Author Archive: directorifi

Woman Encourages Forgiveness After Being Shot by Her Father

KMPH Fox 26 News, Fresno, CA – After spending seven months in the hospital receiving treatment for her gun shot wounds, a California woman is back home and telling everyone that forgiveness was the key to her recovery.

Valerie Alvarez was shot by her father, after he killed her sister. He then killed himself.Forgiveness-word-collage

The woman’s story is remarkable not only because of here struggle to live but because she defies the odds every day.

Alvarez lives with Spina Bifida, a spinal condition with which she was born. She is 34 years old but was not expected to live past the age of 20. Then the seriousness of her condition was magnified, and her life changed forever, on May 27th of last year when the bullet fired from her father’s gun hit her spine.

The shooting occurred just a few months after Alvarez lost her mother. She says her father struggled with the loss and she thinks that loss,  coupled with his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from serving in Vietnam, made him snap. After all, it was Memorial Day.

“I think he wanted us all to be together, I think that’s why he did what he did. I don’t think he did it out of anger,” she says.

Alvarez recalls that every day she spent in the hospital after the shooting was a battle. She couldn’t breath on her own. She lost the ability to move her hands.

I forgiveBut then, she says, everything changed with one key decision.

“I forgave my dad,” she says. “That’s the best thing I could have done, was forgive my dad to get better, get my strength back.

“I have my hands now, I can push my chair now. Knowing I can be out there in the world, means the world to me!” she says. “To have my life back again!”

And for those struggling with their own challenges, she offers this advice…

“You can never forget, but you can forgive,” she says.

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Adverse Impacts of Childhood Bullying Extend Into Adulthood

The negative impacts of childhood bullying are much more pervasive and long-lasting than researchers previously believed, according to a just-published study.

Those bullied in childhood had increased levels of psychological distress at ages 23 and 50, according to the British study that covered a 50-year timespan.  Victims of frequent bullying had higher rates of depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol dependence, and suicidality than their non-victimized peers nearly four decades after exposure. Additionally, childhood bullying victimization was associated with a lack of social relationships, economic hardship, and poor perceived quality of life at age 50.

While those impacts for adults were undocumented up until now, the study also confirms what researchers have long known—that childhood bullying can be devastating.

“Not only do victims of bullying have elevated symptoms of anxiety and depression in childhood and adolescence,” the study reports, “they also show increased rates of self-harm, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, and psychotic symptoms. As a result, victimization by bullies is increasingly considered alongside maltreatment and neglect as a form of childhood abuse.” bullying Graph

The new study was published in the July 2014 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry:  Adult Health Outcomes of Childhood Bullying Victimization: Evidence From a Five-Decade Longitudinal British Birth Cohort. Data were from the British National Child Development Study, a 50-year prospective cohort of births in 1 week in 1958. The authors studied data from 7,771 participants whose parents reported bullying exposure at ages 7 and 11 years, and who participated in follow-up assessments between ages 23 and 50 years. Of the three well-respected researchers who completed the study, one is a Newton International Fellow while another is a British Academy Mid-Career Fellow.

“Like other forms of childhood abuse, bullying victimization has a pervasive effect on functioning and health outcomes up to midlife,” the study concludes. ”Our findings. . .emphasize the importance of gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the persistence and pervasiveness of the impact of childhood bullying. These risk mechanisms could become suitable targets for intervention programs designed to reverse the effects of early life adversity later in the life course.”

And at least one researcher is already addressing those risk mechanisms.

Dr. Robert Enright, a University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor, says his research and interventions may be the only ones in the world focusing on pent-up anger as the source of bullying. Dr. Enright, called “the forgiveness trailblazer” by Time magazine, has been researching forgiveness for more than 25 years, has created the International Forgiveness Institute to disseminate the results of his work, and has produced Forgiveness Education Curriculum Guides for students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade that are being used around the world.

Now Dr. Enright has just released a new curriculum guide called “The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program: Reducing the Fury Within Those Forgiveness-Brothers-HugWho Bully.”This guide can be used by school counselors, social workers, and teachers. It is for students in grade 4 (age 9) through grade 9 (age 14) and is intended for use with those who are showing bullying behavior.

“Bullying behavior does not occur in a vacuum, but can result from deep inner rage, not resulting from those who are bullied but often from others who have hurt them in family, school, or neighborhood,” Dr. Enright says. “The purpose of our guide is to help such students to forgive those who have deeply hurt them so they no longer take out their rage on others.”

Dennis Blang
International Forgiveness Institute

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Solution to Rampant Bullying–Forgiveness Education

Yet another tragic school incident, this one involving two 11-year-old boys. Yet another case of bullying gone uncurbed. Yet another example of amazing forgiveness.

An 11-year-old boy at Pacific Christian School in Auckland (on the north island of New Zealand), was stabbed in the right temple by an 11-year-old classmate wielding a pair of school scissors on Tuesday (June 24, 2014). Bullying-AppleThe injured boy was taken to Starship Children’s Hospital, where he remains in critical condition in a coma. Doctors are unable to determine if he will ever fully recover.

