Author Archive: directorifi
Natural Awakenings, Naples, FL – Dr. Robert Enright’s Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program is one of two anti-bullying programs featured in the February issue of Natural Awakenings, a publication that has more than 3 million readers in 82 US markets. According to Sharon Bruckman, founder of the 20-year-old magazine, “Our job is to keep our finger on the pulse of advancing thought in order to keep everyone apprised of the best healthy-life choices available to them.”
According to the Natural Awakenings article, most school anti-bullying programs focus on the prevention of unwanted behaviors. But Dr. Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, has developed a uniquely different approach.
“Because those that engage in bullying are often filled with rage from having been bullied themselves, they get to a point that they don’t care about the consequences of their actions, including detention,” Dr. Enright says. “Our program is meant to take the anger out of the heart of those that bully, so they bully no more.”
The National Education Association estimates that 160,000 children miss school every day due to fears of being attacked or intimidated by other students.
That Natural Awakenings article resulted in WZZM13 ABC TV in Grand Rapids, MI inviting Dr. Matthew Clark to be a guest on the 9 am talk show called Take Five & Company. Dr. Clark, Psy.D., runs The Clark Institute–Private Practice Psychotherapy for Children, Adolescents, and Adults in Grand Rapids. During that 4-minute TV segment, which you can watch at Positive Ways to Promote Kindness in Children,” Dr. Clark mentions the IFI, suggests viewers go to the IFI website, and gives the IFI web address.
A movie review by Dr. Giles Fraser
The Guardian and The Church Times Review, London, England – Patrick Magee killed Jo Berry’s father on October 12, 1984. He was the notorious IRA Brighton bomber; she is the daughter of Sir Anthony Berry, former Tory MP for Enfield, Southgate, England. They were an unlikely pair to be mingling over the canapés in an upscale London hotel.
The occasion was the first London screening of a new documentary film, Beyond Right and Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness, which examines extraordinary stories of forgiveness in Northern Ireland, Rwanda, and the Middle East.
Some of it was almost unbearable to watch: the Rwandan woman whose five children were massacred in church is approached by their killer, who asks for forgiveness; the now-grown-up Irish schoolboy who was blinded by a rubber bullet meets the British soldier who fired the round; the Israeli and Palestinian families who meet, despite having all lost children in the conflict.
One of the stories in Beyond Right and Wrong tells how Magee traveled across England in 1978, planting 16 bombs in various cities and, then again, in 1984, when he blew up Brighton’s Grand Hotel during the Conservative party conference, killing five people. Magee eventually served 14 years in prison, released in 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday agreement. Jo Berry’s forgiveness of Magee is quite extraordinary, taking huge courage and emotional poise. And she admitted to me that she sometimes goes for a walk on the beach in north Wales and smashes rocks against each other in frustration. This is a safe detonation of the anger she feels inside. She says that for all to move on and reclaim a more peaceful future, these feelings have to be left on the beach.
Too often, forgiveness is construed as miraculously having positive feelings towards the person who had harmed you. This understanding is, I suspect, an impossible fiction. But what is not impossible is the refusal of revenge, the refusal to answer back in kind. Beyond Right and Wrong examines powerful stories of ordinary people in Rwanda and Israel/Palestine who have let go of perfectly natural punitive instincts in the name of a brighter tomorrow, one not trapped by the hatreds of the past.
Religion News Service, Columbia, MO – Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his battle against apartheid, has won the 2013 Templeton Prize for his work in advancing the cause of peace and the spiritual principles of forgiveness.
“Desmond Tutu calls upon all of us to recognize that each and every human being is unique in all of history and, in doing so, to embrace our own vast potential to be agents for spiritual progress and positive change” Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr., president and chairman of the John Templeton Foundation, said in announcing the $1.7 million award. “Not only does he teach this idea, he lives it.”
In his remarks, Templeton, Jr. said the judges believed that “Tutu’s steadfastness to core Christian principles such as love and forgiveness has broken chains of hurt, pain and all too common instincts for revenge, and instead, has advanced the spiritual liberation of people around the world.”
Tutu, 81, said he was “totally bowled over” by winning the prize which will be presented at a May 21 ceremony at the Guildhall in London.
“We inhabit a universe where kindness matters, compassion matters, caring matters,” Tutu added. “This is a moral universe and right and wrong matter. And mercifully, gloriously, right will prevail.”
Archbishop Tutu is an Honorary Board Member of the International Forgiveness Institute.
Read the full story: Desmond Tutu wins 2013 Templeton Prize for work on forgiveness.
