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.

Take the Long Perspective When It Is Difficult to Forgive

Think about one time in your childhood when you had what seemed to be a serious disagreement with a friend. At the time, did it seem like this breach would last forever? Did it? How long did it take to either reconcile or to find a new friend? Time has a way of changing our circumstances. This is not to advocate a kind of passive approach to life here—such as, “Oh, I’ll just wait it out and not bother to exert any effort.” That is not the point. The point is to take a long perspective so that you can see beyond the next hill to a place that is more settled and the pain is not so great. You already saw in your childhood that conflicts end. And the consequences of those conflicts (feeling sad or angry) also end. Why should that same process of change not also apply now? Try to see your circumstance, as realistically as you can, one month from now. Try to see your circumstance six months from now. Try to see yourself two years from now. Will you be the same person? Will you respond to injustices in the exact same way as you did three months ago? Probably not. You will likely be able to meet challenges with greater strength and wisdom as you continue on the forgiveness journey.

Enright, Robert. 8 Keys to Forgiveness (8 Keys to Mental Health) . W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

A School Anti-Bullying Program That Works!

No one argues about the need to stop bullying in schools. Bullying’s adverse effects not only impact the child when the bullying occurs but typically impact a victim’s health and emotions throughout the person’s lifetime (see “The Impact of Bullying” box below).

That reality has become a growing topic of concern in the academic community with bullying being cited as a universal problem in countries around the world. Over the past several decades, literally hundreds of school-wide anti-bullying programs have been developed and implemented. That raises the question, of course: Do school antibullying programs work?

The typical answer from those professionals studying that question is: “Not so well. We need to do better.”

And sure enough, that’s the inauspicious conclusion of a just-completed systematic review of  scientific publications covering the past 20 years. According to the study, Whole‐school Antibullying Interventions,  a full 50% of all the school programs reviewed  failed to “show significant effects on bullying prevalence” or  found negative results including an actual increase in bullying.

The study, published in April by the peer-reviewed journal Psychology in the Schools,  was conducted by university researchers in Brazil. While their study found that anti-bullying interventions resulted in increased reporting of bullying occurrences (with resultant increases in the use of punitive discipline), at the same time many of the programs failed totally–primarily due to inadequate time for training and implementation as well as lack of support.

Dr. Jichan J. Kim

Those findings come as no surprise to many psychologists. In fact, the report actually documented and reinforced what educational psychologist Dr. Jichan J. Kim first reported more than four years ago in his University of Wisconsin-Madison doctoral thesis: The Effectiveness of a Forgiveness Intervention Program on Reducing Adolescents’ Bullying Behavior.

Dr. Kim’s thesis includes a 29-page literature review in which he documents the unusually large number of research projects demonstrating the ineffectiveness of most school-wide anti-bullying programs including:

  • A 2007 review of 45 separate school-based anti-bullying studies involving 34,713 individuals that concluded “the positive changes were too small to be supported as significant;”
  • Another 2007 examination of 16 major anti-bullying programs across 11 different countries that showed mixed results with less than half the programs demonstrating desirable effects;
  • A 2008 evaluation of 16 studies across 6 nations involving a total of 15,386 K-12 students that showed the interventions tended to influence students’ attitudes and self-perceptions but not their bullying behavior; and,
  • Studies completed in 2012, 2014, and 2015 (one involving 560 school psychologists and school counselors) supporting the lack of evidence-based interventions.

Despite all the negative assessments he uncovered, Dr. Kim believes there is one approach that might be effective–helping adolescents exhibiting bullying behavior to forgive those who have offended them in the past. That approach, Dr. Kim says, is still not widely used and is, therefore, still not a compelling component of the scientific literature although he is confident it “can be beneficial.” 

Dr. Robert D. Enright

That intervention approach, in fact, is  the one advocated in The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program developed more than 8 years ago by Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute. The program not only incorporates lessons-learned from Dr. Enright’s more than 40-years of forgiveness research, it also integrates the scientifically-quantifiable forgiveness process he developed and , perhaps most importantly, it focuses directly on the one doing the bullying.

“Those who bully usually have pent-up anger and as a result they displace their own wounds onto others,” Dr. Enright explains. “Our program is meant to take the anger out of the heart of those who bully so that they no longer bully others.”

Dr. Enright says his research has taught him to take an approach that may seem counter-intuitive today, but will appear obvious to many in the future: “Yes, help the victim, but also help the one who is bullying to get rid of his or her anger, which is fueling the bullying. Those who bully have been victimized by others. Help them to reduce their resentment toward those who were the victimizers and the bullying behavior will melt away.”


