New Study: Forgiveness Makes Kids Happier

It might be worth our while to move beyond “I’m sorry” as the be-all and end-all goal of conflict resolution for children. To raise happier children, we should take steps that lead to a lot more “I forgive you’s.”

That’s one of the dramatic take-aways of a just-completed study by three researchers9-13 at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. In a sample of 275 nine- to 13-year-olds who completed self-reported and behavioral measures of forgiveness and various indicators of psychological well-being, the study found that forgiveness can help children maintain strong relationships and improve psychological well-being.

According to the authors, it’s long been known that peer and friendship relations in late childhood play an essential role in children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. The research shows that friendships are associated with a greater sense of well-being, better self-esteem, and fewer social problems, both concurrently and later in life.

In contrast, children and adolescents who lack close friendships are more likely to manifest behavioral and emotional problems during childhood and even adulthood. Children who are less forgiving have lower self-esteem, are more socially anxious, and are more likely to engage in deviant behaviors.

The study also emphasized the need for 9-13 3early childhood forgiveness education, particularly during stages in which friendships are most important, such as in early childhood when children start to untie their parental bonds and increasingly focus on relationships with peers. In late adolescence, when the emphasis shifts from friendships to partner relationships, or during adulthood, when individuals spend less time with their friends, the association between forgiving friends and well-being may be weaker.

Read more:
Does Forgiveness Make Kids Happier?
⇒ An article in Greater Good, the Science of a Meaningful Life
 

Interpersonal Forgiveness and Psychological Well-being in Late Childhood   Access to the complete study

Why We Need Forgiveness Education. . .NOW
⇒ A blog post by Dr. Robert Enright

Mother Forgives Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed Her 4-Year-Old Son

The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA, USA – Four-year-old Abdul “Latif” Wilson was playing outside with his two brothers when he scampered between parked cars and into the road on April 13, 2015. A surveillance video caught grainy images of Shanika Mason, 28, hitting Latif with the rented Ford Edge she was driving, her own three children in the back seat. Mason apparently panicked and drove off before turning herself in the next day.

Mason, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 2-5 years in state prison for “letting panic overtake decency” that night. At Mason’s sentencing hearing, Latif’s mother Dominique Lockwood, 30, despite choking back sobs, was eloquent and dignified as she read the three-page statement she’d handwritten.

“I look at what now is my past merging into my future,” Lockwood said. “It’s a sharp pain that goes through my heart – the very heart my baby boy once listened to as he slept while I kept him safe, healthy and warm in my belly.”

Although she was in obvious pain, Lockwood didn’t talk out of anger. Instead, she talked Blame - Forgivenessabout how she has found a new way to go on, for her own sake and for that of her surviving children, Samaj, 9, and Everett, 6.

“I can only live on by having faith that this very sharp pain that cuts deep down in my heart is just my intelligent baby boy letting me know he didn’t go anywhere,” she said. “I forgive you, Miss Mason, as hard as it is to say. I have to forgive you so that my own heart can be as pure as my baby’s so that I can be with him again one day.”

In memory of Latif, Lockwood has founded a nonprofit called Embracing God’s Angels. Its mission is to lend a hand to those who’ve lost loved ones suddenly – perhaps to help pay for a headstone or for a day of pampering in the aftermath of loss.

“It is hard. I cry every day for my child. But I have to keep moving forward in forgiveness and goodness,” Lockwood said.

Read the full story: In court, a day of sadness & forgiveness in hit-and-run 

Keys to Unlocking a Heart of Forgiveness & Mercy

Keys to Unlocking a Heart of Forgiveness & Mercy (6-Hour Retreat)
April 2, 2016 – 9:00 am to 3:00 pm
Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey

KeysThis 6-hour retreat focuses on one person forgiving another. The day begins with a discussion of what it means to forgive and what it does not mean. Is forgiveness “just moving on?” Why bother to forgive? How can we plant forgiveness in homes, schools, work places, and parishes? What are the “keys” we need to unlock mercy in our lives?

