Your Forgiveness Landscape

First, what is a “forgiveness landscape”? This is an expression first used in my book, The Forgiving Life, to refer to all of the people who ever have been seriously unjust to you. When people first construct their forgiveness landscape, they often are surprised at: a) how many people are on the list and b) the depth of the anger left over, even from decades ago.

When we are treated deeply unfairly by others, the anger is slow to leave. If we push that anger aside, simply thinking we have “moved on” or “forgotten all about it,” sometimes this is not the case. The anger can be in hiding, deep within the heart, and the only way to get rid of it is surgery of the heart—forgiveness.

Would you like to examine your own forgiveness landscape to see how many people in your life are still in need of your forgiveness? You might want to write down your answers to the following questions.

First set of questions: Think back to your childhood. Is there anyone who was very unfair to you and if so, what is your anger level now on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 signifying no anger left over and a 5 signifying lots of anger when you reflect on this person and the actions toward you.

More specifically from your childhood, are there any incidents from your father that still make you angry? From your mother? A sibling?

What about from peers or teachers; is your anger still high when you recall the incidents?

Second set of questions: Let us now focus on your adolescence. Follow the pattern from the first set of questions. Then let us add any coaches, employers or fellow employees, and romantic partners to the list. Are there people who still make you angry in the 4 or 5 range of our scale?

Third set of questions: Who in your adult life has made you significantly angry, in the 4 to 5 range of anger? We can add partner, any children, relatives, friends, and neighbors to the list.

Now please rank order all of the people from those who least offended you to those who most offended you. Now look at that list to see your forgiveness landscape. There is your work, right there in the list.

I recommend starting with people lower on the list. Forgive them first because they in all likelihood are the easiest to forgive because the anger is less. As you work up the list, you will gain in your expertise to forgive, which is good preparation for forgiving those on the top of the list—those who are the most challenging for you.

You can find more on this way of forgiving in the book,
The Forgiving Life, which walks you systematically through this exercise.

Enjoy the challenge. Enjoy the journey of forgiveness, which can set you free in so many ways.

Robert

Generalizing from the Particular to the Universal

You know how it goes.  You go into a department store and have an unpleasant encounter with the person at checkout…..and you never go back there again.  The particular incident has given you a bad feeling for the entire organization.

You break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and, at least for a while, you think that no one really can be trusted.  This one relationship makes you mistrustful of such relationships in general.

Generalization.  It can help us when the generalization is true and can distort reality for us when false.  For example, when we touch poison ivy in one woods, it is wise to avoid it in the next….and the next.  The effects of poison ivy generalize regardless of which plant we touch.  On the other hand, one boyfriend’s bad behavior does not predict another person’s behavior.  In this case, generalization closes down our mind and heart when there is no need for this.

When you are hurt by someone, you have to be careful not to generalize this to many, most, or all others.  Not everyone is out to hurt you.  Such generalization can form the unhealthy foundation for a world view that is pessimistic and inaccurate.  Has this happened to you?

If so, it is time to fight back against this.  Try saying the following to yourself as a way to break the habit of a false view of others:

I have been wounded by another person. For today, I will not let his/her wounds make me a bitter person who thinks negatively about people in general. I will overcome any tendency toward this by seeing others as having special worth, not because of what they have done, but in spite of this.  We are all on this planet together; we are all wounded.  Not all are out to wound me.

Robert

From your own experience, what is the most difficult part of the forgiveness process?

Our research tells us that the decision to forgive is the most difficult.  I think it is because, for those who have rarely practiced forgiving, this is a large transition in their lives. They are walking through a door, the forgiveness door, that offers something new. Change can be difficult for many people and this change, in beginning to see an offending person in entirely new ways, can lead to doubt and even to a reworking of one’s own identity (Who am I now that I am starting to practice forgiveness?).

Why Our Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program Matters

“Bullying will not be tolerated in this school.”

“You are entering a no bullying zone.”

Consciousness raising is good precisely because it challenges each of us to be our best self, to do good for others.

