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.

A True Story of Rape, Forgiveness and Reconciliation

If someone told you that a rape survivor was writing a book together with the man who raped her, you probably wouldn’t believe them.

But that’s exactly what Thordis Elva has done with her former high school boyfriend who raped her when she was barely 16-years-old after a school Christmas party in Elva’s hometown of Reykjavík, Iceland.

Her boyfriend was an 18-year-old exchange student from Australia, Tom Stranger, who said he felt entitled to have sex with Elva despite her being so drunk that people at the party had suggested they call an ambulance. Stranger instead took Elva to her own home where he spent two hours accosting her as she faded in and out of consciousness.

The crime was never reported.

Elva said that at the time she wasn’t clear as to what rape actually was and that Stranger had returned to Australia a few days later after ending the relationship.

“I hadn’t told anyone because I harbored shame and self blame for being drunk and not being in a situation where I was in control” Elva says. “That slowed down my ability to recover and fully face what had happened.”

The two went their separate ways after that sinister event until nine years later when Elva contacted  her rapist by email. Still struggling with the trauma of the rape, and “on the brink of a nervous breakdown,” Elva felt she needed to be eye-to-eye with her attacker in a bid to come to terms with what happened to her. And to her surprise, he replied with a confession and an offer of “whatever I can do.”

From that initial contact an extraordinary dialogue between rape victim and rapist started–beginning a raw, painful healing process documented in the book they co-authored South of Forgiveness: A True Story of Rape and Responsibility.

The book immediately became controversial not only because Stranger had actually raped Elva 16 years earlier and had only recently taken responsibility for it, but because Elva would eventually forgive herself and her attacker.

“It [forgiveness] is an extremely misunderstood concept,” according to Elva. “People somehow think you are giving the perpetrator something when you forgive, but in my view, it is the complete polar opposite.”

“Forgiving was for me so that I could let go of the self-blame and shame that I had wrongfully shouldered, that were corroding me and basically ruining my life.”

Creating additional controversy is the fact that the victim and the culprit are travelling the world together to discuss the very serious topic of rape.  Together, they gave a TED talk that summarized a 20-year long process, whereby Stranger eventually shouldered responsibility for his actions and the way those actions impacted their lives. It was viewed nearly 2 million times in the first week and more than 4.3 million times since being posted. You can watch their TED talk here. The TED talk was presented in San Francisco, CA for the TEDWomen 2016 conference.

Stranger, it should be noted, is not benefiting from his work with Elva.  “Any profits that I receive will be going towards a women’s’ charity in Reykjavík,” Stranger told an interviewer. “I realize how disrespectful and contemptuous it would be for me to benefit my bank balance or anything else.” 


South of Forgiveness is an  unprecedented  collaboration between a survivor and a perpetrator, each equally committed to exploring the darkest moment of their lives. It is a true story about being bent but not broken, of facing fear with courage, and of finding hope even in the most wounded of places. (Source: South of Forgiveness website)


Read more:
  Is forgiveness a virtue? – 
Malay Mail Online, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
  Can I forgive the man who raped me? – The Observer/The Guardian, London, UK
  South of Forgiveness – Forgiving rape – IceNews, Reykjavik,
Iceland
  Rape victim and rapist reconcile, co-author a book and give talks – IceNews, Reykjavik, Iceland
  Could you forgive a rapist? A 17-year story of reconciliationAustralian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia
  Our story of rape and reconciliation  TED Talks (video: 19:07), New York, NY
  A Q&A with Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger
Ted Talks, New York, NY
  South of ForgivenessPromotional Website, Stockholm, Sweden


Please tell us what you think of this story, of the campaign being conducted by Elva and Stranger, and of Elva’s willingness and ability to forgive herself and her attacker. Could you forgive someone who raped you? Click on the “Leave a comment” button at the top of this story or use the “Leave a reply” box below to let us know what you think. Thank you. We appreciate your thoughts and your feedback.

 

Hi Dr. Enright, I’m enjoying your 8 steps book. I’ve also been enjoying learning about self-compassion from the works by Kristin Neff. She has a 20 minute self-guided meditation which I often practice. I wonder if you have something similar for forgiveness? I really appreciate the work you’ve done!

While we do not have a specific 20-minute reflection for forgiveness, we do have exercises that can be done on a regular basis in the self-help book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, an Amazon.com best seller. There are further exercises in the two other self-help books, The Forgiving Life and 8 Keys to Forgiveness.

Additional information about all three books is available in the IFI Store.

Emily Atallah

Through my work as an existential logotherapeutic coach, I help people find meaning in everything in their life, including work, family relationships, and in situations where they face insurmountable suffering. I do this mainly by working with the power of forgiveness.

In my home country, Colombia, forgiveness seems like an impossible task for many. With a history of more than 60 years marked by war, drug trafficking and constant conflict, entire populations have now had to confront a hard question: will they forgive those who horribly hurt them even if they never asked for forgiveness?

This made me look for ways I could help those clients who had to leave their home behind, fearing for their safety, and who came to a city that in more than one occasion, receives them with a hostile environment and not much help. Many people with deep wounds derived from the conflict and a past of violence, resentment and vengeance.

As I looked for ways to help, I researched many therapies, but with time, I found them temporary or incomplete. I also looked into the initiatives of religious groups, and though they were having some admirable results, they did not appeal to non-believers.

