Archive for November, 2020

What are your latest forgiveness projects?

We have five projects right now at the International Forgiveness Institute:

1) We have a bumper sticker campaign entitled, “Drive for Others’ Lives.”  The point is that, when driving, people are encouraged to think about those in the other cars and to behave in such a way as to respect them for the purpose of keeping them safe.

2)  We are working on forgiveness interventions for people who are without homes, specifically those who: a) have unjust treatment from others in the past; b) are experiencing now excessive anger, anxiety, and depression in need of healing; and c) currently are not forgiving the people from the past for their injustices.  We expect that the forgiveness intervention toward those from the past will lessen the current psychological challenges and possibly aid them in securing more stable housing across time.

3) We are doing similar programs (as described in #2 above)  for people who are in prison.

4) Forgiveness education through our curriculum guides for educators of children (as young as age 4) through adolescence (up to age 18).

5) We are planning an international forgiveness conference in July, 2022 for educators, particularly educators who have been teaching forgiveness in Hong Kong, Northern Ireland, and Israel and the West Bank.

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My boyfriend, who is straining our relationship, keeps borrowing money from me, not paying it back, and then he proclaims that he is forgiving himself. He then continues in the same pattern. Is this really self-forgiveness? If so, I want none of it.

Your boyfriend actually is engaging in what we call false self-forgiveness or pseudo self-forgiveness.  Genuine self-forgiveness includes remorse or sorrow for what was done, repentance toward those who are hurt, and a genuine change of behavior, as well as a welcoming the self back into the human community.  You might want to point this out to him so that he can stop the denial of the hurtful behavior and possibly be open to change

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The Value of Forgiveness

“2020 brought plenty to be angry about. There’s been a global pandemic, a national reckoning with racial injustice, an economic crisis and a presidential election – all of it debated each day on social media. But University of Northern Iowa (UNI) education professor Suzanne Freedman, who has specialized in forgiveness research over nearly three decades, says now may be a good time to remember the benefits of forgiveness, empathy and understanding.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Offsetting his dreary assessment of this unusual year with a final note of optimism, writer Steve Schmadeke used the paragraph above to set the stage for an informative article about the benefits of forgiveness that was printed last week in the online periodical INSIDE UNI. The article featured the forgiveness philosophy of Dr. Suzanne Freedman, a UNI professor of human development who is also a former graduate student and long-time research associate of Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute. Here are some of Dr. Freedman’s pronouncements as quoted in the UNI article:

What are the benefits of forgiveness?

I am often asked, “Why should I forgive?” and my response is always the same: “What’s the alternative?” Although forgiveness cannot undo the injury or damage, it allows us to move forward in our lives free from the negative effects of anger, hatred and resentment. It offers us a way to heal while still acknowledging that what happened to us was wrong, unfair and extremely hurtful.

Freedman3Research has found that benefits of forgiveness for children, adolescents and adults include greater psychological and physical well-being, including decreases in anger, anxiety and depression. It also shows increases in hope, self-esteem, feelings of peace, improved relationships and academic achievement for students in school, as well as decreases in blood pressure, headaches and stress.

How does forgiveness deal with anger?

We have a right to feel resentment and anger. Many people criticize forgiveness because they mistakenly believe that anger is not part of the process. In fact, the opposite is true. We need to express our anger before we can forgive. Forgiveness involves admitting that one has been hurt, working through the feelings related to that hurt and then moving beyond them. The other important point is that the offender does not deserve our compassion because of their hurtful actions. However, we give it nevertheless.

Is self-forgiveness a real thing?

Self-forgiveness is a real thing. We have a model of self-forgiveness that is similar to our model of forgiving another. Self-forgiveness occurs when we have to forgive oneself for committing a deep, personal and unfair hurt. However, like in forgiving others, it occurs in the context of deep, personal and unfair hurt. 

This can be hurt you have suffered due to your own actions. People who find self-forgiveness may be less likely to engage in self-destructive behavior or even hurt others. 

Our society needs to do a better job of helping people realize that they can move on from their worst pains or actions. When individuals view themselves from the lens of only their hurtful behavior, they are not recognizing the fact that all human beings have inherent worth. Forgiving yourself will make it easier for individuals to become more forgiving of others, too.

Read the full UNI article: The Value of Forgiveness


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ABOUT DR. SUZANNE FREEDMAN:
A professor of human development at the University of Northern Iowa, Dr. Freedman earned both her Masters Degree and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied under and conducted research with Dr. Robert Enright. Her dissertation was a landmark study that was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology: Forgiveness as an Intervention Goal with Incest Survivors.

At the University of Northern Iowa, Dr. Freedman teaches a variety of development courses including Studies in Forgiveness–an online, continuing education course designed primarily for upper-class psychology, counseling, and clinical students preparing to work with clients as helping professionals.

Dr. Freedman can be reached at freedman@uni.edu


MORE FORGIVENESS COMMENTARY FROM DR. FREEDMAN:

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“I was hurt in a 5-year relationship and now I am hesitant to get into any other relationship. Does this lack of courage on my part suggest that I have not forgiven the one who hurt me?”

The issue here seems to be one of a lack of trust. You may or may not have forgiven the one with whom you were in a relationship for the 5 years. Even if you have completely forgiven, you still may lack trust and this is not a sign of unforgiveness. It is a sign that you know hurt is possible when you commit to others. Forgiveness can help with taking the risk and at the same time your using common sense in the new relationship, along with sincere acts of trustworthiness by the other, should help to slowly create a trust with the new person.

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