Yet, sometimes some students are so emotionally wounded that their anger overwhelms the attempt at consciousness raising.  The students   are so very wounded that they cannot listen well.  Some are so wounded that they refuse to listen.  Even others are so mortally wounded that they find a certain pleasure in inflicting pain on others.  It is when it gets to that point—others’ pain equals pleasure for the one inflicting it—that we have a stubborn problem on our hands.  No signs, no consciousness raising, no rally in the gym, no pressure to be good is going to work…..because the gravely wounded student is now beyond listening.

Yet, we have found a hidden way to reverse the trend in those who are so hurting that they derive pain from hurting others.  It is this:  Ask the hurting students, those labeled so often as bullies, to tell their story of pain, their story of how others have abused them.

You will see this as the rule rather than the exception:

Those who inflict pain over and over have stories of abuse toward them that would make you weep.  In fact, we have seen the weeping come from the one who has bullied others, the one who has inflicted serious pain onto others. He wept because, as he put it, “No one ever asked me for my story before.”  His story was one of cruel child abuse from an alcoholic father who bruised him until he bled.  And no one ever asked him about this.  And so he struck out at others.  Once he told his story, he began to forgive his father and his pain lessened and thus his need to inflict pain on others slowly melted away.

This is what our Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program does.  It aids counselors and teachers in bringing out the stories in the pain-inflictors so that their own pain dramatically decreases.  As this happens, through forgiveness, bullying behavior is rendered powerless……because in examining their own hurt they finally realize how much hurt they have inflicted…..and with their own emotional pain gone, they have no desire to live life like this any more.

Come, take our anti-bullying curriculum and save the life of at least one child and help prevent inflicted pain on countless others.

Robert

 

Admired by Millions of People Around the World, Billy Graham was Ardent Forgiveness Advocate

The Washington Post, Montreat, NC – Just months away from his 100th birthday, William Franklin Graham Jr. (Billy Graham) died on Feb. 21 at his home in Montreat, NC.  An American evangelist known to millions around the world, Graham was buried beside his wife Ruth who died in 2007. His casket was made by inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary where Graham often ministered to death-row inmates.

As a preacher, Graham consistently espoused a message of patience, love, respect, and forgiveness of others. He hosted large indoor and outdoor rallies for more than 60 years that he called “crusades.”  Because of those crusades, Graham preached his message to more people in person than anyone in the history of Christianity.   According to his website, Graham preached to live audiences of 210 million people in more than 185 countries and territories. 


“In these days of guilt complexes, perhaps the most glorious word in the English language is FORGIVENESS.”   

 


Including radio and television broadcasts, Graham’s estimated lifetime audience tops 2.2 billion people world-wide. Graham was on Gallup’s list of most admired men 61 times, more than any man or woman in history. According to the book Billy Graham: American Pilgrim, “Billy Graham stands among the most influential Christian leaders of the twentieth century. He belongs on the Mount Rushmore of greatness in American religion.”

For Graham, an important and often repeated part of his message was that “we need to have patience with others and their shortcomings.  Don’t hold on to your bitterness and anger any longer — for they’ll become a poison to your soul.”

Here are some other forgiveness quotes made famous by Graham:

  • “Forgiveness does not come easily to us, especially when someone we have trusted betrays our trust. And yet if we do not learn to forgive, we will discover that we can never really rebuild trust.”
  • “Hot heads and cold hearts never solved anything.”
  • “Every human being is under construction from conception to death.”
  • “Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.”
Billy Graham (third from left) was spiritual adviser to 11 U.S. presidents from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama. Here he is pictured with (from left) former presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter. Graham’s son Franklin, stands beside his father.
Read more:

The New York Times – Billy Graham, 99, Dies; Pastor Filled Stadiums and Counseled Presidents; Feb. 21, 2018

The Washington Post – How an aging Billy Graham approached his own death; Feb. 21, 2018

The Washington PostHere are details for Billy Graham’s funeral: A viewing at the U.S. Capitol and a private service in N.C.; Feb. 22, 2018

NBC News – Billy Graham, evangelist pastor and counselor to presidents, dead at age 99; Feb. 21, 2018

Wikipedia – Billy Graham 

Four Eye-Opening Reasons Why You Should Watch the Rome Forgiveness Conference Videos

“The first-of-its-kind conference in Rome, Italy, explored what it means to forgive another person who has been unjust to you,” 
according to Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute. “Crucial ideas on how to help children and adolescents learn to forgive were presented by international experts in the field of forgiveness education.”
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If you were unable to attend the Rome Conference on Forgiveness in January (hosted by Dr. Robert Enright and the International Forgiveness Institute), here are four reasons you should watch the speaker videos that are now available free of charge on the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) website:
Reason #1: To learn the importance of forgiveness education.
Students at Hazelwood Integrated Primary School in Belfast.

