Archive for November, 2015
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 14 years now. So far, we have beaten the odds by staying almost 5 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.
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.”  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 researching 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:
Pioneer Magazine is published by 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.”
 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.
Do you realize that your practicing forgiveness now may pay unexpected dividends for you decades from now? As an example, look at how the Amish community handled the tragedy in Pennsylvania in 2006. The world wondered how the community could stand in forgiveness after 10 girls were shot and 5 died. The answer: Forgiveness is part of their daily culture.
Please realize that each decision and each act of forgiveness now may pay great dividends for you and others 20 years from now. Forgiveness today is an investment in your future.
To grow in any virtue is similar to building muscle in the gym through persistent hard work. We surely do not want to overdo anything, including the pursuit of fitness.
Yet, we must avoid under-doing it, too, if we are to continue to grow. It is the same with forgiveness. We need to be persistently developing our forgiveness muscles as we become forgivingly fit. This opportunity is now laid out before you. What will you choose? Will you choose a life of diversion, comfort, and pleasure, or the more exciting life of risking love, challenging yourself to forgive, and helping others in their forgiveness fitness?
Enright, Robert D. (2012-07-05). The Forgiving Life: A Pathway to Overcoming Resentment and Creating a Legacy of Love (APA Lifetools) (Kindle Locations 5359-5360). American Psychological Association. Kindle Edition.
I suffer from chronic anxiety. Will this alter how I go through the forgiveness process relative to those who are not suffering in this way?
Sometimes our anxiety comes from not feeling safe. Sometimes our not feeling safe emerges when others treat us unfairly. In other words, you may be expecting poor treatment from others now, even those who usually are fair.
A first step may be to think of one person who may have hurt you and at whom you still harbor resentment. You can forgive through the exact same pathway as described, for example, in the book, Forgiveness Is a Choice. With anger lessened, anxiety can diminish. Of course, this will vary for each person. We have to be gentle with ourselves as we learn to forgive, to give up anger, and to know with some confidence that we can meet the next interpersonal challenge with forgiveness, helping us to meet these challenges with less anxiety than in the past.