Pope Francis: Forgiveness Enlargens the Heart

Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, used his homily on the day after Christmas–the feast day of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr–to encourage the approximately 1.3 billion baptized Catholics worldwide to be more forgiving.

“We are called to learn from him (St. Stephen) to forgive, to always forgive, and it is not easy to do, we all know,” the 82-year-old Pope said. “Forgiveness enlarges the heart, generates sharing, gives serenity and peace.”

“The Stoning of Saint Stephen” as depicted in a stained glass window at Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

More than 25,000 people converged on St. Peter’s Square on Dec. 26 to hear Pope Francis talk about St. Stephen who was not only martyred for his religious beliefs but who even forgave those who were taking his life while he was being stoned to death. His last words, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them,” are recorded in Chapter 7 of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 7:54-60).

St. Stephen was one of the first ordained deacons of the Church (in Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox churches, a deacon is an ordained minister of an order ranking below that of priest). He is credited with many miracles performed during his short 34-years of life.

Read more:  Pope Francis message during Christmas: A life of greater simplicity and forgiveness (a 2:48 video by Rome Reports)

Forgive — for Your Own Mental Health

Mad In America Foundation, Cambridge, MA – The more forgiving people are, the fewer symptoms of mental disorders they experience, according to a study published in the Journal of Health PsychologyThe researchers suggested that teaching forgiveness, particularly at an early stage in one’s life, may be a valuable mental health early intervention strategy. 

A team of four psychologists led by noted forgiveness researcher Loren Toussaint recruited 148 young adults from a Midwest liberal arts college for the 2014 study.  The team’s analysis essentially confirmed the rationale and methodology being used by Dr. Robert Enright for the past 17 years to teach his Forgiveness Education Programs to children in countries around the world.

The researchers wrote that their findings “show for the first time that forgivingness is a strong, independent predictor of mental and physical health…” Specifically, regardless of the types and levels of stresses the participants reported, the researchers found greater forgiving tendencies linked to fewer negative mental health symptoms. “Forgivingness” is a general tendency to forgive; it does not assess the degree of actual forgiving toward people who acted unjustly. . .

“[W]e found that lifetime stress severity was unrelated to mental health for persons who were highest in forgivingness and most strongly related to poorer mental health for participants exhibiting the lowest levels of forgivingness,” wrote the researchers.

The researchers did not study how or why this correlation may exist, but hypothesized that “forgiving individuals may have a more adaptive or extensive repertoire of coping strategies and that forgivingness may facilitate healthier behaviors in the aftermath of major life stress.”

“To the extent that forgiveness training can promote a more forgiving coping style, then these interventions may help reduce stress-related disease and improve human health. Such interventions may be particularly beneficial when delivered as a prevention strategy in early life, before  individuals are exposed to major adulthood life  stressors,” the researchers concluded.

Students at Hazelwood Integrated Primary School in Belfast, Northern Ireland, learn about forgiveness principles.

Dr. Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, began teaching Forgiveness Education 17-years ago in six grade-school classrooms in Belfast, Northern Ireland. While that program is still operating in Belfast, the Forgiveness Education Curriculum Guides developed by Dr. Enright and his associates for students in Pre-School through 12th Grade, are now in use in more than 30 countries around the world including Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria (West Africa), Kenya and Rwanda (Africa), Colombia and Brazil (South America), Israel, Palestine, and Iran (Middle East), China and the Philippines (Asia), Greece and the Czech Republic (Europe), as well as Canada, Mexico and the US. 


Learn more about the study: Effects of lifetime stress exposure on mental and physical health in young adulthood: How stress degrades and forgiveness protects health (Toussaint, Loren et al. Journal of Health Psychology. Published online before print August 19, 2014, doi: 10.1177/1359105314544132).

The Mad in America Foundation is a not-for-profit organization whose “mission is to serve as a catalyst for rethinking psychiatric care in the United States (and abroad). We believe that the current drug-based paradigm of care has failed our society, and that scientific research, as well as the lived experience of those who have been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, calls for profound change.”


