I notice your interest in forgiveness education.  If others such as myself were interested in starting forgiveness education in our own area of the world, what would be some of your key suggestions?

Anyone can help to start forgiveness education in their own community. If you visit our Store section of this website, you will see that we have professionally-produced curriculum guides for teachers from pre-kindergarten (age 4) through grade 12 (using United States language here) (grade 12 includes students at age 17-18).  We also have an anti-bullying guide for middle school and high school.  These guides can be used effectively by teachers who are motivated to spend up to one hour a week for about 12-17 weeks instructing students.  Each teacher guide (up to high school) uses stories (many by Dr. Seuss) that are appropriate for the grade level.  If the books that are recommended in each guide are too expensive, we have professionally-produced book summaries of each one.  The summaries are about 2-3 pages long and get at the gist of the stories (as far as forgiveness is concerned).

In impoverished and conflict-zones of the world, we give all of the above materials away for free—no charge and no hidden costs.  For others, we ask that they purchase the materials so we can continue serving contentious regions of the world.

You also can access teacher evaluations of these programs in the Education section of the website and you will see that teachers are very favorable to these programs.

Consider taking courage in hand and bringing a sample of the teacher guides to a local school (along with the teacher-evaluation information and perhaps the Basic Description of the Guides). Tell the principal or teacher about the objective of forgiveness education: to help children grown in the virtues of love, mercy, and forgiveness, which can reduce student anger and increase academic achievement. Tell the principal or teacher that we provide free materials (if they are in an impoverished or contentious region).

For additional information, see Forgiveness Education: Curriculum.

As a follow-up question, let us suppose that children as young as 10-years-old have learned about forgiveness and want to practice it.  How can they go about forgiving a parent if that parent keeps offending?

This will depend on the severity of the injustice.  If there is abuse, it would be my hope that this will be discovered by professionals in the child’s school.  Such abuse often leads to observable effects in children such as inattention during schoolwork, aggressive acting out in school, poor grades, and anger or depressive mood.  The child needs justice along with forgiving.  The forgiving in this case likely would begin only after the child is in a safe place.  If the injustice is not so severe as to require a solution from outside the home, the child could start forgiving by: a) acknowledging anger.  This can be difficult because of loyalty to the parent; and b) seeing the inherent worth in people in general and then applying it to the parent.

Many children are very good at exclaiming: “That’s not fair” and if a child is schooled in the moral virtue of forgiveness, which includes schooling in fair treatment, this kind of proclamation, spoken from a forgiving heart, may aid parents in thinking through their own behavior.  This kind of pattern is not easy to solve and so, again, I recommend forgiveness education in schools to equip children with the tools for overcoming disappointments and anger caused by truly unfair treatment against them.

For additional information: Teaching Kids About Forgiveness.

Can children forgive a parent while they are still young and living with the parent?

In my experience, because forgiveness is so little discussed with children, as least in any deep way, most children actually do not think about forgiveness and they do not know how to go about forgiving.  This is one reason why instituting forgiveness education is so vitally important.   Again in my experience, children who are treated unjustly in the home do not begin to reflect on this until they are in later adolescence and are in transition from the home.  It often is at this time that the nearly-adult children look back and can be filled with deep resentment in need of amelioration.  If these nearly-adult children already were fortified with what forgiveness is and how to go about it, this would serve them well.

For additional information, see Kids Are Smarter Than You Think.

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.”


I hear colleagues tell me that it is child abuse to impose the education of forgiveness on unsuspecting students. How would you answer such a charge?

Good philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom. Good education is the same. Part of being wise is to know how to control one’s anger, to reduce resentment, and to forge healthy relationships in the home and in the community. Forgiveness, seen in scientific studies, is one effective way of reducing resentment and fostering better behavior and relationships. If we then deprive a child of this part of wisdom, are we somehow aiding that child’s development or stifling it? Teaching about forgiveness is far from child abuse. Deliberately withholding knowledge of forgiveness is educational deprivation, which should happen to no child.

For additional information, see Your Kids Are Smarter Than You Think.

One of my students asked me recently, ‘Why should I forgive? Doesn’t this just let the one who is hurting me see that I am weak?’ I did not know how to answer that. Can you help?

The student is confusing forgiveness with giving in to others’ demands. This is not forgiveness. To forgive is to know that what the other person did is wrong and yet mercy is offered nonetheless. When one forgives, one also asks for justice and so this idea of weakness or giving in is not correct. There are two basic ways of distorting forgiveness: to let the other have power over you or to seek power over the other because of his or her transgressions. True forgiveness avoids these extremes.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

Who has the greater capacity to forgive: college students or their parents?

We cannot make an absolute statement as an answer to your question because some college-aged children may forgive to a greater degree than their parents, especially if the student has a lighter injustice to overcome.  Yet, we have done studies showing that, on the average, the middle-aged parents tend to forgive to a greater degree than do their college-attending children.  I think this is because of the parents’ greater maturity and perhaps because they have suffered more in their longer life and thus have had more to overcome.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

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.

Learn More:

 

 

 

 

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.                                                                                                                              

How young can someone be to start forgiving?

We have found that pre-kindergarten children (age 4) and kindergarten children (age 5) are able to follow picture-book stories centered on family love.  This is an important foundation for learning how to forgive.  We have found through our scientific studies that children as young as 6-years-old can understand the causes and consequences to behavior.  They, therefore, can understand unjust actions by others (a cause) and the development of resentment in the offended person (a consequence). Further, these 6-year-old children then can understand that the resentment can be overcome by forgiving, which in some cases can restore relationships (if the other is willing to cooperate).

For additional information, see Your Kids Are Smarter Than You Think.