Yes, this can happen and here is one example. A study by Hansen and Enright (2009) was done with elderly women in hospice. Each had about 6 months to live. We screened the participants so that each of them had been hurt deeply in the past by a family member and each participant still was not forgiving. This was our shortest forgiveness intervention ever, 4 weeks. It was short because the life-span expectancy was short for each of the courageous women who volunteered for the study. At the end of the study, those who had the forgiveness intervention increased statistically significantly in forgiveness toward the family member(s) and in hope for the future. Some of the participants called their family to their bedside and talked about forgiveness and reconciliation in the family. Why did hope increase significantly? I think this occurred because the participants now knew that they were leaving their family in a much better position, a place of forgiveness and harmony.
Here is the reference to that research:
Hansen, M.J., Enright. R.D., Baskin, T.W., & Klatt, J. (2009). A palliative care intervention in forgiveness therapy for elderly terminally-ill cancer patients. Journal of Palliative Care, 25, 51-60. Click here to read the full study.
I think that Dr. Smedes meant this: When we forgive, often times the injustice comes from someone with whom we have been in a relationship (a family member, a business colleague, for example). The fact that we have to forgive means that there was an injustice that could strain a relationship. As we forgive, we become open to receiving that other person back into our lives. This does not mean that we will receive an apology and a new, trusting relationship (because our forgiving does not automatically mean that the other will now be fair). Yet, forgiving does make us open to this possibility of the other accepting our forgiving and thus becoming more fair. I think the key to understanding Professor Smedes’ sentence is his word “hope.” As we forgive, we are open to the other’s changing. We wait in hope for that change.
Because forgiving is a choice, not demanded in any society of which I am aware, you can set forgiveness aside. Yet, when deeply hurt by others, what is your alternative for ridding yourself of a gnawing resentment that could bring you down? In the giving of the compassion, in the bearing of the pain, in the attempt to be kind, the paradox is that you, yourself, may experience a cessation of the poison of that resentment. Does this seem like an outcome you would like to set aside? Forgiveness advances you toward this healthy outcome and may even reestablish a relationship if the other can be trusted and does not harm you.
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)
It is possible that your roommate has forgiven her boyfriend only to a point, but not completely. It seems that she still has residual anger that is bothering her. Also, even if she has forgiven him, she now may be struggling with the issue of reconciliation, or whether or not to continue the relationship. If she is talking about this as a call for help from you, then you might ask what her level of trust is with the boyfriend. See if she is struggling with the issue of reconciliation. It could be that she a) has forgiven, but not deeply yet, in which case she needs more time in the forgiveness process, or b) she is struggling with the issue of whether to reconcile or not.
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
There is a difference between what forgiving is and our motivations for engaging in forgiveness. It is not dishonorable to want to forgive to feel better. At the same time, this motivation does not change what forgiving is in it’s essence, which is a moral virtue of being good to those who are not good to us. In addition, as Aristotle reminds us, it takes time to grow in any of the moral virtues. If you are willing to “do no harm” to the one who hurt you, even if you are not ready to be respectful or loving toward that person, you are on the pathway of forgiving.