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.

Is there a difference between forgiving and wishing someone well?  I wish my ex-husband well, but I am still very angry with him because he broke the marriage covenant.

The late Lewis Smedes in his book, Forgive and Forget, made the point that people are starting to forgive when they wish the other person well.  Thus, you likely are at the beginning of forgiveness and this is a positive step.  Now you need to press onward toward deeper forgiveness.  Try to see your ex-husband’s worth; try to see his emotional wounds which might have contributed to the break-up; try to be aware of any compassion that may be growing in you as you do this work.  The result, based on our research, likely will be reduced anger.

For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.

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.

To me, proclaiming, “I forgive you,” is all about power—-power over the other by basically condemning the other.  After all, what you are doing in this proclamation of forgiving is to point out the other’s flaws.  What do you think?

If your philosophy is based on Machiavelli or post-modernism in which the assumption is that there are no universal truths,  then you will be viewing forgiveness through the lens of power. If  your philosophy is based on classical realism, such as Aristotle, then you will be viewing forgiveness through a moral virtue lens, with the assumption that genuine forgiving is morally good, done for others in a selfless way. The Machiavellian project, within the study of forgiveness, is dangerous because it could lead a person to falsely abandoning the quest for forgiving and shedding of hatred.  After all, if forgiving is abandoned, what is the alternative to expunging hatred?

My point is this: The philosophy with which you begin contemplation on what forgiveness is and its value for you and others has profound implications for how you view this important virtue.  So, as Socrates warned us, the unexamined life is not worth living.  We need to examine very carefully what are our initial assumptions about forgiveness, including being aware of what philosophical model we are bringing to bear on this reflection, prior to judging forgiving as good or bad.

For additional information, see All You Need is Love.

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.

They say, “Forgive and forget,” but I just can’t blot out of my memory what happened to me.  Does this mean that I am not forgiving the person?

The term forget has more than one meaning.  It can mean not being able to remember what happened.  It can mean to not dwell on what happened.  It can mean that as we look back, we remember in new ways.  When we forgive, we can remember and this is all right.  As an analogy, if you have ever had a sports injury, you can look back; you do not forget in a literal sense the time of a challenging physical injury.  Yet, when you look back at the sports injury, you do not feel the pain in the same way as you did when the event happened.  I think it is the same with forgiveness.  We can look back, but we remember in new ways, without the acute pain being there for us now.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

WORTH-LESS OR WORTH-MORE?

“As we continually live with love withdrawn from us and a resulting resentment (with the short-term consequences of thinking with a negative pattern, thinking specific condemning thoughts, and acting poorly), we can settle into a kind of long-term distortion of who the love-withdrawing person is, who we ourselves are, and who people are in general. The basic issue here is that once love is withdrawn from us, we can begin to withdraw a sense of worth toward the one who hurt us. The conclusion is that he or she is worth-less. Over time, we can drift into the dangerous conclusion, ‘I, too, am worthless. ’After all, others have withdrawn love from me and have concluded that I lack worth, therefore I do lack worth. Even later, we can drift into the unhealthy conclusion that there is no love in the world and so no one really has any worth, thus everyone is worth-less.”

Excerpt from the book, The Forgiving Life, Chapter 1.

Robert

What is one important insight you can give to me if I want to ask for forgiveness from someone I wounded emotionally?

I would realize that the person has a wounded heart and may need time to forgive. In other words, when you approach the person do not expect an immediate, “Yes, I forgive you.”  So, you will need to be ready to wait.

For additional information, see  The Four Phases of Forgiveness.

Forgiving for me is a struggle, but I can accomplish it.  My issue is with reconciliation, which I am finding very awkward with one particular person.  Can reconciliation ever be truly accomplished after a brutal betrayal?

Congratulations on forgiving in the face of a “brutal betrayal.”  This is not at all easy to accomplish.  Regarding reconciliation, your struggle may be centered on the theme of trust. How trustworthy is the person whom you have forgiven?  If you are not able to establish trust, at least not yet, this may be the cause of your struggle.  Try to get a sense of whether or not the other is sorry for the injustice, uses words that suggest sincerity of repentance to you, and shows behavior that is consistent with the inner sorrow and words of repentance.

For additional information, see Do I Have to Reconcile with the Other When I Forgive?

I don’t need to forgive.  I have put the person out of my life.  I have moved on.  That person can have a miserable life now as far as I am concerned.  In fact, this person would deserve misery.  I don’t really have a question, just this statement that one simply can move on without forgiving.

Thank you for your note.  While “moving on” certainly is possible when the injustice is not serious, I have found that people have a very hard time “just moving on” when deeply hurt by others.  In your case, may I challenge you a bit?  I do not think that you are “moving on” without resentment in your heart toward the person.  I say this because of your statement, “In fact, this person would deserve misery.”  This suggests to me that you still are angry.  This kind of anger can stay with a person for a very long time.  “Moving on” is not a cure for such anger.  Forgiveness, on the other hand, is a cure for it.  If and when you are ready to consider forgiveness in this case, your forgiving the person may help you reduce this feeling of resentment.

For additional information, see The Personal, Global, and Cosmic Perspectives.