Dr. Robert Enright, IFI founder, first discusses what forgiveness education is and its importance for children and adolescents. Click here to watch Dr. Enright’s presentation on “The Science of Forgiveness.”

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This is followed by a stirring presentation delivered by teacher Annette Shannon of the Holy Cross Primary School in Belfast, Northern Ireland–a school that experienced the effects of The Troubles in Northern Ireland in the early part of this century. Click here for Ms. Shannon’s presentation.
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You can also see the introduction to the conference by the Conference Master of Ceremonies, Fr. Robert Gahl, who is Professor of Philosophy, University of Santa Croce. Click here to watch and hear Fr. Gahl introduce the speakers.
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Reason #2: To hear the surprising declarations made by a high-ranking Iraqi official about forgiveness in Islam.
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The Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican, Hon. Omer Ahmed Kerim Berzinji, said forgiveness plays a prominent role in his Muslim faith and that it is cited roughly 100 times in the Quran. (Click here to watch the opening part of his presentation, which includes a consecutive translation of his Arabic words. After this brief consecutive translation, the rest of the ambassador’s talk is in Arabic without the translation). The Hon. Berzinji expressed an interest in considering the implementation of forgiveness education in Iraq.

Reason #3: To hear for yourself the Orthodox Jewish speaker’s views on forgiveness.
Peta
Peta Pellach of the Elijah Interfaith Institute in Jerusalem gave an inspiring presentation of forgiveness in Judaism that is not to be missed. Click here to watch Ms. Pellach’s presentation.
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Reason #4: To hear for yourself the Christian speaker’s views on forgiveness.
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Monsignor Mariano Fazio, Vicar General of Opus Dei and a long-time personal friend of Pope Francis, discusses his views on forgiveness.  Click here to watch Msgr. Fazio’s presentation. Author of more than 20 books, Msgr. Fazio’s newest book is titled Pope Francis: Keys to His Thought.

        


We extend our thanks and appreciation to our  conference partner Forgive4Peace for helping us make it possible.

Forgiveness can change the world — and YOU

From Dr. Robert Enright –

“I come to you today with an idea.  Ideas can lift up or tear down.  They can be conduits for good or for great evil.  Having studied the idea of forgiveness for the past 33 years, I am convinced that to date, the world has missed one of its greatest opportunities: to understand, nurture, and bring forth the idea of forgiveness within the human heart, within families, schools, workplaces, houses of worship, communities, nations, and between nations.

“Given the scientifically-supported findings across a wide array of hurting people across the globe, it is now obvious to me that forgiveness is an answer to the darkness, the injustice, the evil that can suddenly cascade down upon a person, overwhelming, devastating the inner world of that person who is caught off guard by the unfair treatment. When this happens, resentment can burst forth in the human heart, grow there, and become the unwanted guest that sours outlooks and relationships.
Resentments destroy; forgiveness builds up.

“Forgiveness is the strongest response against the ravages of resentment that I have ever seen. Forgiveness as an insight that all people have worth can stop the march of the madness, the cruelty, the acrimony dead in their tracks.  Forgiveness as a free choice to offer goodness when others refuse to offer it back can shine a light in the darkness and destroy evil. Yes, forgiveness can destroy evil because the light of forgiveness is stronger than any darkness and while some scoff and laugh at that, those who have the courage to try tell me that forgiveness is the over-comer, the defeater of a life being lived with bitterness and revenge-seeking.

“Forgiveness is an answer to injustice.  Forgiveness is a cure for the potentially devastating effects of injustice.  Forgiveness holds out the hope of living with joy.” 

Forgiveness can change the world–and YOU. How will you now contribute to this new idea? Read the rest of Dr. Enright’s “big picture” blog essay in the current issue of Psychology Today then send us your comments.