Archive for October, 2022
I read your published article in the journal, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, in which you helped men in a maximum-security prison to forgive people who hurt them. What is your next step, to open all the jail cell doors and let out everyone who has ever been hurt?
You are confusing forgiving and abandoning justice. You can forgive a person and then seek justice. As people in correctional institutions learn to forgive those who brutalized them when they were children or adolescents, this can lower their rage, making them less dangerous. Advocating for their forgiving does not mean advocating for their release from the institution.
Doesn’t forgiving go against our biological nature of the survival of the fittest? Don’t we want to step up with courage and stop bad behavior rather than acquiescing to it?
When we forgive we do not excuse what the other person did. We can forgive, know what the other did was wrong, and take steps to exercise the moral virtue of justice. Forgiving and justice seeking can exist side by side.
In my experience working with people who forgive, they do not forget what happened to them. Instead, they remember in new ways. As they occasionally look back on what happened to them, they do so without the heightened emotions of deep anger or very deep sadness as was the case prior to forgiving.
What is the evidence that children can be taught to forgive? Is there any evidence that when children learn about forgiveness that they actually begin to forgive those who have hurt them?
Yes, there now are scientifically-based forgiveness programs, many of which focus on stories and story characters who experience conflict and learn to resolved those conflicts. The research shows that children and adolescents, when given a sufficient amount of time (12 or more weeks) to think about forgiveness, actually forgive to a deeper level than before they had these programs. Here is a reference to a journal article showing this to be the case: Rapp, H., Wang Xu, J., & Enright, R.D. (2022). A meta-analysis of forgiveness education interventions’ effects on forgiveness and anger in children and adolescents. Child Development.
Is it weak to strive to see the full humanity in someone who hurt you? Is it weak to stand in the pain of what happened so that you do not throw that pain back to that person or to unsuspecting others? Is it weakness to return a phone call if it is requested by someone who hurt you? To forgive is heroic because you try to be good to those who are not good to you and you do this while in pain, caused by that person.