Resources on the International Forgiveness Institute website:

I Forgive the Man Who Killed My Son

Good Housekeeping (UK); London, England, UK – Figen Murray’s emotions were suspended in limbo for more than 24-hours after the Manchester Arena bombing before she was officially notified that her 29-year-old son Martyn Hett had been killed in the May 22, 2017, suicide bombing attack. Here is how she responded to his death, as reported in Good Housekeeping (UK), part of the Hearst UK Fashion & Beauty Network:

My son Martyn touched a lot of hearts. He was fun, kindhearted, and he always stood up for the underdog. As a child, he was a little imp, with boundless energy. He had a really quirky side, and loved practical jokes, social media and Coronation Street. . . .


Grief manifests itself in many different ways. I didn’t cry – I couldn’t. I’m a counsellor and psychotherapist, and for over 20 years I’ve spent my working life helping people through mental-health issues and psychological obstacles. In my professional career I developed resilience in order not to dissolve into tears in front of clients. 

Now, I realise that this ingrained resilience is how I go on. I’m not being deliberately strong, and I’m not in denial. I’m undone inside, permanently damaged from what’s happened. The only way I can describe it is I feel like a piece of paper that someone has shredded, only to realise they’ve done so by accident. They try to tape it back together, but it’s too late. It can never be whole again.


When I saw the bomber’s face on television, the first thing I thought was, ‘You foolish boy’. That’s all he was – not a man, but a boy who had been brainwashed so much that he was able to walk into a crowded concert and detonate a bomb.

I could choose to be angry, to harbour resentment and blame. But I can honestly say that I feel no rage towards Salman Abedi. In that moment, he believed that he was doing the right thing. That’s why I’ve made a conscious choice to forgive him – hate only breeds hate. Now more than ever, this world needs humanity and kindness.

The Manchester City Centre was inundated with floral tributes to the victims of the Manchester Arena attack. Photo by Tomasz “odder” Kozlowski – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59406104

Out of bad, good has to happen. When that boy detonated the bomb, he achieved the opposite of what he wanted – he caused an explosion of love. Family, friends and strangers have come together in solidarity and courage.

Martyn’s death has changed my family for ever, but I will not allow it to destroy us. When the most awful, unthinkable things happen, we all have the power to overcome. 

Figen Murray


Editor’s Note: In addition to Martyn Hett and the 21 others killed in the Ariana Grande concert bombing in Manchester, we now know that more than 800 people suffered physical and/or deep psychological injuries from the attack. Undoubtedly, their lives have been altered forever.

Read the full story in Good Housekeeping (UK)

New Desmond Tutu film – “The Forgiven” – Addresses Segregation, Apartheid, Forgiveness

Screen Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa – Unflinchingly accurate in its depiction of South Africa’s tumultuous  political history, The Forgiven is a powerful film that one critic described as “the ultimate testament to the power of forgiveness and finding common ground in our humanity.”

While it has been two decades since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission focused international attention on South Africa’s violent history of racial segregation, director Roland Joffé’s new film returns to that time to grapple with the terrible truths of apartheid and its legacy.

Based on Michael Ashton’s play The Archbishop and the AntichristThe Forgiven is a fictionalized account of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s efforts as the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in an attempt to heal and unite South Africa. It was released worldwide in October.

Explaining the reasoning behind the film, Joffé says: “This is a subject that’s both social and political but also rather personal, because let’s be honest, we’ve all done things in our lives that we need forgiveness for, that we haven’t come to terms with. We’re all prisoners of our history, whether it’s social, cultural or family.”

The drama follows Archbishop Desmond Tutu, masterfully portrayed by Forest Whitaker, and his struggle – morally and intellectually –with brutal murderer and member of a former apartheid-era hit squad Piet Blomfeld (Eric Bana), over redemption and forgiveness. The film was shot completely in and around Cape Town, including at one of the world’s most dangerous prison facilities, Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison.


