Pretoria North Reckford Community Newspaper Group, Nelspruit, South Africa –
“You can’t get angry, you have to forgive.”
That is what Ryno Mulder says has enabled him to cope with the gut-wrenching turbulence he and his wife Verna have experienced over the past five weeks since their eight-month-old daughter Mienke stopped breathing when she choked on a bottle.
Mienke was being fed in her caregiver’s arms when the girl started turning blue from lack of oxygen and lost consciousness. She was resuscitated at a nearby hospital before being airlifted to a Johannesburg hospital where she has been since the incident on August 25.
MRI scans show that Mienke has suffered severe brain damage and is believed to be blind. Her doctors fear that she will be unable to walk or talk. On Monday (Sept. 18) a feeding tube was inserted in her stomach.
“No parent should go through this; I would not wish this on anyone,” Ryno said. “We are still going through a roller coaster of emotions and everyone’s support has been helpful.”
More than 26,000 people are following Mienke’s progress on the “Please Pray for Mienke” Facebook group that Verna and Ryno have set up. Hundreds have also donated funds to help with ongoing medical and rehab costs. To assure those donors that their funds will be spent solely on the little bundle who has crawled so deep into people’s hearts, Ryno said a Mienke Mulder Trust Fund has been established at Standard Bank which has offices in 20 countries on the African continent.
Because he didn’t want her to be blamed or criticized, Ryno would not reveal the name of either Mienke’s caregiver or the creche (day nursery) where the incident happened. “You can’t get angry, you have to forgive,” he repeated.
On Wednesday of last week, Mienke opened her eyes for the first time since choking on the bottle, giving the entire Mulder family hope and a reason to stay positive.
Read more about Mienke and her family in these Lowvelder Media (South Africa) articles:
In many of my writings, I make the point that when you forgive, you also should seek justice from the one who hurt you. As an example, if someone continually verbally abuses you, it is good to ask that person to stop the abuse.
One person recently asked me if he now must—-must—-seek justice even if it is not expedient or helpful to do so. As an example, suppose you have a boss who is annoying but not abusive. Suppose further that your pointing out the annoyances will harm your position in the company. Are you morally obligated to seek justice as you forgive? No. As with your choice to forgive or not, it is your choice whether or not to seek justice.
We need to keep a balance here. There is no rule that says when you forgive you must not seek justice. There is no rule that says when you forgive you must seek justice.
Instead, use your wisdom and sense of fairness as you ask yourself: Should I be seeking justice in this particular case?
If seeking justice is the reasonable option, it may be best first to forgive so that you do not approach with deep anger the person from whom you will be asking fairness.
Are you are still holding on to a grudge, whether from yesterday or years ago? Are you still beating yourself up for some bad decision(s) you made in the past?
“If so, find compassion and forgiveness in your heart (it’s actually in your brain) and you will be healthier and happier.”
That’s the advice of 90-year-old Dr. Natasha Josefowitz, an internationally-known author and consultant who has spent her life educating herself and others.
“This issue (holding on to past hurts) can impact our own health,” Dr. Josefowitz wrote in a recent HUFFPOST article. “We know that anger is stressful, and stress releases cortisol which narrows our arteries, which in turn can cause heart problems.”
Behind every destructive behavior is some unresolved pain that is then acted out. Dr. Natasha Josefowitz,
“It is only when we can feel compassion that we can forgive,” Dr. Josefowitz adds. “Studies have confirmed that forgiving increases optimism and elevates mood whereas lack of it correlates with depression and anxiety. Forgiveness even increases blood flow to the heart.”
– How to let go if you are you still holding on to an old grudge, HUFFPOST, Sept. 11, 2017.
– How to Forgive; the Four Phases of Forgiveness, International Forgiveness Institute website.
– Forgiveness Is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope, Dr. Robert Enright.
Is it possible that injustices against us are not as dangerous as our reactions to those injustices? If we do not realize the potential inner damage done to us by people’s unfairness, we could let evil grow in us. Think about that: A person “out there” does bad things and the result is evil “in here,” in you.
When those bad things are serious, when your own inner world is threatened with growing anger and discontent, is there anything at all in this world that can quiet the beast more than forgiveness? I do not think so.
Other people’s troubles can become your monsters within if you give them space, feed them, and allow them to grow. Forgiveness shrinks then eliminates those monsters within.
If you think about it, forgiveness helps you retain your humanity, and to even grow in that humanity at a time when others are trying to let the inner monsters out of their cages.
1984. The Orwellian year of change, but in the novel by the same name it was a year of forced conformity, the chaining of ideas to the Big Brother agenda. It was the worst of times in the mind of George Orwell.
In my own case, 1984 was a time of finally breaking free of conformity, unlocking the chains of imprisoned ideas and learning for the first time how to fly. I am an academic and academics live and die by ideas, ones that they research and publish and try to spread to others.
I had a sabbatical in that fated year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where my ideas centered on moral development, which was centered on how youth become fair, which was centered on two thinkers, Jean Piaget of Switzerland and Lawrence Kohlberg of Harvard. Like sheep, the rest of us fell into line behind these thinkers’ ideas and we bleated out the same old story: there are stages of development in how youth think about justice and the more complex their thinking, the better off the youth are. And when I studied the progression of ideas on this theme during my 1984 sabbatical I faced a frightening reality: We are all recycling the same old story decade after decade after decade…..from 1932 to the present. 1984. Yes, I was horrified that I was about to spend the rest of my career in the pasture of old ideas, following shepherds who had brilliant original ideas. Yet, why should I keep going to that same pasture again and again…….and again?
