Archive for October, 2012

In the “Your Forgiveness Stories” section of this website, a person recently told her story and then asked IFI this: Recently, I began listening to a CD that contains a forgiveness prayer. Like I said, I believe I have forgiven. I just want to make sure that the forgiveness is total. I want to be set free. I want complete peace. Is there anything else I should do? What do you think about this situation and what do you suggest?

If you are concerned about whether or not you have forgiven, please consider filling out the Personal Forgiveness Scale, which you can find in Appendix C and Chapter 11 of the book, The Forgiving Life. The chapter gives you directions in scoring the scale and instructs you on your degree of forgiveness. If you are not satisfied with the score, then please turn to Chapter 10 of the book and do the exercises there that should help you to forgive more deeply. We wish you the very best in this important journey.

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The Clash of Cultures: Forgiveness vs the Culture-of-Me

As I sit here watching a Major League baseball playoff game, I am fascinated by the commercials—yes, the commercials. The fascination arises from the observation that virtually every commercial is about wonderful “me”—rewards cards, get more cash back, eat fattening foods just because.

I began to ask myself: Will people who view this stuff end up being better persons as a result of spending time this way? I do not think so because the focus is exclusively on “me,” “me, “me.” It is a self-absorbed world of diversion.

Forgiveness is a culture unto itself when placed next to the world of the commercial. Forgiveness asks of us. It demands. It requires discipline and self-sacrifice. It clashes with the “cheese cake bites” in the commercial.

If we spend, say, 70% of our time in the culture-of-me, how will this affect our understanding and practice of forgiveness? Could all this time in the culture-of-me dull us to the importance, beauty, and challenge that is forgiveness? I think so. If we have the chance to drown our sorrows in the culture of consumption, why then venture at all into the culture of struggle that is forgiveness? And what if we spend 90% or more of our time in the culture of consumption, is there then any hope for the flowering of the counter-culture of forgiveness?

We are in a clash of cultures and I wonder to what extent people know that. “Letting it go” or “just moving on” may be the easier way to go when we are not encouraged to truly forgive from the heart, in service to the one who hurt us, with an eye toward the betterment of that person.

How can we allow ourselves time in the culture-of-me without being consumed by the consumption? How can we step into the culture of service and not think it too difficult or too “out there” so that we return frequently? Or better yet, how can we step into the culture of service and bring the moving van and stay there?

Perhaps the first step is to realize that we are in a culture-of-me. Then we have to decide if we wish to live out our lives there. We really do have a choice.

Dr. Bob

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After 60-Year Sentence, Murderer Asks Forgiveness from Victim’s Son

Sacramento Bee (California) – While being led away to serve a 60-year sentence for murder, the convicted man, Sergio Gomez, turned to the murdered man’s son and asked him for forgiveness. The son, Alejandro Davila, embraced Mr. Gomez and wished him the best, adding, “someday I’ll be able to forgive him.”

It looks from here that Mr. Davila already is well along the path of forgiveness.

Read the full story: “South Texas man asks victim’s son for forgiveness”

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Why the Book, The Forgiving Life, Is My Most Important Work to Date

Twenty-eighth year. Since early 1985 I have been thinking about the topic of forgiveness. I have thought about it in the area of psychology, then more specifically in developmental, clinical, and counseling psychology. Then I have thought about it more broadly in the areas of psychiatry, social work, law, education, and philosophy.

The journey has brought me into the restorative justice movement, the peace movement, the battlefield, the clinician’s office, and the classroom. It has brought me to the Balkans, Belfast, Brazil, Bogota, Dublin, Firenza, Liberia, Padua, Roma, and beyond.

I have written so much on the topic that I cannot keep track of it all—articles for publications in Jerusalem, South Africa, Australia, Rome, America.

No publication, no thought, no application to hurting lives is higher than my most recent book, The Forgiving Life. Here is why: I wrote it from the heart, a heart that has close to three decades of experience with the term forgiveness.

I have come to realize that forgiveness is so much more than a merciful act toward someone who was unfair. To forgive is to embrace, embody, and then to personify forgiveness in one’s life–and then to others’ lives. To forgive is to touch the lives of the hurting, including the one who hurt you. Forgiveness is actually cultivating a life of mercy and then to leave a legacy of love in the world, a world that sometimes attacks and tries to kill love. The love I consider here is not, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “sentimental bosh.” No, it is the kind of love that is strong and in service to others. It is the kind of love that abides in the heart and does not come out only on special occasions. It is the kind of love that becomes part of a person.

The Forgiving Life is basically a Socratic Dialogue, in the spirit of Plato’s writings, in which two good-willed people grapple with the notion of forgiveness until they understand it as best they are able today. The dialogue is between Sophia, who has a lot of forgiveness miles on her, and the feisty Inez who wishes to cast off the shackles of fear and anger.

The dialogue has allowed me to go considerably more deeply into the topic of forgiveness than ever I have done before. The dialogue, at the same time, makes it my most accessible work, available to anyone who wishes to spend a bit of time with this life-giving topic of forgiveness, and perhaps to allow that topic to transform one’s life.

I am indebted to Plato for showing me the way to accessibility. I am indebted to Aristotle for showing me what the moral virtues are, including forgiveness. Thank you, gentlemen. I hope you are proud that your ideas, from over 3,500 years ago, are living, although imperfectly, in my heart as I pass on your legacy in the hope of passing on a legacy of love and forgiveness to others.

Dr. Bob

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We Are a Forgiving School

In the heart of Belfast, Northern Ireland, is a school that wants to live in such a way as to heal the wounds caused by misunderstanding and disrespect over the centuries.

Holy Family Primary School proclaims, “We Are a Forgiving School.”

What does that proclamation mean?

Here are some examples:

The school principal, Mrs. Dinah MacManus, values the virtue of forgiveness and makes that explicit to teachers and parents.

The teachers commit to teaching a forgiveness curriculum for about one hour a week for about 12-15 weeks each year. The curriculum guides are from the International Forgiveness Institute.

The curricula use popular stories to engage the students as they see injustices in the stories and discuss how the characters forgive or could forgive and what the outcomes are. The students are then challenged to bring this learning into their own lives and families.

Teachers meet to mutually support one another as they learn from the innovations of the other teachers.

Forgiveness also can be one more addition to the discipline of a school. For example, suppose two boys are in a heated argument that could escalate into actual fighting. A teacher’s reminder that they know what forgiveness is can work wonders for quelling the battle. Because the students are being taught about forgiveness in the classroom, the adult intervening in the argument need not take a lot of time to explain the concept. They already know it and now it is time to apply it.

“We Are a Forgiving School.” Are there others anywhere in the world who would like to proclaim the same?

We are here to make that possible.

Dr. Bob

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