A 17-lesson curriculum guide was written by a licensed psychologist and a developmental psychologist for the teachers’ use. Each lesson takes approximately 45 minutes or less and each occurs approximately once per week for the entire class. Additional activities in the guide are provided if a teacher wishes to extend the learning.
In the early years of the program, the teachers were introduced to the ideas of forgiveness and the curricular materials in a workshop directed by the authors of the curriculum or others associated with the project. We envision other methods as the work expands. Audios of the workshop, for example, may become available for download.
Forgiveness is taught by the classroom teachers primarily through the medium of story. Through stories such as Disney’s The Fox and the Hound, Cinderella, Dumbo, and Snow White, the children learn that conflicts arise and that we have a wide range of options to unfair treatment.
The curriculum guide is divided into three parts:
First, the teacher introduces certain concepts that underlie forgiveness (the inherent worth of all people, kindness, respect, generosity, and moral love), without mentioning the word forgiveness.
In Part Two, the children hear stories in which the story characters display instances of inherent worth, kindness, respect, generosity, and moral love (or their opposites of unkindness, disrespect, and stinginess), toward another story character who was unjust.
In Part Three, the teacher helps the children, if they choose, to apply the five principles toward a person who has hurt them.
Throughout the implementation of this program, teachers make the important distinction between learning about forgiveness and choosing to practice it in certain contexts. The program is careful to emphasize the distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation. A child does not reconcile with someone who is potentially harmful, for example. The teachers impress upon the children that the exercises in Part Three of forgiving are not mandatory, but completely optional.
The first-grade curriculum is similar to this one with the exception of the choice of stories. In first grade, the centerpiece stories are from Dr. Seuss.
From Enright, R.D., Knutson, J, & Holter, A. (2006). “Turning from hatred to community friendship: Forgiveness education in post-accord Belfast” – Presented at the 20th Anniversary Conference of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, November 7, 2006.
If a person chooses to forgive, then it not only is realistic but possibly healthy for the forgiver. Forgiveness need not be perfect in that one person forgives, the other repents and changes, and now there is harmony. One goal of forgiving is to hold out the hope of reconciliation, but this does not necessarily occur for forgiveness to be morally good and psychologically worthwhile. One can forgive, for example, to rid oneself of resentment even when reconciliation is not possible.
Time magazine has called Dr. Robert Enright “the forgiveness trailblazer” because of his groundbreaking scientific discoveries related to how forgiveness favorably impacts both emotional and physical health. Now the doctor (a Ph.D., not a physcian) is working with medical specialists in Europe to discover if forgiveness can improve the health of patients with multiple myeloma–a cancer of cells in the immune system.
Dr. Enright will provide an update on his latest forgiveness challenge at the 17th Annual Fall Cancer Conference sponsored by the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, at the Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin.
Advances in Multidisciplinary Cancer Care 2018 is the title of the day-long conference that will focus on “Unique Challenges Faced by Young Adults With Cancer.” Dr. Enright’s presentation begins at 2:00 pm and is entitled “Forgiveness as a Strengthening of Emotional Health in Cancer Patients and Their Families.”
While the conference is designed primarily for individuals who are involved in cancer treatment and education of cancer patients and their families, conference organizers are also encouraging patients, caregivers and community members to attend. For registration information, visit the 17th Annual Fall Cancer Conference website.
Forgiveness therapy for cancer patients is not a new endeavor for Dr. Enright. He and his colleagues completed a clinical trial nearly 10 years ago with cancer patients who were receiving end-of-life hospice care. That study found that as the patients’ physical health decreased, measures of emotional health increased if they completed forgiveness therapy.
Next, they completed a clinical trial with patients in cardiac units, where they observed a physical benefit to forgiveness: cardiac health measures, such as blood flow to the heart, increased in the patients on the intervention. Forgiveness therapy, then, has shown both palliative and physical benefits in medical settings.
“So now we’re working with physicians in Europe in regards to multiple myeloma,” Enright says. He explained that multiple myeloma is a cancer of cells in the immune system, that stress is known to compromise the immune system, and that forgiveness therapy has been demonstrated to reduce stress.