Would implementing IFI’s forgiveness therapy in Police Departments help with racism, police brutality, domestic violence and suicide in the police community? If so, how would IFI recommend police get forgiveness therapy into their departments?

All organizations are made up of imperfect people.  Therefore, any organization will have its share of unjust treatment by others outside the organization and toward people both outside that organization and within it.  Those organizations that have much more stress than others, such as the police and the military, probably could benefit from forgiveness workshops.  Why?  If people in these organizations are abused by others, learning to forgive can quell the anger so that the anger is not displaced onto others.  If people in the organizations abuse others, then the first step is to exercise the moral virtue of justice and make right that which was wrong.  Asking for forgiveness is delicate because those hurt by the injustice may need a time of anger or sadness and therefore are not necessarily ready to forgive.  Another step, once justice is restored, is learning to engage in self-forgiveness, which is important to avoid self-hatred.  We have given workshops to military organizations and to those in the criminal justice system, but not yet to any police organizations, only because we have not been asked yet.

Humility as the Set-Aside Complement to Forgiving

On our Facebook page for the International Forgiveness Institute, I have posted in the past this idea: “Humility and forgiveness seem to be a team. It takes time to develop both.”

The point is to show that if we are to forgive well, we have to set aside our pride, our sense of self-righteousness, and realize that the one(s) who hurt us share a common humanity with us.  We all have inherent or built-in worth.  When we are humble, following Aristotle’s analysis of all moral virtues, we do not move toward the extremes of seeing ourselves as moral worms or as better than others because we are engaging in the practice of such an exalted virtue as humility.

Recently, I made a new friend, Kari Konkola, who holds a doctoral degree in history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He specializes in the history of religion.  As I discussed my interest in forgiveness, he responded that it would be hard to forgive if excessive pride is getting in the way.  With a dominance of pride, self-righteous anger can push away the motivation to forgive.

Dr. Konkola further instructed me that humility, as a complement to forgiveness, was a central moral virtue in the Medieval period.  The point during these Middle Ages was to realize that each of us is no better than others precisely because we all fall short of moral perfection.  He went on to say that there has been a trend since the Medieval period in which humility as a valued moral virtue is in decline.  He sees humility as the ignored moral virtue in the modern West.

So, with this challenge in mind, that humility is in decline, I decided to do a little psychological experiment. I wrote an essay centered on humility on the Psychology Today website, where I have been blogging since September, 2017.  I posted the essay entitled, “Humility: What Can It Do for You” on April 27, 2020.  That was over three weeks ago and the number of views for this essay as of this writing on May 20 is 477.  In contrast, I posted an essay on the nine purposes of forgiveness less than a week ago and already the number of views is 2,027.  It is typical to see between 5,000 and 10,000 views for some of these essays focused on forgiveness, and yet the one on humility is languishing, as Dr. Konkola may have predicted.

Humility seems to be the set-aside moral virtue.  If so, then how can people forgive deeply if humility does not accompany the forgiving?  How will people even gravitate toward forgiving if pride blocks all consideration of forgiving?

What has happened in the West that has led to either a disinterest in humility or even an aversion to it?  Who had it right, those in the Medieval period or the modern West?  I’m not sure of the precise answers here, but I am convinced that we somehow have managed to de-value an important moral virtue, one that might need to team with forgiveness if forgiving others is to be achieved well.

Robert

How to Beat the Coronavirus Lockdown Blues

World-renowned psychologist Dr. Robert Enright has teamed up with acclaimed songwriter-performer Sam Ness to produce a “therapeutic music-discussion video” for adults who are struggling with the anguish created by the COVID-19 lockdown.

Called “Forgiveness,” the hour-long video incorporates original compositions written and performed by Ness with related summary discussion bites on the virtue of forgiveness to create what Dr. Enright calls  “forgiveness therapy through music” or simply “music of the heart.” The video production is available at no cost on YouTube.

“Every person in the world is dealing with some form of pain or toxic anger from being hurt in the past,” Dr. Enright said in explaining why he and Ness produced the video. “The COVID-19 lockdown has a tendency to amplify those internal feelings and cause additional stress so this is the ideal time to practice forgiveness by being good to yourself (self-forgiveness) and good to others.”

The Forgiveness video includes a rolling discussion between Ness and Dr. Enright, a University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor and co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute. The exchanges summarize the four phases of the patented Enright Forgiveness Process Model that has become the standard for forgiveness and forgiveness therapy around the world.

“Sam has added high artistry to the language of forgiveness with his voice and his guitar,” Dr. Enright says. “Instead of reading a book to learn how to forgive, Sam’s songs provide forgiveness therapy through music.