The retreat features live entertainment, breakfast and lunch, time for prayer and Seton Hall Logo4reflection, and Dr. Robert Enright leading attendees on a pathway that enhances the well-being of those who have been hurt by others–the pathway to forgiveness.

General public is invited and welcome. Cost – $25.00. Registration information.

What We Recommend on Forgiveness Education for Bullying

Being bullied can be torturous. We need to be more aware of this silent torture that students undergo in being bullied. It is possible that if those who are bullied could forgive, then their well-being may be protected.

The International Forgiveness Institute, Inc. recommends two kinds of forgiveness interventions in schools:

1) For those who have been bullied in schools so that their anger will not turn to rage, Bullying Word Artdepression, or even self-hatred. We were talking with a student from Korea and she related to us that there are many suicides in Korea by those who have been bullied in school.

2) For those who bully in school. These students usually have been treated cruelly by others (outside of school or in school) and this is one reason why they bully. If they can forgive those who have been deeply unjust to them, then their motivation to bully will reduce or be eliminated.

Robert

Reflections on Three Young Men and Their Recent Suicides

I am sitting here in a workshop far from my home in the United States. All of the participants are in small groups discussing themes of forgiveness for the self, for home, and for school. The place will remain anonymous to keep the information here private.

Suicide 3I just recently had a meeting in a school and the principal was unsettled about three recent suicides by young men just out of high school. They attended school in that very area of the city where this principal works.

“The community is rocking from this,” the principal said. “It is taking us time to adjust and the helping professionals are being kept quite busy with those who are mourning the loss.”

It is important that we not stand in judgement of the three men who took their lives. And so the point of this essay is not to judge the act of suicide or to judge the young men. Instead, the point is to ask a central question: What was in each of their hearts as theySuicide decided that this life is not worth living? What misfortunes or even injustices came to visit them so that their hearts were broken? Could the pain in their hearts have been healed?

I write with a sense of urgency because, where I currently am in the world, the suicide rate is high for young men such as these. Too many of the young men in this community are thinking and feeling that this life is not worth it. There is too much pain, too much alienation.

My urgency centers on this: There is a cure for hopelessness borne out of alienation and unjust treatment and that cure is forgiveness. Forgiveness can cure a shattered heart. Forgiveness can cure a sense of hopelessness and a sense that life holds no meaning or purpose.

Forgiveness can reduce resentment and give a person the meaning that life can be about loving….even when others are not loving you. Forgiveness can give a person purpose as he School Picor she strives to put more love into the world today than there was yesterday. A person who is alienated and broken, if introduced to forgiveness, can begin to reduce pain and to love more……and to see that life, indeed, is worth living.

I am perplexed by this question: What if each of these three hurting young men had sound forgiveness education in their elementary and high school education?

Would they not only be alive today but also be alive with hope and love and purpose?

We need forgiveness education…………..now.

Robert

Forgiveness: the Keystone of Human Values

Forgiveness can be “one way to reduce conflict and hostility, as well as to promote understanding and respect, to diminish unresolved hurt and pain that burdens many.” [1] Forgiveness is a choice, a decision, an act of bravery requiring courage; it is hard work.

That’s how Fr. Brian Cavanaugh characterizes forgiveness after KEYSTONEresearching and teaching forgiveness for 19 years, reading every piece of forgiveness literature he could get his hands on, and receiving feedback from hundreds of presentations, workshops and retreats.

A member of the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular (TOR), Fr. Cavanaugh has now written a scholarly yet intriguing and entertaining treatise on the subject. It was published earlier this year as a 2-part series by Pioneer Magazine, and can be accessed through these links:

“Forgiveness: the Keystone of Human Values” Part I (Jan. 2015)
“Forgiveness: the Keystone of Human Values” Part II (Feb. 2015)

Pioneer Magazine is published Keystone 2by the (PTAA) which was founded in 1898 in Dublin, Ireland. The Association’s mission is to address the problems in society caused by excess alcohol consumption and drug usage. Its vision is to “help to build a society where people live to their full potential and alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation, avoiding the ills that arise in society from excess in its use.” Pioneer Magazine is a monthly publication now in its 67th year.

