Archive for June, 2016

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?

Students at Hazelwood Integrated Primary School in Belfast.

Students at Hazelwood Integrated Primary School in Belfast.

“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 14 years now. So far, we have beaten the odds by staying, to date, almost five times longer than expected.

This issue of perseverance and endurance has me thinking. How can one Perseverancepreserve 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.

Robert

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With all this talk about forgiveness, I am not thinking that forgiveness is a choice but an expectation from others. How can I avoid that pressure?

The first step is to realize that others may be creating this expectation for you, as you are obviously aware. A second step is to realize that most people do not necessarily mean to put pressure on you to forgive. As a third step, if people do put pressure on you to forgive, please realize that they have your best interest at heart but may not be going about it in a way that is helpful for you. When pressured, please realize that to forgive can take time and you cannot always respond positively and quickly to those who have hurt you.

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Is forgiveness so natural that we can go ahead even if we were raised by parents who were indifferent to forgiveness or even talked against it?

I do not see forgiveness as a natural part of our humanity, at least for the majority of us. To forgive requires effort and patience and practice. We are affected by what we learn about it, by observing others’ attitudes toward forgiveness, and by the models we have of people who forgive or who do not forgive. One issue to note is this: If parents insist that children forgive and that the other say, “Sorry,” then the process can become too mechanical without the depth of knowing what forgiveness is or appreciating it on a deep level. Forgiveness education is important if a child will learn well how to forgive.

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On page 217 of your book, Forgiveness Is a Choice, you say this, “Harboring resentment makes us suffer even more than did the original injury.” Would you please clarify what you mean?

Resentment can make us bitter, tired, pessimistic, and unhealthy if it is deep and if it lasts for years and years. Resentment like this is a slow killer and can rob us of our happiness. An original injustice can be severely challenging, but with a right response to it, will not destroy our happiness for the rest of our lives.

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VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR RESEARCH PROJECT

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