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.
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 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:
- Watch the “Forgiveness” music-discussion video on YouTube
- Read the “Forgiveness” lyrics
- Visit the Sam Ness Website
- Read “How to Survive the Coronavirus Lockdown”
A key here is to apply these new thinking perspectives, which you have offered to others as you forgive them, now to yourself. For example, try to see that you have inherent (built-in) worth, not because of what you did that was offensive, but in spite of this. Try to see that you share a common humanity with others. While not excusing behavior in need of change, try to see that you are much more than those behaviors. As you engage in this kind of thinking, this may help you to forgive yourself.
For additional information, see Self-Forgiveness.
Meagan Napier and her best friend, Lisa Jo Dickson, were driving to Meagan’s home after an outing in Pensacola, FL on May 11, 2002. They never reached their destination.
Around 2:30 that morning (the day before Mother’s Day), a drunk driver hit the car Dickson was driving and rammed it into a tree. Both of the 20-year-old women were killed instantly. The 24-year-old drunk driver who caused the crash, Eric Smallridge, was eventually found guilty of DUI manslaughter (Driving Under the Influence of drugs or alcohol) and sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Unlike many too-often-repeated drunk driving crashes that result in deaths, the sentencing in this case was not the end of the story. In fact, it was just the beginning of an amazing story of commitment, forgiveness and lives saved. Please read on.
Shortly after Smallridge was sentenced, Meagan Napier’s heart-broken mother, Renee, made a commitment that something positive would result from the deaths of her daughter and her daughter’s friend Lisa.
So Renee began traveling to schools in her community to warn students about the dangers of drunk driving. As word of her compelling DUI presentations spread, she began receiving speaking requests from groups outside Pensacola and soon her part-time local commitment turned into a full-time nation-wide educational mission to prevent more unnecessary death’s like Meagan’s.
Still, as speaking engagements consumed more and more of her time, Renee felt there was something missing. She decided to visit the imprisoned man who was responsible for her daughter’s death. That initial meeting with Eric turned into a second meeting, and a third, and many more after that. What Renee discovered during those visits was that Eric was not the monster she had been imagining but was just like so many other hurt people who try to drown their anger and resentment in alcohol, in drugs, or whatever make-it-feel-good vice is available to them.
At the same time, Renee began learning about the healing power of forgiveness and eventually she forgave Eric–not because she felt sorry for him, but because she needed to release the pent-up anger and emotions in her own heart and mind that were taking their toll on her health and well-being.
“I could be angry, hateful and bitter,” Renee says. “But I didn’t want to live my life that way. There was no way I could move on and live a happy life without forgiving Eric.”
Renee said that prior to finding the courage to forgive Eric, she felt like she was the one in prison and that forgiveness “freed me from the darkest place I have ever been.”
Not only did Renee forgive Eric, she even approached the judge who had sentenced him to prison. Through a series of meetings and petitions (and with the strong support of the Dickson family), she somehow convinced the judge to cut Eric’s sentence in half–from 22-years to just 11 years–and to allow Eric to join her (bound by shackles and handcuffs) on many of her DUI presentations in order to also share his powerful testimony.
Even though Renee has forgiven him, Eric says he doesn’t know if he will ever be able to forgive himself. He says he is certain, however, that he will not drink alcohol ever again. Still on probation, Eric works at a Goodwill store and as a personal trainer. His mother serves as his unofficial chauffeur because his driver’s license, of course, was revoked.
“I was so selfish because I never considered what effect drinking and driving could have on someone other than me,” Eric tells audiences. “I made a bad decision, and now two young people are dead because of it.”
Though they admit that their relationship may confuse many, Renee and Eric agree that sharing their life-saving cause has helped them heal. They conclude each presentation with a compelling embrace.
Renee, who has become an award-winning speaker, is also the Founder and President of The Meagan Napier Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization formed for two purposes: 1) to raise awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol; and, 2) to promote forgiveness and healing. It operates under the banner of “Promoting Forgiveness • Mending Hearts • Saving Lives.”
“We live in a world with a lot of pain and heartache,” Renee says. “I want to promote love and forgiveness and help break that cycle of hatred.”
- Read more about Renee’s story.
- Read more about Eric’s story.
- Read more about Meagan’s story.
- Learn about the International Forgiveness Institute’s Safe Driving Campaign.
It is not unusual for a person to not let the self “off of the emotional hook” even after knowing that the other forgives. Why? It is because we tend to be harder on ourselves than we are on others. So, I recommend chapter 7 on self-forgiveness from my book, 8 Keys to Forgiveness.