Interestingly, case studies in patients with low-grade multiple myeloma have already found disease stabilization if patients complete forgiveness therapy. Could forgiveness – a relatively inexpensive, non-drug-based intervention – become a part of some patients’ treatment plans? Enright and medical colleagues think the answer may be yes, and they are currently developing a clinical trial to understand if forgiveness improves myeloma patient health through measurable biological markers.
“That’s why next we need to do a clinical trial, for cause and effect,” Enright says. “The physicians will measure markers of immune system strength, and then I would bring the hope and anxiety scales to measure the psychological markers.”
We have been helping teachers set up forgiveness education programs since 2002. In our experience, children as young as age 6 can understand the worth of people, including the built-in worth of all people. This is a foundational step in forgiving. Even though young children may not understand the moral virtue of love (serving others for the others’ sake), they nonetheless can see that to forgive is to see the worth in the other and to offer kindness of some kind to the one who offended. As forgiveness education occurs on higher grade levels, then students’ understanding of forgiving as an expression of mercy can become more sophisticated.
Learn more about Forgiveness Education for Children at: Curriculum
Through my work as an existential logotherapeutic coach, I help people find meaning in everything in their life, including work, family relationships, and in situations where they face insurmountable suffering. I do this mainly by working with the power of forgiveness.
In my home country, Colombia, forgiveness seems like an impossible task for many. With a history of more than 60 years marked by war, drug trafficking and constant conflict, entire populations have now had to confront a hard question: will they forgive those who horribly hurt them even if they never asked for forgiveness?
This made me look for ways I could help those clients who had to leave their home behind, fearing for their safety, and who came to a city that in more than one occasion, receives them with a hostile environment and not much help. Many people with deep wounds derived from the conflict and a past of violence, resentment and vengeance.
As I looked for ways to help, I researched many therapies, but with time, I found them temporary or incomplete. I also looked into the initiatives of religious groups, and though they were having some admirable results, they did not appeal to non-believers.
Then I heard about the International Forgiveness Institute, and all their research on how forgiveness is a psychological matter, not only a religious one. I was personally impressed by their focus on forgiveness’ impact on psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, and others as measurable variables. For me, it meant that now we can present evidence that forgiveness works and can in fact change hearts!
Finding meaning and forgiveness in a life full of resentments is crucial to heal. To see the offender as a human being and giving them what they deserve in dignity and love, changes your life and theirs. It restores justice even without reconciliation.
Forgiveness gives you a second chance for a meaningful and happy life, an opportunity to live a better, healthier, fulfilling life where people reach for their dreams without the weight of resentful thoughts.
As a life coach, I found particularly reassuring and helpful to learn that forgiveness has a measurable impact on the people I treat despite what the offense was. My time studying at the Forgiveness Institute gave me more tools to better treat my clients, to measure their progress and to encourage them to strive for a better and more meaningful life.
I encourage you to give yourself the opportunity to see forgiveness in a new light and learn about its healing power, by taking the online “Forgiveness Therapy” course through the International Forgiveness Institute.
Many Americans make changes to their lifestyles over time; some of us are eager to improve our careers, while others want to make the perfect home for a family. Taking steps toward personal growth is an important part of life, but it can be difficult to keep an eye on your mental health at the same time. Change often comes with stress or anxiety, especially if you’re attempting to try something completely new, and that can lead to unhealthy decision-making.
To take care of yourself while you’re on a quest for personal growth, you need to make sure your physical, mental, and emotional needs are met while finding new ways to empower yourself. The key is to get organized from the very beginning so that you’ll be able to make positive changes in a healthy way. Here are a few tips on how to get started.
Spend Time Alone It will be hard for you to make positive changes in your life if you can’t be comfortable with yourself. Spend some timealone, doing something that makes you happy, and learn what you really like and what you don’t. Think about the best ways to grow. Would you like to go back to school? Learn a new language? Become a more involved parent? Taking a time-out will help you analyze your life without distractions so you can figure out what you really want.