The snow is melting. The days are becoming longer. Even the birds are starting to chirp. Spring is a wonderful time of new beginnings. New relationships develop and fantasies of improving old relationships may increase. For most people, time spent with friends and family brings happiness. However, for some, relationships with family members and/or friends can be a source of stress related to past conflicts. There are many ways to cope with conflict and feelings of anger and resentment but one approach that we don’t often hear about is the idea of Forgiveness. In an article I read in Runner’s World, the author states, “Butter brings families together, mends old wounds and softens the harsh glare of old resentments, and even makes peas taste good” (Parent, December 2011, p. 50). I don’t know if forgiveness can make “peas taste good” but I do believe that forgiveness can be just as effective as butter, if not more so, in “bringing families together, mending old wounds and softening resentment.”
Many misconceptions and misunderstandings surround what it means to forgive, how to forgive, and when to forgive. Forgiveness involves a willingness to abandon one’s right to resentment, negative judgment, and negative behavior toward one who unjustly injured us, while fostering the undeserved qualities of compassion, generosity, and sometimes even love toward him or her ( Enright, 2001; North, 1987). Notice in the definition that you have a “right” to feel resentment and that the offender does not “deserve” your compassion and generosity based on his or her actions. Forgiveness can also be more simply defined as a decrease in negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors toward the offender and perhaps, over time, a gradual increase in more positive thoughts, feelings, and sometimes behaviors (Enright et al., 1991). Forgiveness does not mean that you deny your offender’s wrongdoing or excuse your offender or the wrongdoing.
One frequent misconception of forgiveness is that it is the same as reconciliation. Although frequently confused with reconciliation, forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation and does not automatically lead to reconciliation. You can forgive and choose not to reconcile. Forgiveness is something you, as the injured, can do on your own and reconciliation requires a change in behavior on the part of the offender; possibly including an apology and the admittance of wrongdoing. Some criticize forgiveness because they think that advocating forgiveness leads to further abuse. However, in the case of a woman married to a partner who continuously cheats on her, she can leave her partner and work on forgiving without staying in the relationship. I would only advise her to consider reconciling if her partner changed his behavior and admitted to his wrongdoing. Forgiveness can also lead to reconciliation. It might be the first step in the process of getting back together with an offender who is sorry for his or her actions.
Forgiveness is a complicated topic and it is definitely not easy, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Future blogs on forgiveness will discuss the role of anger and apology when forgiving, the relation between forgiveness and forgetting, how religion relates to forgiveness, and who benefits when one forgives. Forgiveness is not the only approach to dealing with deep, personal, and unfair hurt. Remember, there’s butter. It is just one response that is not always thought about or tried.
Suzanne Freedman, Professor, University of Northern Iowa
By Leslie Neale, Chance Films, Inc.
Would you become friends with the person who shot you or killed your only son?
For most of us this is unimaginable.
There are those, however, who in order to understand the crime have reached through the bars to connect with and then surprisingly befriend the criminals who devastated their lives.
This is the premise of my newly completed film, Unlikely Friends, a feature length documentary narrated by acclaimed actor, Mike Farrell, telling the heroic journey that five victims of horrific, violent crime choose to walk.
The seeds of this film were planted many years ago when I met Nelson, a bank robber featured in my first documentary, Road to Return. Nelson told me he was consumed with an overriding compulsion to go back to the bank he robbed once he was released from prison and APOLOGIZE.
He told me the story of sitting around a conference table in a small town community bank tucked in the rural banks of Louisiana, sharing pictures of one another’s families with the bank’s employees and swapping stories of their lives. They were all crying. The teller, who Nelson held a gun to 12 years prior, finally looked up at him with tears streaming down her face and said, “Thank you. Thank you for coming back here and apologizing because for 12 years I have not been able to get you out of my mind, and I have lived in fear you would come back and kill me.” I thought to myself the brilliance in that simple act of forgiveness. I immediately understood the implications, not only for his heart to be unburdened from the weight of knowing he harmed innocent strangers but also for the victim to be released from the terror of that nightmare. She was finally able to let go of her obsessive thoughts and fears.
This story convinced me to make a film on the concept of forgiveness, to explore how it might be used to affect positive change within our criminal justice system.
Nelson told me that it took him eight years to realize the damaging effects of what he had done. He had left a couple of precious stamps on his bunk “his only link to the outside world” and another inmate stole them. He vowed then to apologize to those he robbed if and when he got out.
The cornerstone to any true and lasting rehabilitation is taking full accountability for what you’ve done. Victims and offenders coming together in victim offender dialogues can be the catalyst for that connection to be made. Forgiveness is not expected from these dialogues but when it happens, it is life changing for both.
Debbie wanted the death penalty for Gabriel, the man who killed her only son. She says she was eaten up with anger and bitterness before she forgave him. In turn, Gabriel shares that her forgiveness affects every action he now takes–if she can forgive him, then he can forgive all the daily transgressions that occur around him in prison. Most of us think theses stories are the exception. Yet, I was surprised to find more stories than I could tell. There are many people who have forgiven acts that most of us deem unforgivable–and the numbers are growing.
Guest Blog by Leslie Neale, Chance Films, Inc.