Archive for March, 2022

A friend of mine uses a lot of sarcasm.  When confronted with this as being kind of nasty, he says, “Lighten up! It was only a joke.”  I think he harbors deep anger within him.  What do you think?

If this is a pattern and if he sees that others are hurt (which you imply that he does), then, yes, I suspect the same: hidden (from him) and deep anger.  He may need to courageously explore who has hurt him in the past and try to practice forgiving, if he chooses.  It might lessen or even eliminate his hurtful sarcasm.

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I can sympathize with my brother who hurt me, but I don’t seem able to have empathy for him (stepping inside his shoes, as the saying goes, and feeling what it is like inside of him.) Will I ever have compassion for him without empathy?

Not being able to empathize with your brother today does not mean you will never be able to do this.  Empathy can open the door to compassion.  Sympathy, or feeling sorry for him, also may be such a door to the eventual development of compassion.  Yet, as you are seeing, empathy is the deeper, more challenging perspective.  Here are some questions that might help you with empathy toward your brother:  Was your brother hurt by others some time in the past?  How deeply was he hurt?  Is he still carrying those wounds?  Can you see your brother’s struggles in life?  Your answers may induce a greater empathy for him as you see his wounds from his perspective.

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The Path to Peace Through Forgiveness

Dr. Robert Enright and the organization he founded, the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI), undertook their first foray into the peace movement in 1999. That was the year they worked with a national team led by the Rev. Jessie Jackson that convinced Yugoslav (now Serbia) President Slobodan Milošević to release three captive American soldiers during the Kosovo Conflict.

In 2002, Dr. Enright initiated a forgiveness education program in Belfast, Northern Ireland that has now been in operation for 20 consecutive years. His Belfast work is featured in the award-winning documentary The Power of Forgiveness. Dr. Enright started similar programs in Liberia, West Africa in 2011 and in Israel-Palestine in 2013. He now has such programs in more than 30 contentious regions around the world and an IFI Branch Office in Pakistan at the Government College University Lahore (GCU-Lahore, Pakistan).

Eight years ago, Dr. Enright was invited by the United Nations to join an international “Expert Group” tasked with responsibility for developing intervention models aimed at ending gender-based violence across the globe. His initial presentation to the United Nations Population Fund in New York City was titled “Forgiveness as a Peace Tool.” Just three weeks later, delegates at the United Nations Peace Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, voted to embrace forgiveness and education as essential tools in peacebuilding.

Since those early years of his career, Dr. Enright has developed scores of peace-education initiatives and research projects in some of the world’s most contentious areas. Two of those projects were published recently involving teachers in the case of China and adult clients in the case of Pakistan. Other research projects have demonstrated that children as young as 4-5 years are capable of absorbing the basics of forgiveness and making it a natural part of their early life.

In 2015, Dr. Enright accompanied Eva Mozes Kor, a survivor of the Holocaust, on a guest tour of US radio and television stations to promote peace through forgiveness. Ms. Kor, with her twin sister Miriam, was subjected to human experimentation under Josef Mengele at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II yet she publicly forgave her tormentors.

During that tour, Ms. Kor repeatedly used this axiom:

“Let’s work together to heal the world through forgiveness. Not bullets, not bombs. Just forgiveness. Anger is a seed for war. Forgiveness is a seed for peace.” 

In a 2018 guest blog that Ms. Kor wrote for this website, “My Forgiveness,” she writes that forgiveness can “improve life for everyone in the world.” Read Dr. Enright’s eulogy to Ms. Kor (upon her death on July 4, 2019): “In Memoriam: Eva Mozes Kor and Her Independence Day.”

In addition to Dr. Enright, others named Paul Harris Fellows include U.S. President Jimmy Carter, U.S. astronaut James Lovell, and polio vaccine developer Jonas Salk.

In recognition of his contributions to the peace movement, Dr. Enright was awarded the Distinguished Peace Educator of the Year Award (2008-2009), from the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. In 2012, he received the Cecil Findley Distinguished Service Award for international peacemaking and was named a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International in 2016. Three years later he was awarded the  2019 Mazzuchelli Medallion from Edgewood College along with a pronouncement that forgiveness, relevant in every age, may be one of the clearest paths to peace, individually and collectively, for our world today.” 

While Dr. Enright was one of the first forgiveness research investigators to envision a path to peace through forgiveness, he says there is still much more work that needs to be done.

“We must double our efforts so that peace and forgiveness become a team that is routinely tapped in matters of conflict,” Dr. Enright says. “The flames of resentment can be extinguished by sound forgiveness programs.”

Read Dr. Enright’s essay in Psychology Today“Reflecting on 30 Years of Forgiveness Science.”

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I am not so sure that I have forgiven.  Here is my situation: Whenever I see this person, I feel pain.  I do wish him well, but the pain remains.  What do you think?

There is a difference between pain and unhealthy anger in which you hope that the other suffers.  You say that you wish him well and this is an important part of the forgiveness process.  Please keep in mind that within psychology we have a term called classical conditioning. In classical conditioning, over time we learn to associate certain people or situations with certain emotions.  A mother upon holding her baby feels love.  Classical conditioning links the sight or thought of the baby with love.  In your case, you have linked the person with pain.  You are classically conditioned to this link.  As you try to associate this person who hurt you with wishing him well, a new link will forge—–seeing him and wishing him well.  Be gentle with yourself on this.  Classical conditioning links (such as pain and seeing the one who caused the pain) take time to dissolve.

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Can I get angry with God for the mess that too many people make in this world?  It kind of feels natural to me to get angry with God for all of this injustice in the world. It seems then that I can work on forgiving God.  Do you agree or disagree with this?

Even though it may seem natural to you, your getting angry with God (over injustices which you experience from people) is not good theology.  If God is all holy and sinless, then your forgiving God implies wrongdoing.  I prefer keeping a sound theology and understanding that God allows for the free-will actions of people, even if those actions are unjust.  People are the ones who behave badly, not God.  Rather than forgiving God, I suggest that you try to practice acceptance of what is allowed and then to forgive persons.  In this way, you do not diminish the attributes of God.

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The Missing Piece to the Peace Puzzle

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