For additional information, see Self-Forgiveness.
There is a difference between being selfish and being self-focused. Suppose you have a throbbing knee after a workout. Is going to the sports medicine clinic selfish? No; it is an issue of self-care. Being motivated to be psychologically more healthy upon forgiving is similar. Your motivation of self-focused care may change to a different motivation as you proceed with the forgiveness process. Your motivation may then include the other person, as you develop a concern for this person’s well-being.
For additional information, see Forgiveness for Individuals.
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;
- Validated the Enright Self-Forgiveness Inventory;
- Examined subjective reasons why individuals forgive;
- 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 automatic monthly 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)
- Dr. Kim’s biography on the Liberty University website.
- Dr. Kim’s Ph.D. Dissertation on the effectiveness of anti-bullying programs.
- Abstracts of all Dr. Kim’s Forgiveness Research Studies.
- Inoculating Children Against Violence through Forgiveness Education – a Poster Presentation jointly developed by Dr. Kim and Dr. Enright.
Yes. As people realize that they have broken their own standards, it is common that they also have offended other people. For example, even if someone was intoxicated, was speeding alone in the car, crashed and broke a leg, this is not an isolated event. Family members may have to drive the person to work for a while. The employer may be inconvenienced because of days missed in rehabilitation of the leg. The insurance company now has to pay for this intemperate action. So, as you self-forgive, consider who has been hurt by your actions. You might want to go to at least some of them (family members, for example) and ask for forgiveness.
For additional information, see Self-Forgiveness.
Editor’s Note: Eileen Barker is an internationally recognized mediator, facilitator, and forgiveness teacher. She is also a pioneer in the movement to integrate emotional healing and forgiveness in conflict resolution. She wrote this essay for our website:
I’ve met plenty of people who told me they ‘thought’ they had forgiven. What they mean is they formed the mental intention to forgive, only to later discover that the judgment and resentment were still there. Does this sound familiar? I call this “forgiving from the neck up” or “emotional bypass.” It may provide temporary relief but it is not lasting. I also frequently encounter people intent on analyzing their experience. They seem to believe if they fully understand the situation, it will enable them to forgive, but this is not the case. True forgiveness cannot be intellectualized.
You can say the words “I forgive” and have the thought “I forgive” until the cows come home, and still not have actually forgiven. The mind can only take us so far. At some point we must enter the arena of feelings in order to release the anger, blame, resentment, and so on. They must be addressed. Of course feelings are vulnerable and possibly unfamiliar, which is why we might want to avoid them, but the only way to heal is to walk through them. Feelings are the true pathway home.
So, how do you enter the emotional realm? How do you forgive from the neck down?
One of the keys for me is guided meditation. I start with the breath and then bring awareness to the body step by step. This creates the foundation for all the other work. For some, it might feel uncomfortable and even unsafe at first to bring awareness into the body, so we go as slowly as necessary to create safety. When we can feel our body and not push our feelings away, we discover that the body has vitally important information for us, information far more reliable than that acquired from the mind alone.
Here is a powerful passage on the topic of embracing our emotions and forgiving, written by Eckhart Tolle in his book
The Power of Now:
Forgiveness is to relinquish your grievance and so to let go of grief. It happens naturally once you realize that your grievance serves no purpose except to strengthen a false sense of self. Forgiveness is to offer no resistance to life — to allow life to live through you. The alternatives are pain and suffering, a greatly restricted flow of life energy, and in many cases physical disease.
The moment you truly forgive, you have reclaimed your power from the mind. Non-forgiveness is the very nature of the mind, just as the mind-made false self, the ego, cannot survive without strife and conflict. The mind cannot forgive. Only you can. You become present, you enter your body, you feel the vibrant peace and stillness that emanate from Being.
A potent reminder that we are so much more than our minds, thoughts, beliefs and words.
Eileen Barker is a San Francisco Bay Area (CA) litigation lawyer who rejected the traditional adversarial role. Instead, she has focused her practice on mediation and conflict resolution for the past twenty years, helping thousands of people resolve disputes outside of court. This work led her into a deep exploration of forgiveness as it relates to resolving conflict and making peace, both with others and oneself. She is the author of the Forgiveness Workbook and Forgiveness Meditation CD. In 2016, Eileen received the Champion of Forgiveness Award from the Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance (along with Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu). Visit her website: The Path of Forgiveness.