The prominence of forgiveness and forgiveness therapy in the field of psychology over the past few decades has been well-documented in the scientific literature. Also well documented has been the pioneering and groundbreaking forgiveness work of Dr. Robert Enright within that movement. Here are pertinent milestones:
Editor's Note:This is the first in a series of articles that will focus on former students of Dr. Robert Enright who have continued their forgiveness research activities after graduation and who have made their own mark on the forgiveness movement.
Dr. Jichan J. Kim is a South Korean native who studied under Dr. Enright for four years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned both his Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Educational Psychology while at the same time pursuing research projects that led Dr. Enright to call him “one of the most prolific graduate assistants I’ve ever instructed.”
During those four years, the two researchers worked together to conduct numerous forgiveness-related research projects including a study that explored how graduate-level theology students in South Korea perceived the difference between divine forgiveness and human forgiveness. The results of that project were published just last month in the Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health.
After graduation, Dr. Kim left UW-Madison to become Assistant Professor of Psychology at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA–a world-class Christian university founded by Dr. Jerry Falwell who gained international fame as an advisor to world leaders and who was named one of the 25 Most Influential People in America by U.S. News & World Report in 1983. Liberty University is one of the largest Christian universities in the world with more than 15,000 students attending classes on campus and more than 94,000 students taking courses through Liberty University Online.
At Liberty University, Dr. Kim teaches Introduction to Research, Directed Research, and Psychology and Christianity. In Spring 2020, he is teaching a
semester-long, special topics course in forgiveness,
for which he is very excited. He is also leading a Psychology Study Abroad Trip to South Korea in June 2020 where students will learn about: 1) the aspects of a collectivistic culture in contrast to an American individualistic culture; and, 2) how that culture views forgiveness and reconciliation.
The full course load complements Dr. Kim’s research activities. Since leaving UW-Madison three years ago, Dr. Kim has become even more intricately involved in forgiveness research and forgiveness education both in the US and in his home country of South Korea. His research and studies, for example, have:
Examined the relationship between forgiveness and compassionate love;
Explored the idea of the school as the Just and Merciful Community;
Evaluated, together with his undergraduate research team at Liberty University, the effectiveness of a family-based forgiveness program with more than a dozen volunteer families; and,
Explored the relationship between interpersonal, self-, and divine forgiveness.
“I give special thanks to Dr. Enright for introducing to me the beauty of forgiveness. I owe him a great deal and I will try my best to follow in his footsteps through a life dedicated to driving out hatred through forgiving love.” Dr. Jichan J. Kim
In addition to his UW-Madison degrees, Dr. Kim has received degrees from Harvard University (Cambridge, MA), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (South Hamilton, MA), and City College of New York. He also has extensive ministry experience in Madison, New York City, and Boston (serving various age groups in Korean immigrant congregations).
Dr. Kim and his wife, Jieun, have three children–Yewon (Arianna), Juwon (Aiden), and Sungwon (Joseph). For the past several years, Dr. Kim has financially supported the International Forgiveness Institute with an automaticmonthly donation through PayPal. He says he has two favorite quotes he tries to live by:
Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:8)
Forgiveness is offering love to a person in the face of injustice and at a time when that person is most unlovable. (Dr. Robert Enright)
Alyona Yartsevamoved in 2015 from Russia to Kyrgyzstan (officially the Kyrgyz Republic)–a mountainous country of incredible natural beauty in Central Asia. As she pursued her new life there, intent on helping others improve their own lives, she quickly came to realize that forgiveness is a valuable commodity not only for helping people overcome personal difficulties but also for helping tame the ethnic, political, and socio-economic tensions that simmered there and in surrounding countries that had all gained their independence with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Since Alyona moved to Kyrgyzstan, she has been on “a forgiveness rampage” that has included:
Validating the newly-adapted EFI-30 by using it, along with a checklist of physical health symptoms (a new measuring tool that she created herself), in a forgiveness research project with more than 150 participants;
Participating in a four-month forgiveness intervention internship and conducting post-therapy interviews that “vividly demonstrated” to her the therapeutic effects and positive results of forgiveness;
Conducting a hands-on forgiveness training program for her fellow-AUCA students to demonstrate the four-phases of Dr. Enright’s Process Model of Forgiveness and further expand the use of the EFI-30;
Consulting with “no-charge clients” (as a student she cannot charge for her services) who were able to move towards forgiveness and improve their mental health;
Obtaining and starting to translate into Russian Dr. Enright’s Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program;and,
One of the motivating factors for Alyona’s impressive foray into forgiveness activities was what she was unable to find when she was accepted as a graduate student at the AUCA in the capital city of Bishkek. Although she conducted exhaustive literature searches for anything related to forgiveness written in either the Russian or Kyrgyz language, she found absolutely none.
