springfield, MO, who has 14 books available on amazon.com.

“Clinicians would be advised to learn a specific approach such as the Enright Model. . .” Sutton recommends in his book. “Both of the major forgiveness intervention programs (Enright and REACH) are supported by scientific evidence of effectiveness.”

Sutton’s endorsement of the Enright Model of Forgiveness is actually a complete turnaround from his earlier positions on Christian counseling. For example, Sutton wrote a paper for the Christian Association for Psychological Studies that said a “well -articulated, comprehensive, and integrated approach to Christian counseling does not exist today.” That was at the organization’s 2015 annual meeting.

In his latest book, Sutton begins by providing an overview of religion, spirituality, and Christianity before focusing on the Pentecostal-Charismatic Christian movement that he traces back to the early 1900s. He then provides six chapters on patient assessment, counseling techniques, and interventions with special emphasis on the forgiveness interventions he now embraces because he believes they are adequately supported by empirical evidence.

“For committed Christians, spiritual identity is a substantial component of the self,” Sutton writes. “The purpose of this book is to help mental health professionals increase their cultural competence to better serve Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians who are congregants in the world’s fastest-growing religious movement.”  

Learn more:

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: