Archive for August, 2014

Barriers to Forgiveness, Part 4: Waiting for the Other to Apologize

So many people think that it is improper and perhaps even morally inappropriate to forgive when the other refuses to apologize.  “My waiting for the other to apologize shows that I have self-respect.  I will not put up with the injustice,” I have heard people say.

Yet, why is your self-respect tied to another’s behavior toward you?  Can’t you respect yourself for who you are as a person rather than waiting for another to affirm your importance as a person?

“But, if I wait for the apology, this is a protection for me and for the relationship.  The apology is a greater assurance that the other will not do this again.”

Yet, cannot you forgive from the heart and also ask fairness from the other before—before—he or she apologizes?  One does not achieve justice through only one path, in this case the other’s apology.

If you insist on the other’s apology before you forgive then you are saying this to yourself:  I will not allow myself the freedom to exercise mercy toward this person until he/she acts in a certain way (an apology in this case).  Do you see how you have curtailed your freedom, including your freedom to heal emotionally from the injustice?  Forgiveness has been shown scientifically to reduce anger, anxiety, and depression.  Your insistence on an apology may delay or even thwart your healing.

When you insist on the other’s apology before you forgive, you—you, not the other person—trap yourself in the prison of unforgiveness…..with its resentment and unhappiness.  This does not seem like the ethical thing to do.

Forgiving freely whether the other apologizes or not is the path to freedom, healing, and a clear-headed call to justice.


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Dr. Enright Works with UN on Fighting Gender-Based Violence

University of Wisconsin educational psychology professor Dr. Robert Enright will speak at the United Nations next month and serve on an international “Expert Group” that will develop intervention models aimed at ending gender-based violence around the world.

The Expert Group, which includes participants from six countries around the world, will meet in New York on September 29-30. That initial 2-day work session is being hosted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  The UNFPA is the lead UN agency for “delivering a world with expanded possibilities for women and young people to lead healthy and productive lives.”

Globally, according to the UNFPA, 1 in 3 women face gender-based violence, usually at the hands of someone she knows. Furthermore, 1 in 4 women, including adolescent girls, have been subjected to intimate partner or non-partner sexual violence. Those risks of violence are compounded in countries experiencing conflict and disasters.

                                                            U.S. Domestic Violence Statistics
    ► Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in  the United States.1
    ► A woman is beaten every 15 seconds in the United States.2
    ► Every day, 4 women die as a result of abuse.2
    ► Every day, 3 children die as a result of abuse.2
    ► From 1-4 million women are battered each year by their  husbands or live-in partners.2
    ► Family violence costs the nation from $5 to $10 billion in  medical expenses, police
          and court costs, shelters and foster care, absenteeism and loss of productivity.3
    ► Domestic violence is a major contributing factor to other problems: child abuse,
         drug & alcohol abuse, job loss, homelessness, and attempted suicide.4

        1  U.S. Attorney General
        2  U.S. Department of Justice
        3 American Medical Association
        4 Office for Victims of Crime

 “There have been years of effort and advocacy by many individuals and organizations to address these sad statistics,” Dr. Enright says. “Yet there is still a tremendous need to provide support programs toward psychological healing.  Forgiveness therapy is one proven way of restoring psychological health following such trauma.”

Dr. Enright said the UNFPA has established three main objectives for the Expert Group Meeting:
1) To provide an update on state-of-the-art integrative approaches to address the trauma and post-trauma caused by gender-based  violence;
2) To identify humanistic integrative intervention models to help victims and survivors of gender-based violence; and,
3) To develop a strategy and timetable for implementation.

The intervention model that Dr. Enright and the Expert Group come up with in New York will be piloted in three selected areas where gender-based violence is prevalent: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, and Israel/Palestine. Funding will be provided by the United Nations.

“I’m delighted that one of the leading UN agencies has recognized the importance of our forgiveness research at UW-Madison and the development of intervention models like our Forgiveness Education Program,” Dr. Enright said of the upcoming meeting.

“That research has already demonstrated that forgiveness therapy can have a strong positive impact in dealing with trauma and post-trauma in both conflict and post-conflict situations,” he added.

Dr. Enright said he is hopeful that the forgiveness programs he has been operating in Northern Ireland for the past 12 years; in Liberia, West Africa for 3 years; and the one he just recently started in Israel-Palestine after 3 years of groundwork there, will soon be employed to address gender-based violence as well.

“If students are introduced at age 4 to the inherent (built-in) worth of all people, which we do in our Forgiveness Education Programs, would the amount of gender-based violence go down, perhaps dramatically?” Dr. Enright asks. “The world needs forgiveness education.”

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What is the one book you would recommend for me as I adjust to a recent and messy divorce?

In the context of your “messy divorce,” I would recommend my book, The Forgiving Life, because it involves a Socratic dialogue between Sophia and Inez regarding a marital conflict that Inez is experiencing. The insights in the dialogue might give you insights into your own emotional-healing process. I wish you the very best in your courageous journey of healing.

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Someone said to me recently that forgiveness is wrong because it asks too much of the victim. I saw your response to this in the blog post of August 4. Yet, don’t you think that an over-emphasis on forgiveness could put an excessive burden on the victim in that there is family and peer pressure to forgive even if the victim is not ready to do this?

Forgiveness is not the culprit in your example.  When people put pressure on another person to forgive, then the problem lies with those so pressuring.  Forgiveness itself has nothing to do with such pressure. Forgiveness is innocent of the charges.

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Barriers to Forgiveness, Part 3: Pride

C.S. Lewis once noted that pride is that tendency to find pleasure in moving other people around like toy soldiers.  Pride seeks to win, to be superior, to have the light shining on the self.

When we are treated unjustly by another, then perhaps it is that other person who has moved us around as if we were toy soldiers.  It is at this time that resentment can take hold of us and if we are not able now to competitively move our injurer around like a toy soldier, we dig the trench of resentment and stay there for the battle.

If the other does not apologize, we do not want to budge from our pride-trench.  The central problem of waiting for the other to admit defeat is this: Too often those who hurt us do not apologize.

What we need is an antidote to pride, something that will extend a warm hand and help us out of the trench.  The antidote is the virtue of humility, a virtue that the philosopher Nietzsche looked on with distain, calling it a “monkish virtue.”  It is apparent that Nietzsche’s philosophy valued power and so he wanted nothing to do with humility.

The major problem with detesting humility is that sometimes the other’s power over us remains, despite our best efforts.  If all we have left is our pride-trench, then the other’s power could defeat us in an emotional sense as we develop unhealthy anger and even anxiety and depression.

To combat the barrier of pride, we need to value and practice humility, that sense that we need not always get our way and that power is an impostor not worthy of following.  With humility, we do not meet power with power.  Yes, we meet power with a call for justice, but this is very different from pride, which calls for its pound of flesh from the other.  Once we have developed the virtue of humility, which gets us out of our pride-trench, we are free to begin forgiving, which can actually eliminate the resentment so that it no longer has power over us.

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