I decided to get out of the line and flee that pasture. I threw over the academic cliff all of my writing and research on these two luminaries’ ideas…….and I never have gone back, over 30 years now, to read even one of my journal articles on youths’ justice-thinking that helped me receive both grants and tenure. I did not go back because the ideas were choking the life out of me. Why live in the shadow of luminaries when their ideas already have been brought to pasture so often by so many?
So, here I was in a publish-or-perish university without an idea……and academics live and die by ideas. So, I asked myself this question: What in the area of moral development might impact — — — truly impact on a deep level — — every person on the planet? Well, I thought, everyone who has ever lived and in the future will live on this planet must confront the opposite of Piaget’s and Kohlberg’s life-callings: injustice. How do people respond to injustice so that they can emotionally heal from the effect of cruel, undeserved injustice? Forgiveness. Yes, forgiveness. If people can learn to forgive, perhaps this could aid people in casting off resentment and unhealthy anger and discouragement. Yes, forgiveness is worth studying even though it seems so….so… unreasonable, being good to those who are not good to you.
Yet, when I went to the library and asked the librarian to do a literature search (there were no Google searches back then) for all studies in all of the social sciences focused expressly on people forgiving other people, she came back with a blank piece of paper. Sorry, but there are no such studies on the planet. A friend of mine, at the same time, did such a search in the library at a Kansas university and he, too, was met with a blank sheet. No published studies on forgiving existed.
I decided to start a think-tank at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to begin asking these questions: What does it mean to forgive others? What is the pathway that people typically walk when they decide to forgive? What outcomes can we measure when people choose to forgive? The Friday Forgiveness Seminar was born in the spring semester of 1985 (and continues to this day) and consisted of a wide range of cultures and faiths and no-faiths, people from Saudi Arabia, Greece, Taiwan, Korea, and the United States…….Muslims, Jewish, Christian, agnostics, and the religiously indifferent. We all sat around a table every Friday, discussed the questions, did the research, and found very good things in that research. When people forgive, even when hurt gravely such as by incest or emotional abuse, there is a tendency for the forgivers to reduce in anger and anxiety and even in depression. They get their lives back.
Nonetheless, academia is not so forgiving as to forgive me for stepping out of the sheep line and thinking independently. Academia talks the talk of academic freedom, but offers its support only within the parameters of what is considered acceptable at that point in time in that cultural context. I now like to say that academia, if we are not careful, grooms us for the sheep’s meadow where we can live out our lives under the careful watch of the academic shepherds who will tell us what is and what is not an acceptable thought. And the study of forgiveness in 1985 was not one of those ideas.
A firestorm erupted about our studying forgiving. It is unacceptable, I was told. It is too soft an idea for hard-headed academia, I was told. You are ruining your career and so you will ruin the career of your unsuspecting graduate students. Desist! Desist with your ideas! 1984.
I did not listen, nor did my brave graduate students, so many of whom now are in solid and tenured academic positions…….because the original nay-sayers were wrong. As soon as we started to publish work on Forgiveness Therapy, showing the reduction of depression, and even its elimination in people who had suffered for years, many academics began to change their ideas about our ideas. The American Psychological Association played a large part in this turn around, as the Editor of APA Books, Mary Lynn Skutley, took her own risk by publishing one of my books, Helping Clients Forgive with the psychiatrist Richard Fitzgibbons, then another and then another. 5 books in all at APA and this helped to put the social scientific study of forgiving on the map of acceptability.
The risks continue. My colleagues and I have given talks in war-torn areas, areas where governmental overseers warn us not to go. Yet, the ideas beckon. We are planning the Jerusalem Conference on Forgiveness for July 12 and 13, 2017 because, well, Jerusalem is a very hurting city and so it is a symbol of the need for forgiving, so off we go.
Within the past month, the Rotary Club of New York has taken the risk with us. We now have created the joint Declaration for Peace and Community Renewal, centered on bringing forgiveness education to as many war-torn communities across the world as we can over the next 24 years. That Declaration is on the Rotary Club of New York’s website as I write this. We are planning a conference on forgiveness education at the United Nations. We are taking a risk together.
Risk. Without it, my ideas die in the academic pasture. With it, I fly because forgiveness flies…..into broken hearts, into broken families, into broken communities. APA and Rotary are risk-takers. We have flown and are flying together……and the world is better off. Taking that risk has allowed many researchers to fly with us and has allowed hurting people to cast off the chains of resentment in their own hearts. Risk can save lives.
Professor of Educational Psychology, UW-Madison, licensed psychologist, and IFI board member was the first to research forgiveness in the social sciences.
Sojourner Magazine, Washington, D.C. – Editor’s Note: This article is actually a collection of excerpts from an inspiring commentary by Lisa Sharon Harper in the 6/19/17 issue of Sojourner Magazine.
Forgiveness is completely counterintuitive. When betrayed, diminished, abused, oppressed, exploited, or erased it is human to want to pay an eye for an eye. Our hearts betray back, diminish back, lead us to abuse back, oppress back (if we can), exploit back, or erase back.
I had never actually hated anyone before, then my heart felt hate’s comfort. It was intoxicating. Hate made me forget my own pain. I felt puffed up and empowered — empowered to erase the other in my heart … and it felt good. What I didn’t realize was even as I was puffing myself up, my heart was hardening, transforming from flesh to stone — no longer human.
The second requirement of forgiveness is hope. We must have hope that a better world — and a better way of being — is possible.
The third requirement of forgiveness is humility. We must agree with God that the perpetrator is human — and so are we. We do not know his whole story. We do not know what led her to take the action she took. We do not get to craft their story. We are mere flesh and they are mere flesh.
Once we hold desire, hope, and humility, then forgiveness is possible.
I see the other’s humanity.
Read More: 3 Things Forgiveness Demands of Us