“The film is a tribute to the remarkable and healing power of forgiveness and the outstanding compassion and courage of those who offered love and forgiveness as an antidote to hate and inhumanity.”
Desmond Tutu


The Archbishop himself has given the project his blessing, saying: “This timely, compelling and intelligent film, movingly, and above all humanely, captures what it felt like to be working with those selfless members of the TRC who strove, often against the odds, to help bring both truth and reconciliation to the ordinary people of South Africa.  This is not only a film about a certain time and place, it is a pean of hope to humanity at large.” 

Quest for Justice Instead Leads to Forgiveness

WPST-TV 10News, Tampa, FL, USA  Twenty years ago this month, Bruce Murakami pulled up to a burning car on Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa to offer any assistance he could. To his horror, Murakami soon discovered that his wife, Cindy, and their 11-year-old daughter Chelsea, were inside the burning minivan. They both died before he or anyone else was able to rescue them.
At first, Murakami wanted the man responsible for this wife and daughter’s deaths to pay. After all, the driver of the car that ran into his wife’s van, Justin Cabezas, was speeding at more than 90 mph at impact.
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“I was angry, livid. . .” Murakami admitted. “I said to myself, ‘Let me find the punk, I’m gonna take care of him.’” 

Bruce Murakami, left, and Justin Cabezas encouraged morning commuters to slow down on Kamehameha Highway in Kane’ohe, Hawaii.

When Cabezas was not initially charged with causing the crash, Murakami’s life went into a tailspin of depression.

“I was a walking zombie. I sold my business, sat on the beach every day. I put my Bible down. I didn’t want anything to do with God. Nothing”

Three years later, Cabezas was finally charged with 2 counts of vehicular manslaughter. But something happened when Murakami finally saw Cabezas in court. He wasn’t the monster Murakami had envisioned. That’s when this father’s fight for justice turned into a father’s fight to forgive.

“I started preaching to myself on forgiveness. Even though I never met this kid, I started forgiving him for what he did,” Murakami says. “After we met, I knew he was suffering as much as I was.”

Cabezas was facing up to 30 years in prison if convicted. Murakami shocked the court, however, by asking the judge not to send Cabezas to jail.
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“If he goes to prison for 30 years, everyone’s going to forget about him. Everyone’s going to forget about Cindy and Chelsea,” Murakami said to the judge. “What if he and I went out to schools and talked to young people?”

With the court’s consent, the two men went to hundreds of schools across the country, speaking to more than a half-million kids about the dangers of speeding. But Murakami also used those presentations to help kids understand that even after tragic mistakes, they too could find redemption like Cabezas.

“I didn’t want to waste his life. He came from a good family. We’ve all made mistakes,” Murakami added.

Murakami and Cabezas also founded a not-for-profit organization called Safe Teen Driver that includes a unique driver education program offered free to teens who learn by driving actual professional go-karts on a professional track while practicing skills that could save their lives. Parents are required to participate and learn the importance of their role in developing a safe teen driver.

Cabezas went on to become a successful real estate agent in Texas before dying of cancer last summer. Murakami went to the funeral and spoke from the pulpit about the importance of forgiveness.


Read the full story: Tampa man’s quest for justice instead becomes lesson in forgiveness

Watch a short video from WPST-TV 10News, Tampa, FL about Bruce Murakami’s life-changing decision to forgive.


 

5 Advantages of Online Therapy

Through the scientific efforts of psychology researchers like Dr. Robert Enright, Forgiveness Therapy has become an accepted standard of practice for clinical psychologists and for counseling members of organizations like the American Psychological Association.

For many people, self-help books like Forgiveness Is a Choice and 8 Keys to Forgiveness (both written by Dr. Enright) provide an easy-to-use step-by-step process for forgiving another person.  For others, working closely with a therapist is an important part of the journey to forgiveness.

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to a therapist frequently enough to make real progress in a reasonable amount of time. In a variety of situations, it can be beneficial to work with an online therapist. The advantages to online therapy, such as that offered by websites like BetterHelp, include:

Accessibility

While therapists are easily found in most metropolitan cities, suburbs and rural areas may not have very many options when it comes to a therapist. Psychologists are not prevalent in all areas of the country. If you don’t have very many mental health providers in your area, online therapy can give you access to a therapist where normally you might not have such access.