Get Organized Make a list of all the things you want to accomplish. Setting goals now and getting organized will help you stay motivated and help ensure success when you’re ready to tackle something new. You might even try creating a “vision board,” which involves making a visual representation of your goals, so you can see what should come next.
Reduce Stress Stress is one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to making positive changes in your life. No matter what you want to achieve — a boost in your career, changing your relationships for the better, or helping others — it will be that much harder to do if you’re stressed out. Find ways to reduce stress, such as exercising daily, practicing yoga, learning deep-breathing exercises, and learning how to forgive—both yourself and others. These can help you beat stress in the moment so you’re not left feeling anxious when things start to feel overwhelming. They can also help you make healthy choices. Click here for tips on how to make good decisions for your body and mind.
Sleep Well Much of self-care comes from taking steps to keep your body healthy, and one great way to do that is to get adequate sleep. Good rest can not only help you feel better, it can improve your memory function and keep you sharp for the next day. Start a good sleep routine that will help you get to bed at a reasonable hour every night, and shoot for at least seven hours of sleep each time you lie down. Turn off all electronics at least an hour before bedtime, and do something relaxing in the evening so your body will be ready to recharge.
Making changes to your lifestyle to better yourself can be a long road, so it’s important to be patient with yourself and start with a good plan. Talk to your friends and family about what steps you’re going to take to stay on track so they can be a support system. By staying organized and taking care of your mental health, you can make positive change happen.
About Brad Krause: After four years in the corporate world working 15-hour days, 6 days a week, Brad Krause demonstrated the ultimate act of self-care by leaving his draining, unfulfilling job behind. He now spends full-time helping others as a self-care guru, writer and life coach (SelfCare.info). He sums up his vision by saying, “We all have the potential to be the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be, but it comes down to prioritizing our own wellness through self-care. And that’s what I’m here to help people discover!”
Have the world wars of the past led to such stress that we now feel the effects?
In a 2015 article in Scientific American, it was reported that Holocaust survivors from World War II have compromised levels of stress-related hormones, such as cortisol, which helps a person emotionally regulate after trauma. Important to us in this essay is yet another finding reported in the same article: The children of Holocaust survivors have even more compromise in their stress-related hormones, making them particularly vulnerable to anxiety.
These results made me wonder. Could such findings be even more general than people connected to the Holocaust? High stress during World Wars I and II likely visited many millions of people who either fought in these wars, or were at home awaiting the return of loved ones, or who received word of the death of loved ones. Might their bodies have been more primed for stress? If so, then might their children, such as the Baby Boomers, have been primed for greater stress?
Is each subsequent generation, as a whole and on the average, becoming more stressed than the previous one?
This made me wonder even further: What about those who were slaves during the time of the Civil War in the mid 19th century. Might they have had internal, hormonal challenges that were passed to their children and might the soldiers on either side of the Civil War conflict have produced compromised stress-related hormones that were passed to their children?
Might people of today be more stressed than they should be because of these historical events in their own families from generations past? After all, many millions of people were directly or indirectly involved in the major Civil War, World War I, and World War II.
Think about this pattern within only one family (which could extend back in time for centuries):
Suppose Martha was 6-years-old in 1864 when an army, fighting in the Civil War, invaded her town. She became very stressed, as explained in the Scientific American article referenced above.
At age 22, she gave birth to a son, James, in 1880. James not only inherited Martha’s compromised stress-related hormonal pattern but actually became even more compromised than Martha in his ability to recover from any trauma he may face.
Now the compromised James, at age 24, becomes a father to Sarah, in 1904. Sarah is even more compromised than James and she, at age 13, experiences World War I with an absent father and the threat of war in her country. Her cortisol levels become even more compromised.
At age 19, Sarah gives birth to Joseph in 1923. He is more compromised than his mother Sarah for the same reasons as above. At age 20, with his already compromised hormonal system, Joseph is drafted into the army and fights fiercely in Europe during World War II with the result of even lower levels of cortisol produced in his body.