With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down most television and movie productions for now, would-be viewers of those non-existent productions are looking for something new to watch as they shelter in place, according to Dr. Enright. “This video is just what they need—emotional self-improvement.”

In addition to the song “Forgiveness,” Ness performs two other original compositions on the video: “Storm Inside of Me” (a ballad about self-forgiveness) and “I’ve Come for Grace” (a song he wrote about life’s trials while he was undertaking a 96-mile winter hike through the Highlands of Scotland).

The 22-year-old Ness, a native of Sauk City, WI, began his song-writing career at age 15 and performed in show choir musicals throughout his high school years earning him scores of awards including two Wisconsin Tommy Awards for Outstanding Lead Performer and more than a handful of  Outstanding Male Soloist Awards.

After high school, Ness passed up scholarship offers to study theater from half-a-dozen prestigious universities and music conservatories. Instead, he hitch-hiked and hopped busses for nearly a year across Scotland, England, France, Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland while learning the fine art of “busking” (street performing).


The complete video production is available at no cost on


The following year, Ness busked across much of New Zealand before signing on for a 23-show tour across Thailand and Cambodia. Since returning to Wisconsin, he finished writing and recording an album, “Lullabies & Faerie Tales.” He was nominated for several Madison-area music awards and won the Male Vocalist of the Year Award in 2019. Most of his music is available on his website: www.samness.us.

Ness will be traveling throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota this summer (COVID-19 permitting) as part of a solo musical tour featuring performances in 19 separate venues including resorts, lounges, wineries and brewpubs. View the Schedule.

That tour has been arranged and scheduled by Jonathan Little Productions, a talent agency owned by Jonathan Little—a life-long radio broadcaster and promoter of local artists. Little also helped arrange and produce the “Forgiveness” video. He received the Madison Area Music Awards Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 and was inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 2008.

“As this new video demonstrates, forgiveness is a paradox in which people are kind to those who were unkind to them, according to Dr. Enright. “That’s something we can all benefit from in this time of coronavirus lockdown. Forgiveness has the power you can use to free yourself from past hurts so you can live a better life.”

For Additional Information:

 

I am a religious person and it seems to me that the cosmic perspective would work best with this kind of transcendent approach to life.  Do you agree or not?

Yes, those who have a religious perspective often can and are willing to take an eternal perspective on the one who harmed you.  In other words, the cosmic perspective asks you to go beyond the physical world and ask such questions as these: Is it possible that you might meet the other person in the afterlife?  Did God make this person and you?  If so, what does this mean about who this person is……and about who you are as a person?

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

I am not able to gather any concrete information about the person who robbed me.  How then do I forgive when I cannot examine this person’s life, including any trauma that might have contributed to this hurtful action?

We talk about taking three perspectives on the one whom you are forgiving: the personal perspective, the global perspective, and the cosmic perspectiveThe personal perspective is as you describe: trying to better understand the person’s own struggles, confusions, and wounds. Yet, you still can take the global perspective in which you reflect on the shared humanity between you and the person who robbed you.  You both have worth, not because of your actions, but because each of you is unique and irreplaceable in this world.  Depending on your spiritual/religious beliefs, you might consider the cosmic perspective: Are you both made in the image and likeness of God?  Thinking in these ways may help you soften your heart toward the person.

For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.

How young can someone be to start forgiving?

We have found that pre-kindergarten children (age 4) and kindergarten children (age 5) are able to follow picture-book stories centered on family love.  This is an important foundation for learning how to forgive.  We have found through our scientific studies that children as young as 6-years-old can understand the causes and consequences to behavior.  They, therefore, can understand unjust actions by others (a cause) and the development of resentment in the offended person (a consequence). Further, these 6-year-old children then can understand that the resentment can be overcome by forgiving, which in some cases can restore relationships (if the other is willing to cooperate).

For additional information, see Your Kids Are Smarter Than You Think.

Should Forgiveness Education be required in school curricula for kindergarten through grade 12?

Let me start with a question: What is the major purpose of education?  Is it to prepare the student well for adult life?  If so, how are we now preparing students to confront and overcome the grave injustices against them that can rob them of their happiness and even lead to their displacing their discontentments onto others?  I think this overcoming of deep resentment happens only through forgiving.  What is more important: learning how to balance a checkbook or overcoming deep resentments that could kill a person?  The answer to this question, then, leads to my answer to your question: Yes, if education is to help people prepare for the rigors of adulthood, then it is wise to bring forgiveness education into school curricula.

For additional information, see Kids Are Smarter Than You Think.