Because forgiveness is a process, you do not need a firm commitment to forgive as you start. You can tentatively try forgiving and see how it goes. You can stop for a while and start again. As you progress and deepen in your understanding and appropriation of forgiving, you then may move to the conviction that you are committed to the forgiveness process. One way to start this commitment is to say to yourself that you will do no harm to the one who injured you. This “do no harm” often is the beginning of the commitment for many people who go through our Process Model of Forgiveness.
The 20-step Process Model was not built to be an inflexible, demanding system. Instead, think of it as a road map. On your journey to forgiving, you have the option to stop at 20 different places. Some may be irrelevant to you, or perhaps you already worked through some of the steps. It is just fine to move on to another step. Also, it is fine to go back and revisit some of the more challenging steps as you see a need for more work on that step. So, no, you are not cheating.
If you have been deeply hurt by another’s unfairness, please be gentle with yourself. The process of forgiving takes time. Two months is not a sufficient amount of time in your particular case. I would recommend the following:
a) Take more time in the forgiving.
b) Examine the different units of our Process Model of Forgiveness. Which of the units
do you think you have mastered? Which are still a struggle for you? Go back to those that are challenges and spend more time on them.
c) Regarding your anger, has it lessened, stayed the same, or deepened in these two months? If it has lessened, are you in control of the anger or is the anger controlling you?
d) Anger does not necessarily go away entirely. You may have some residual anger left over. This is why I asked if you now feel more control over the anger. If so, then your accepting, at least for now, that you have some residual anger may be a next step for you.
e) If your anger remains and if you feel that the anger is controlling you, then you might want to re-think whom to forgive. Sometimes, for example, a man is trying to forgive his wife and he makes little progress. At times in such cases, the husband is very angry with his mother; his wife by her actions reminds him of his mother, whom he has not forgiven. If for now he puts aside the task of forgiving his wife and turns instead to forgiving his mother, this then can open up the forgiveness process more deeply when he again turns to the goal of forgiving his wife.
f) Please have hope that your anger will lessen. I say that because the scientific evidence
shows that as people work on the forgiveness process and give it enough time, anger
lessens to a statistically significant degree.
Art Linkletter was a Canadian-born entertainer whose CBS radio and television show called House Party first aired shortly after the end of World War II and ran 5-days per week continuously for more than 25 years. The show’s best-remembered segment was a feature called “Kids Say the Darndest Things” in which Linkletter interviewed schoolchildren whose candid remarks provided some of his shows most precious, and hilarious, moments.
Like Linkletter, educational psychology professor Dr. Suzanne Freedman gathered lots of cute and insightful anecdotes when she recently taught two classes of 5th graders about inherent worth, moral love, kindness, respect, and generosity—the five basic components of forgiveness. Here are some of their unedited comments:
Forgiveness has made me more calm and given me more chances in life instead of death.
We are all the same when we take our skin off.
Don’t be mean to others. Even if people you know are mean to you, you can still be nice to them.
Forgiveness is one step closer to healing. When you forgive you can put it in the past.
I like forgiveness because it taught us how to not wait till it’s too late to forgive.
Forgiveness helped me be nicer to my brother and friends.
During the 27-year run of “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” Linkletter interviewed an estimated 23,000 children. The popularity of the segment led to a TV series with the same title, seven books (including Linkletter’s first book by the same title), spin-off TV shows in seven countries, and a number one record hit by country music superstar Tammy Wynette called “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”
On one of his more inspirational programs, Linkletter asked a four-year old if she knew how to pray. She immediately began saying the Our Father which included this nugget: “And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.”
Here are more of the darndest things kids like that little girl told Dr. Freedman:
You could always give a person that is mean to you a second chance because maybe the person that is being mean is having a bad day or got in an argument with their best friend.
Even though somebody is being mean to you, you could still forgive them.
It doesn’t matter if you are a different religion or have different colored eyes because everyone is the same person underneath.
When you have empathy you want to know how they feel and then you can put your feet in their shoes, and if you are getting bullied you can turn them into a friend by knowing how they feel.
Revenge is not part of forgiveness.
Dr. Freedman, a professor at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa, gathered those anecdotes while conducting a forgiveness education research project with two classes of 5th grade elementary school students attending a low-income school in a Midwestern community. She instructed each class for one 30-minute lesson each week for 10 weeks with two days of pre-testing and two days of post-testing. Each class was composed of 25 ten- and eleven-year-old students representing a diverse group of races and ethnicities.
Quantitative results from Dr. Freedman’s research project demonstrated that students increased significantly in their forgiveness toward a specific offender and showed significant increases in their knowledge of forgiveness from pre-test to post-test.
Qualitative results from the study illustrated that students both enjoyed and benefited from the forgiveness education curriculum. Specifically, when asked what they learned about forgiveness education, 14 students reported that the forgiveness education “helped them learn to forgive someone.” Other comments included: “I like forgiveness because in the future we will meet other people that we do not like but we still need to forgive them;” and; “It helps me forgive people when they make bad choices.”
“This study illustrates the potential of forgiveness education to improve elementary school students’ psychological well-being and interpersonal relations as well as the importance of including forgiveness education in the school curriculum,”according to Dr. Freedman.
“Students who learn how to forgive and decrease their anger in healthy ways will be less likely to be involved in bullying and other violent acts. This research is encouraging and needs to be replicated with additional populations of children and adolescents.”
One could add that the study proves kids do indeed say the darndest things. . .♥
According to an editorial in the February issue of an international humanities journal, forgiveness interventions like Dr. Robert Enright’s 20 Step Process Model, should be employed on a much broader basis and, in fact, national leaders should be assessing “when or how it might be appropriate to cultivate forgiveness on national and international scales.”
“If forgiveness is strongly related to health, and being wronged is a common experience, and interventions. . . are available and effective, then one might make the case that forgiveness is a public health issue. . .
“Because being wronged is common, and because the effects of forgiveness on health are substantial, forgiveness should perhaps be viewed as a phenomenon that is not only of moral, theological, and relational significance, but of public health importance as well.”
“Forgiveness promotes health and wholeness; it is important to public health.” AJPH
The editorial cites Dr. Enright’s Process Model (also called his Four Phases of Forgiveness) as one of only two “prominent intervention classes” now available. “Interventions using this model have been shown to be effective with groups as diverse as adult incest survivors, parents who have adopted special needs children, and inpatients struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.
“Forgiveness is associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and hostility; reduced nicotine dependence and substance abuse; higher positive emotion; higher satisfaction with life; higher social support; and fewer self-reported health symptoms. The beneficial emotional regulation (results in) forgiveness being an alternative to maladaptive psychological responses like rumination and suppression.”