“As a believer in Jesus Christ, I’ve always understood the value of forgiveness but now I see it from a different professional perspective,”Alyona says.“I want to be able to demonstrate the effects of forgiveness (or unforgiveness) to my colleagues in Russian language publications.”
As Alyona looks ahead to the future, she says that once she completes translating the anti-bullying material she would like to personally introduce it to local school counselors. Following that, she plans to move to Uzbekistan where she wants to popularize forgiveness therapy among local psychologists. She plans to continue her forgiveness research together with a group of colleagues “who have a heart for forgiveness” and is pursuing foundation grants to fund their efforts.
“Dr. Enright’s Forgiveness Therapy is at the very top of my tool box as a counselor,” Alyona adds,“and I believe it is essential to promote and research forgiveness therapy and the positive effects of forgiveness in Central Asia.”
Kyrgyzstan is a country in Central Asia–a region which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east, and from Afghanistan and Iran in the south to Russia in the north. The region consists of the former Soviet republics ofKazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The United Nations also includes Afghanistan as part of Central Asia. The region is also colloquially referred to as “the stans” as the countries generally considered to be within the region all have names ending with the Persian suffix “-stan,” meaning “land of.” ƒ
We have self-help books that we characteristically use in our forgiveness research. These include Forgiveness Is a Choice (2001) and 8 Keys to Forgiveness(2015). I walk you through the process of forgiveness in a step-by-step fashion in these books. They have been shown scientifically to be effective in promoting forgiveness. As a Jewish believer, you are not alone in your forgiving. You can rely on God’s grace to assist you in the forgiveness process.
“If you’ve seen your children struggle to forgive someone for hurting them, you know that forgiveness is complicated,”says Dr. Robert Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute. “After all, forgiveness is complicated for adults, too.”
Rather than discourage us, however, that reality should in fact encourage parents and teachers to begin teaching children about forgiveness as early as possible and certainly by the time they are in pre-kindergarten, Dr. Enright outlines in an article posted yesterday in Greater Good Magazine. Entitled How We Think About Forgiveness at Different Ages, the article describes how a child’s understanding of forgiving develops as she grows older.
“In over 30 years of studying forgiveness, I have interviewed children and adolescents, as well as college students and adults—and found that our understanding of forgiveness evolves over childhood and young adulthood, partly influenced by what we learn from our parents and communities,” Dr. Enright says.
“Helping our children reach their highest level of forgiving can set them up to live a life without unhealthy anger and with more peace.” Dr. Robert Enright
Dr. Enright’s research indicates that no matter what age a child is at, he starts with some misconceptions about forgiveness including these:
Young children often believe that the proclamation of “I am sorry” followed by the automatic reply of “I forgive you” can solve any conflict.
Fourth graders often equate it with first getting even.
Many 9 to 10-year-old children think they could forgive and make up with classmates only if those classmates first got what they deserved–punishment for their misbehavior.
Compared to fourth graders, seventh graders usually develop what is called a “reciprocal perspective” where they can think of themselves and others at the same time but they often say it will be easier to forgive if they are first compensated for what happened to them.
Many 10th graders take a more complex view of forgiving where the focus is on their peer group and their family context. Here they can understand that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation, and that it is possible to forgive while seeking justice. At the same time, however, there is a tendency to occasionally over-emphasize the advice of the peer group. If the group frowns on the idea of forgiving, then the person may refrain from offering the mercy of forgiveness toward those who were unfair.
Those and other misconceptions children hold about forgiveness can be overcome as they learn and practice true forgiveness, according to Dr. Enright.
“Children can reach a profound understanding of forgiveness in adulthood by persistently practicing it, with the help of parents, when they are hurt by others,” Dr. Enright adds. “Such learning, begun early in life, is a building block for mature adult thinking about forgiveness. Worldwide, it is one path toward peace.”
Through articles, videos, quizzes, and podcasts, Greater Good Magazine bridges the gap between scientific journals and people’s daily lives, particularly for parents, educators, business leaders, and health care professionals. Its goal is to turn scientific research into tools and tips for a happier life and a more compassionate society.
Greater GoodMagazine is published by the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California, Berkeley. Since 2001, the GGSC has been at the fore of a new scientific movementto explore the roots of happy and compassionate individuals, strong social bonds, and altruistic behavior—the science of a meaningful life.
Yes, and we have a randomized experimental and control study to show this. We did two sessions a week with the book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, for 6 weeks. After the forgiveness sessions, the participants went from clinically depressed to non-depressed. In contrast, those in the drug-treatment program as usual (the control group) went down in depression, but they remained clinically depressed. Here is the reference to that research:
It is an imperfect world and we get contradictory messages all the time. Do we give up on that which can be helpful to students because parents have not had the opportunity to explore forgiveness in some depth? Having a chance to explore forgiveness and giving it a try in school might help the children to overcome unjust treatment even when parents give a different message.