After the war, Joseph marries Louisa, whose father died in the war. She, like Joseph, has a compromised hormonal system and they have a daughter, Octavia, in 1950, a Baby Boomer.
Octavia is even more compromised than Martha (born in 1858), James (born in 1880), Sarah (born in 1904), or Joseph (born in 1923).
Octavia begets Samuel who begets Rachael who currently is 25 years old. She exhibits anxiety, occasional panic attacks, and is now showing signs of depression.
When Rachael visits her mental health professional the discussions center on her childhood upbringing and her stresses in raising her own family as well as problems at work. Notice that the perspective goes back only 25 years rather than to 1864 with Rachael’s own great-great-great-great grandmother, Martha, because no one has any information about Martha who has long been forgotten in the family.
My point is this: Stresses today could be caused, at least in part, by the stresses handed down to this particular person from one generation after another, two or more centuries before….and we are not aware of this. Even if cortisol and related hormonal levels are not reduced in each subsequent generation, psychological compromise still may be increasing as stress accumulates and is passed on.
Might the stresses on high school and college students today be greater than was the case for their grandparents? If so, this, in part, might be caused by this accumulation of unrelieved stresses passed through the generations. There are many articles written on current college students’ rather surprising inability to cope with the challenges of higher education study.
One example, in Psychology Today, is from 2015, in Dr. Peter Gray’s blog, with the title, “Declining Student Resilience: A Serious Problem for Colleges.” Are we witnessing accumulated generational stresses all the way back to Martha in 1858 (and even farther back as Martha may have been compromised by her great-great-great-great grandparents)?
Are we becoming psychologically more compromised with each subsequent generation?
Suicides and suicide attempts are increasing in the United States and some are referring to this as a crisis. The term “crisis” is being used as well to describe the recent opioid overuse.Psychological depression is rising, especially among young teenagers. Anxiety, too, is rising, with some pointing to the economic recession which started in 2007 as a cause for the increases in suicides, depression, and anxiety. While the relatively recent economic downturn may be contributing to these mental health increases, perhaps some of the cause is the hidden accumulation of stress across centuries. This is not being addressed at all from what I can tell.
What if we, in our current global community, became aware of this possibility of passing stress through the generations? What if we started inoculating the current generation of children and adolescents with the stress-buffer of forgiveness through sound forgiveness education? They can begin by forgiving parents for their excessive anger, which might be historically-inherited, for example. Those who forgive now likely need not forgive all who came before them. Forgiving those now who are behaviorally-demonstrating the stress through unjust actions or maladaptive behavior (such as second-hand cigarette smoke or too much sugar in the diet to appease the stressed parent) may be sufficient for restoring psychological health to those in the current generation.
Might the compromised cortisol level (and other hormonal stress indicators) begin to self-correct, lowering stress reactions, and helping people adapt to stressful injustices, and particularly the stressful effects caused by those injustices? Might this then have a positive effect on the next generation, as the children and the children’s children are not overwhelmed by the effects of parental anguish, excessive anger, or other inappropriate behaviors?
So that I am not misunderstood, I am not talking only about current adolescents and those in emerging adulthood who are showing mental health disorders. I am talking about entire generations as a whole that may not be as psychologically whole in general as they could be. If this analysis has merit, then it is all the more imperative that we take very seriously the idea of forgiveness education in general, not just for those with diagnosed mental disorders.
Might forgiveness education in general, within regular classrooms or families, be one answer to reversing the accumulated stress–with its inherited psychological effects that might be increasing through the generations? Learning to forgive may be the untried way of reversing the negative psychological effects of injustices that have marched across the centuries. Research consistently shows that both Forgiveness Therapy and Forgiveness Education can statistically significantly reduce anger, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
A final point is this:Forgiveness education now may be a gift to subsequent generations of children who then may inherit far less stress than seems to be the case to date. This may occur if the children and adolescents of today can reduce stress through learning to forgive and thus prepare a way for greater thriving for their own children and grandchildren.
Unless we see the problem, we may be indifferent to the cure. Future generations’ mental health may depend, in part, on how we respond to these ideas.