Convenience

Many therapists that you see in person have regular business hours and do not have weekend appointments. For those who work full time it can be very difficult to find a therapist willing to work with your schedule. Online therapy is convenient because you can use it when you have time, regardless of your work schedule or family life.

Affordability

Online therapy is often more affordable than in person therapists and psychologists. According to LearnVest.com, the average cost of therapy is $75 to $150 per session, with some psychologists charging as much as $300 per session. Online therapy is typically more affordable, with costs per session ranging about twice what the average person makes per hour.

Larger Selection of Therapists

Not every therapist is well versed in every issue. Not every therapist specializes in helping people with Forgiveness Therapy. Finding a therapist who is an expert in forgiveness and who can easily work with your particular situation can be challenging. It can take several tries to find a therapist that can really understand and help you. With online therapy, you have the ability to talk to many therapists until you find the one that is just right for you.

Feeling of Anonymity and Lower Anxiety

There is a certain feeling of anonymity that people have when dealing with others on the Internet or over the phone. It can be a lot easier to talk about difficult subjects when you don’t have to look at the person you are speaking with. This remoteness can help you face difficult topics more objectively.

Another advantage of the anonymity factor is that many people experience less anxiety about therapy when they do it online. With online therapy you are in the comfort of your own home. You can be much more relaxed. Those with social anxiety or anxiety about talking to strangers are much more comfortable using online therapy chat sessions.

Overall, online therapy can be a great solution for many people who are working on forgiveness issues. Forgiveness is divine, but it is not always easy. If you need help finding forgiveness within yourself for yourself or others, you may want to consider giving online therapy a try.

» by Marie Miguel


Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource called BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.


 

You are Invited to a Live Benefit Concert on Nov. 11

The Arts @ First United Methodist Church, Madison presents…

    Live on Stage from Around the World:
 90 Minutes of World Class Performances

2:00 pm
Sunday, November 11, 2018
First United Methodist Church
203 Wisconsin Avenue
Madison, Wisconsin
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Join us for a live concert featuring these internationally-respected performers:
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The Kat Trio

The Kat Trio, formally known as The Ekaterinburg (Russia) Classical Trio, is composed of Victoria Gorbich (violin), Vladislav Gorbich (Clarinet), and Joseph Ross (pianist). The trio’s unique Russian arrangements and seamless transcriptions of timeless melodies feature classical works, well-known inspirational songs, and even American pop standards, including Scott Joplin’s rags.

Click this link to hear The Kat Trio perform Joplin’s hit tune “The Easy Winners.”

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The Varshavski-Shapiro
Piano Duo

The Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo is comprised of pianists  Stanislava Varshavski (born in Kharkov, Ukraine) and Diana Shapiro (born in Moscow, Russia), who began playing together in 1998 after meeting at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy in Israel. After studying in Israel and the US, both pianists completed Doctoral degree studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2011.
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Click here to listen to The Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo perform three of their piano classics.

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Miles McConnell 

Miles McConnell is a classical guitarist from central Florida who has studied and performed around the world and who is now based in Madison, WI, where he earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Classical Guitar Performance in 2010. Miles has just returned from his performance at the Classical Guitar Retreat at the Cathedral of the Isles, on the isle of Cumbrae, in Scotland. Click here to see and hear Miles play six of his classical arrangements.
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Norman Gilliland
Concert Master of Ceremonies will be Norman Gilliland who began hosting classical music broadcasts on Wisconsin Public Radio in the mid-1970s. Gilliland has also been the narrator for the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s popular summer series “Concerts on the Square” for the past 28 years.
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Meet the artists at a hospitality reception following the concert.
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…..Proceeds from this concert will support:
The First United Methodist Food Pantry
and
The International Forgiveness Institute
$10 donation suggested.


For more information contact:
Jonathan Little Management / JL Presents
Mobile: 608-219-1077
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