You can access and order any of the nine books Fr. Cavanaugh has written by visiting “Books By Fr. Brian Cavanaugh, TOR.” You can also view and download his amazing collection of photos including hundreds of flowers, sunrises and sunsets, fall foliage, and winter scenes all on his website at “Fr. Brian’s Photo Galleries.” 

[1] McCullough, Michael E., Kenneth I. Pargament and Carl E. Thoresen, eds. (National Institute of Mental Health). Forgiveness: Theory, Research and Practice. New York:  The Guilford, 2000.

“The Forgiveness Trap”: A Critique

In an essay for The Nation dated July 25, 2015, Dr. Marcel de Roos has an essay with the intriguing title, Forgiveness Trap. What does that mean and is there such a trap?  Let us examine the evidence in seven points:

  1. Dr. De Roos states in the first paragraph: “. . . . .in therapy more often than not the concept of forgiveness is something that rather hinders progress than enhances it.” Our science, published in peer-reviewed journals, suggests just the opposite. People who willingly choose to forgive and take the time to practice it improve in emotional healthCouple
    to a statistically-significantly greater degree than people in control groups. Depression, anger, and anxiety go down and self-esteem and hope increase. Some of these studies can be found on the Research Page of this website.
  1. In the second paragraph, he states: “….strong beliefs like ‘honour your father and mother’ can do much harm and can delay or obstruct the therapeutic process in a serious way.” Forgiveness, properly understood, does not demand that a person enter into the exact same role as he or she had under severe abuse. An abused spouse, for example, can forgive, but then stay away if further abuse is likely. An adolescent who is severely abused by a parent, with no end to this in sight, often is taken out of the home for the adolescent’s own safety and emotional health. One can forgive without assuming the same role as before when the abuse is severe and on-going with no anticipated change by the offending person.
  1. In the fifth paragraph we read: “Forgiveness in general can be important to mend Good Heart Forgivenessbroken relationships, but Martha has no reason to wish for a normal contact with her father.” Forgiveness, yes, can mend relationships, but this is not its only consequence. Mending one’s own broken heart is another consequence awaiting those who willingly choose to forgive and follow a proper protocol of forgiveness therapy.
  1. In the sixth paragraph we read: “In order to be able to forgive, the perpetrator should take responsibility……” If an offending person refuses to take responsibility and if the client thinks this is necessary, then we have a trap of unforgiveness: The client is not free to forgive whenever he or she wishes. In other words, the client is trapped in having to refrain from forgiveness, even if he or she wishes to do so. This could deprive the client of valuable emotional healing as pointed out above in our point 1. de Roos here is confusing forgiving and reconciling. In doing so, he is creating an unwitting trap of unforgiveness in clients.
  1. We read farther into the essay: “Forgiveness is a choice. In Martha’s case forgiveness was not possible and she is a clear example of how you can continue with your life without it.” I agree. Just because some people can get along without forgiveness does not invalidate forgiveness as a viable and good therapeutic strategy.
  1. And still farther: “….the most important thing is to feel your emotions like anger, hurt and revenge. You have to ‘wade’ through these and more painful feelings in order to find emotional balance.” Yet, how long and to what level of intensity is it necessary for a client to live with revenge? Revenge is a dangerous emotion if left unchecked. It can harm the self and others. Further, good forgiveness therapy starts with the freeacknowledgement of negative emotions such as anger and mourning. Forgiveness therapy does not invalidate these emotions, but instead acknowledges them and offers a path for the release of them.
  1. And finally, this: “People who hear from their therapist that they must forgive ought to think twice….” I could not agree more. This theme of insisting should not give forgiveness itself a black eye. Forgiveness itself, at its essence, gives people the free will to choose or reject forgiveness. It does not demand.

Forgiveness is tough-minded and tender-hearted.  It will never insist on hasty reconciliation nor that the forgiver become a doormat. To think otherwise is to put the essence of forgiveness, and a client’s options, in a trap.

Robert