Archive for April, 2014

With a climate of forgiveness, is it going to be easier for some people to continue to cause offences when they know other people may simply forgive again?

Forgiveness should take place alongside the quest for justice.  Therefore, upon forgiving it is important for the one offended, now with anger reduced because of the forgiveness, to ask for fairness from the other. This should prevent the offender from incorrectly assuming that he or she can take advantage of the one originally offended.

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The Superficial Self-Help Advice to the Lovelorn: Don’t Care So Much

I was listening to a self-proclaimed self-help “expert” today.  His goal was to try to help those who have lost in love to remain psychologically whole or to become whole once again.  The gist of his advice was this:  Break the attachment so that you care less than the partner cares.  This diminishes his or her power over you.  When we attach to others, it is then that we are vulnerable to suffering.  Detach and then you automatically will suffer less.

But the big questions for me on this advice are these:

Is suffering so bad that we cannot love others in a deep way?

Why view relationships in terms of power and then possessing the power as a way to heal?

Finally, is a world of detachment meaningful and purposeful compared to the healthy attachment of genuine love and service to the other?

Suffering is not to be avoided at all costs.  If there were no ways out of suffering and if suffering crushed all of us all the time, then this would be different.  Yet, we all can grow through suffering by becoming more patient, more mature in our character, and more sensitive to the suffering in others.  Suffering is not the enemy.  No, suffering should not then be sought, but when it comes, there are solutions and one of them is to practice forgiveness.

Are relationships defined primarily by power?  If so, then both partners are missing out on one of the richest, most beautiful experiences on this earth: to step outside of a predominant self-interest to the kind of love that serves and in the serving gives joy.  All of this likely is missed by too many who view the world from a power lens because power is intent on dominating, not serving.  When was the last time you saw true joy on the face of someone who dominates?

Detachment in the name of avoiding suffering is to play it safe.  It is like taking your $100 and putting it in the ground so that you avoid losing it.  If, instead, you are not detached in this world and take the risk of investing that $100 it could grow where you can help others.  Detachment is passive and ultimately joyless.

Don’t care so much?  No thanks.  I’ll take risks and see love as a way to serve.  In that service there may be suffering, but joy is likely eventually to grow.  I will take joy over safety every day of the week.


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On the Importance of Perseverance when Forgiving

Many people get quite excited about forgiveness at first and just dive into practicing it, only to lose interest after a few months.  They literally just let it fade from their minds and hearts as they go on to the next popular diversion in life.  In other words, they do not have a strong will to keep forgiveness before them as a practice and as a way of seeing the world.

This could happen to you.  A commitment to forgive does not just mean a short-term commitment toward one person who has hurt you in one particular way.  Commitment has a must longer reach than this.  Would you become physically fit if you worked out several times a week for three months and then hung it all up?  Of course not.  It is the same with forgiveness.  You have to fight against the tendency to just let it fade in you.  You will have to fight against all of the distractions of life that call you away from it.


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How I Forgave the Unforgivable, Oklahoma City, OK – Kathy Sanders has titled her new book Now You See Me: How I Forgave the Unforgivable.” The book details her relentless pursuit of the truth following the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people on April 19, 1995. The blast killed her grandchildren–Chase, 3, and Colton, 2.

“Now You See Me” is a book, Sanders says, she did not plan on writing, about a life she would have rather ended at one point.

“After the bombing I wanted to die,” said Sanders. “I didn’t want to live in a  world filled with so much pain. I didn’t know how I was going to cope and if I  was going to survive.”

To help her cope with the heartbreak, Sanders launched her own investigation into the bombing. She wanted to know every person who may  have known about the bombing and what the government might be hiding. Her questions led to a decades-long journey and ultimately she met face-to-face with Terry Nichols (a convicted accomplice in the Oklahoma City Bombing along with Timothy McVeigh).

Her book reveals letters, phone calls and visits with Nichols and his family. Their exchanges turned to friendship and finally, through her Christian faith, forgiveness.

“I didn’t set out ever intending to forgive Terry Nichols, Timothy McVeigh or anyone else involved in this crime, but learning to forgive was a gift I gave myself,” said Sanders.

She’s aware that forgiving the unforgivable may appall others who lived  through April 19, yet insists it is the only way she could move on and focus now on happy memories made with two precious little boys.

“What I have today is peace from learning how to forgive,” said Sanders. “I’ve got a song in my heart and a smile on my face.”

Read the full story: “19 years after Murrah bombing, grandmother shares story of loss, forgiveness.”

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So, Then, Does Forgiveness Education Work?

Short answer: Yes.

Some of our latest findings, soon to appear on this website, are these:

A recent study on forgiveness education, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, was done with middle school students in Korea who are bullied and who do the bullying.  The results showed that our forgiveness program helped these students reduce in anger and hostile attribution, and increase in empathy. Their academic grades improved and they reduced in behavioral aggression and delinquency. Some of these adolescents were in a correctional facility for their aggressive behavior.

And here are some quotations from school administrators and teachers who have used our forgiveness education curricula:

“The work of Professor Enright has helped us develop the life skills of hundreds of children in North Belfast and is continuing to impact on their lives.” Claire Hillman, Principal, Ligoniel Primary School, Belfast, Northern Ireland

“As teachers we are always promoting the positive attributes and virtues we wish those in our care to portray. The Forgiveness (Education) Programme consolidated our aspirations for kindness, generosity, sharing and understanding. It gave us an extra tool to enhance our pupils’ experiences.” Gary Trainor, Vice Principal, Mercy Primary School, Belfast.

Holy Family School-Belfast

Students celebrate “Forgiveness Class Graduation”
      at Holy Family Primary School in Belfast

Dinah McManus, Principal, Holy Family Primary School, Belfast, has  dubbed Holy Family as a ‘Forgiving School’ because they have imbedded the virtue of forgiveness into their school ethos. Mrs. McManus states, “I can say with confidence and some pride that in creating a ‘forgiveness ethos’ in Holy Family we have provided our children with a very nurturing environment which reflects the essential elements of our Mission Statement: We are a living Faith community, centred on the Gospel values of love, justice and forgiveness, within which each member of our school community is valued and respected.”

“The Forgiveness Education Programme has spent the past ten years dedicated to helping children, schools and communities develop a better understanding of what it means to value all people, to understand our own and others’ humanity and to practice respect, kindness, generosity and forgiveness.” Becki Fulmer, The Corrymeela Community, Belfast

“I will continue to teach the program every year until I retire as I only see HUGE positive life-changing behavior changes in the students who are touched by the program. My wish is that all students in Milwaukee Public Schools and other districts could be touched in some way by the powerful message the program delivers.” Amy Domagalski, teacher, Milwaukee Public Schools

……and another quote from Amy: “The Program has assisted many students in decreasing some of their severe anger levels which allows my classroom to function and created a calmer, comforting, and soothing learning environment for not only my students but for myself as well.” Amy Domagalski, teacher, Milwaukee Public Schools

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