Then I heard about the International Forgiveness Institute, and all their research on how forgiveness is a psychological matter, not only a religious one. I was personally impressed by their focus on forgiveness’ impact on psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, and others as measurable variables. For me, it meant that now we can present evidence that forgiveness works and can in fact change hearts!

Finding meaning and forgiveness in a life full of resentments is crucial to heal.  To see the offender as a human being and giving them what they deserve in dignity and love, changes your life and theirs.  It restores justice even without reconciliation.

Emily Atallah with her “Helping Clients Forgive” Certificate of Completion.

Forgiveness gives you a second chance for a meaningful and happy life, an opportunity to live a better, healthier, fulfilling life where people reach for their dreams without the weight of resentful thoughts.

As a life coach, I found particularly reassuring and helpful to learn that forgiveness has a measurable impact on the people I treat despite what the offense was. My time studying at the Forgiveness Institute gave me more tools to better treat my clients, to measure their progress and to encourage them to strive for a better and more meaningful life.

I encourage you to give yourself the opportunity to see forgiveness in a new light and learn about its healing power, by taking the online “Helping Clients Forgive” course through the International Forgiveness Institute.

Emily Atallah
Coach de Vida
e-mail: emilyatallah@gmail.com
http://www.emilyatallah.com


 

“Forgiveness works and can change hearts!”

Editor’s Note: We asked a recent graduate of our Online Forgiveness Education Course to tell us about her experience with the IFI course, “Helping Clients Forgive.” Here is the response from life coach Emily Atallah:

Through my work as an existential logotherapeutic coach, I help people find meaning in everything in their life, including work, family relationships, and in situations where they face insurmountable suffering. I do this mainly by working with the power of forgiveness.

In my home country, Colombia, forgiveness seems like an impossible task for many. With a history of more than 60 years marked by war, drug trafficking and constant conflict, entire populations have now had to confront a hard question: will they forgive those who horribly hurt them even if they never asked for forgiveness?

This made me look for ways I could help those clients who had to leave their home behind, fearing for their safety, and who came to a city that in more than one occasion, receives them with a hostile environment and not much help. Many people with deep wounds derived from the conflict and a past of violence, resentment and vengeance.

As I looked for ways to help, I researched many therapies, but with time, I found them temporary or incomplete. I also looked into the initiatives of religious groups, and though they were having some admirable results, they did not appeal to non-believers.

Click on the graphic to learn more about this online CE Course.

Then I heard about the International Forgiveness Institute, and all their research on how forgiveness is a psychological matter, not only a religious one. I was personally impressed by their focus on forgiveness’ impact on psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, and others as measurable variables. For me, it meant that now we can present evidence that forgiveness works and can in fact change hearts!

Finding meaning and forgiveness in a life full of resentments is crucial to heal.  To see the offender as a human being and giving them what they deserve in dignity and love, changes your life and theirs.  It restores justice even without reconciliation.

Emily Atallah with her “Helping Clients Forgive” Certificate of Completion.

Forgiveness gives you a second chance for a meaningful and happy life, an opportunity to live a better, healthier, fulfilling life where people reach for their dreams without the weight of resentful thoughts.

As a life coach, I found particularly reassuring and helpful to learn that forgiveness has a measurable impact on the people I treat despite what the offense was. My time studying at the Forgiveness Institute gave me more tools to better treat my clients, to measure their progress and to encourage them to strive for a better and more meaningful life.

I encourage you to give yourself the opportunity to see forgiveness in a new light and learn about its healing power, by taking the online “Helping Clients Forgive” course through the International Forgiveness Institute.

Emily Atallah
Coach de Vida
e-mail: emilyatallah@gmail.com
http://www.emilyatallah.com


 

When Evil Seems to Be Having Its Way

Lance Morrow: “Evil possesses an instinct for theater, which is why, in an era of gaudy and gifted media, evil may vastly magnify its damage by the power of horrific images.” If this is true, we need forgiveness all the more in our times.

Forgiveness is not justice and therefore focuses on effects, not direct solutions to injustice.  When injustice reigns, it surely is the duty of communities to exercise justice to counter that which is unjust.

Yet, what then of the effects of the injustice?  Will the quest for and the establishment of justice in societies suffice to cure the broken heart?  We think not and this is where forgiveness is needed for those who choose it.

Is there a better way of destroying the damaging effects of evil than forgiveness?  As a mode of peace, forgiveness is a paradox because at the same time it is a weapon, one that fights against the ravages of evil.  By destroying resentment, forgiveness is a protection for individuals, families, groups, and societies.

Robert

Love Never Dies

Think about the love that one person has given to you some time in your life. That love is eternal. Love never dies.

If your mother gave you love 20 years ago, that love is still here and you can appropriate it, experience it, feel it.  If you think about it, the love that your deceased family members gave to you years ago is still right here with you.  Even though they passed on in a physical sense, they have left something of the eternal with you, to draw upon whenever you wish.

Now think about the love you have given to others. That love is eternal. Your love never dies. Your actions have consequences for love that will be on this earth long after you are gone.  If you hug a child today, that love, expressed in that hug, can be with that child 50 years from now. Something of you remains here on earth, something good.

Children should be prepared for this kind of thinking through forgiveness education, where they learn that all people have built-in or inherent worth.  One expression of forgiveness, one of its highest expressions, is to love those who have not loved us.  If we educate children in this way, then they may take the idea more seriously that the love given and received can continue……and continue.  It may help them to take more seriously such giving and receiving of love.

We need forgiveness education……now.

Robert