Archive for May, 2012

Perseverance and Forgiveness

2002…. That is the year the International Forgiveness Institute began writing forgiveness education curriculum guides for teachers. We started with first grade classrooms in Belfast, Northern Ireland. When we started knocking on principals’ doors to discuss this life-giving project, we were met with skepticism.

“You will not last more than three years,” was what we heard consistently. Three years? Why three in particular?

“Because when people come from foreign lands to help Belfast, those well-meaning people never stay more than three years,” was the retort.

It became apparent that people go to Belfast with high expectations, great enthusiasm, and lots of adrenaline as they embark on their new adventure. Then the reality strikes. By year three the fatigue sets in, the streets of Belfast are all too familiar. It is now work and not adventure. Goodbye, Belfast!

The IFI has had a presence in Belfast for over 10 years now. So far, we have beaten the odds by staying three times longer than expected.

This issue of perseverance and endurance has me thinking. How can one preserve the idea of forgiveness in families, schools, places of worship, and places of employment? That seems easy……for about three years, but what about the next 10 or 20 or even 40 years?

How can forgiveness endure when there are so many diversions in life, so many new and good and novel ways to introduce new curricula to schools or new programs to businesses?

It takes a team and at least one person with an iron-clad will in the short-run. Forgiveness can too easily fade from the scene without this.

How will you preserve forgiveness in your own heart and in your most important relationships? How will you keep it from drifting out to sea, almost unnoticed as it fades? The first step is to realize that this can happen….and then not let it happen.


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Episcopal Leaders Follow Amish Lead in Forgiving – The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland has made a generous offer of forgiveness toward and the payment of the funeral service for a homeless man who killed himself after fatally shooting a priest and the church secretary last week. The community based its gesture of forgiveness and generosity on what the Amish did when a man attacked and killed school girls in Pennsylvania in 2006. Full report here.

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Isn’t anger a natural part of reacting to injustice? When we forgive, do we suppress some anger?

Anger does seem to be a natural part of reacting to injustice. We need to remember that anger can be felt and expressed along a continuum. If the anger is short-lived and not extremely intense, then it can be useful in energizing a person who then strives to correct the injustice. When the anger becomes extreme, both in its duration and its intensity, forgiveness can be one effective way of controlling that anger. Forgiveness exercised in the right way (by not denying the injustice and not denying the angry reaction) can actually reduce the anger. When this happens, the anger is not suppressed, but instead is diminished.

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Are there some offenses that are so bad that they are unforgivable?

There are some offenses which some people will not forgive, but there is nothing I know in the world so horrible that no one has responded with forgiveness.

An example is the murder of one’s child. Many may not be ready to start a forgiveness process, but there are other people who would and have forgiven the murderer of their children.

We must be gentle with those who refuse to forgive. At the same time, we should not stand in disbelief when some do offer forgiveness in this circumstance.

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Leaving a Legacy of Goodness

The Missoulian, Missoula, MT – On the 20th anniversary of her family’s deadly standoff with federal law enforcement officers at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, Sara Weaver is an advocate of forgiveness.

“Three years ago I Googled my name,” Weaver said, “and I thought “That’s not the legacy I want to leave for my son.'”

Weaver says she has made a distinction between forgiving someone and condoning what that person did. Forgiving simply meant she gave up holding onto the negative feelings and emotions of the incidents.

“It’s not like saying, ‘It’s sunny today, there’s a rainbow. I feel like forgiving someone today,'” she said. “It’s that in my heart and life, I’ve never got freedom from hanging onto toxic grudges.”

Sara Weaver was 16 when her father, Randy Weaver, got in a shootout with federal marshals at his cabin in northern Idaho. Deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan and Weaver’s 14-year-old son Sammy Weaver were both killed on the first day after officers tried to serve a warrant for weapons charges.

Sara Weaver’s mother, Vicki Weaver, was shot dead by an FBI sniper the next day, and her father and another man were wounded. The standoff lasted 11 days.

Read the full story.

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