The boy’s assailant, an 11-year-old classmate, was taken into custody and turned over to Child, Youth and Family care. According to The New Zealand Herald, “the stabbing shocked the country given the ages of those involved.”

The injured boy’s uncle said his nephew’s parents have already forgiven the other boy. “We don’t hold grudges, we remember the Lord’s Prayer. That’s how they feel.”

In the wake of the stabbing, which happened just moments after the teacher left the room,  Pacific Christian School has been accused of “knowing about classroom bullying but failing to act,” the Herald reported.

“That’s not at all unusual,” says Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute based in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. “In most cases, teachers don’t know how to handle students that bully and administrators are unable to provide clear guidance except for disciplinary procedures.”

AISDBulliedinSchool2Earlier this year, Dr. Enright developed The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program: Reducing the Fury Within Those Who Bully based on his more than 20 years of scientific forgiveness research and his Forgiveness Education Curriculum Guides that have been tested and in full use for more than a dozen years by schools in places like Belfast, Northern Ireland, and more recently in Monrovia, Liberia (West Africa), and Israel-Palestine.

“It is our contention that bullying starts from within, as anger, and comes out as displaced anger onto the victim,” Dr. Enright said. “Forgiveness targets this anger and then reduces it, thus reducing or eliminating the displaced anger which comes out as bullying.”

Unless we eliminate the anger in the hearts of those who bully,” Dr. Enright believes, “we will not eliminate bullying.”

Dennis Blang
International Forgiveness Institute

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As Renewed Fighting Grips Gaza, IFI Gains Foothold in Israel-Palestine

Editor’s Note: Robert Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, just returned from a trip to the treacherous Middle East to promote Forgiveness Education. Here is his report:

After three grueling years of trying to break into the Middle East with forgiveness education, we have finally succeeded. 

We are now in the Mar Elias Educational Institutions (MEEI) in Ibillin, Israel, about 12  miles from Nazareth and 20 miles from the Lebanon border (view map).

Mar Elias Elementary School

The Mar Elias Schools were started over 30 years ago for integrated education between Arab Christian and Muslim students. The ethos of the school is respect, tolerance, and compassion. About 55% of the families in this region are below the poverty level. The founder of these schools, Elias Chacour, is a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

The head principal, who runs the high school, is ready to implement forgiveness education this fall in grades 5 through 12 (similar grading system to US schools). The English teachers will provide the instruction.

In the meantime, we will be busy translating the teacher curriculum guides for grades 1-4 into Arabic so we can implement the forgiveness program with these grades in the 2015-2016 school year. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs are still under discussion. There are no English courses from pre-kindergarten through grade 4 so all of the instruction will be in Arabic.

The plan is to implement this forgiveness education program only in the Mar Elias Schools for the 2014-2015 academic year and then make plans (for 2015-2016) to fold in a nearby Jewish school to implement forgiveness education simultaneously with the Mar Elias Schools so that they can have cross-community dialogue among teachers and students on the topic of forgiveness.

In the 2014-2015 academic year, we will conduct Skype sessions focused on forgiveness education with the 11th and 12th grade Israeli students communicating with Edgewood High School students in Madison and students in Monrovia, Liberia, Africa.

I will return to the Mar Elias schools in January, 2015 to continue discussions with the principals who are anxious to expand forgiveness education in the coming years.

By the way, the first floor of the Mar Elias High School is a bomb shelter—required by the Israeli government. There are thick metal casings around the windows and heavily reinforced concrete. Can you imagine attending a school with a mandated bomb shelter in it?

Footnote: During his time in Israel, Dr. Enright was accompanied by Rev. Joan Deming, Executive Director of Pilgrims of Ibillin, a US not-for-profit organization that strategically and financially supports the Mar Elias Educational Institutions. Rev. Deming helped open doors at the MEEI by introducing Dr. Enright to principals and administrators. When not in Israel, Rev. Deming resides in Madison.

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Palestinian Teen Shows the Power of Forgiveness

The Washington Post, Washington, DC. – As Israelis and Palestinians once again trade rocket attacks in a new round of violence, a 10-year-old story is back in the news because of the ability of one of those involved to grasp the awesome power of forgiveness and reconciliation.Gaza Strip II

On Feb. 18, 2004, a week after his 15th birthday, Yousef Bashir was shot in the back by an Israeli soldier in the front yard of Bashir’s home. The bullet splintered into three fragments, severing nerves near the teenager’s spine.

Today, after months of rehabilitation in an Israeli hospital where he learned to walk again, Bashir describes the episode as “life-changing,” which makes sense, and “a blessing,” which to many is astonishing.

“I feel very thankful to this horrible experience because it spared me from a lot of hatred I would be growing up with toward the Israelis,” he says. “I was shot by one Israeli but saved by many Israeli people.”

Indeed, over the years, Bashir has imagined finding the soldier who shot him that afternoon.

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The Missing Piece to the Peace Puzzle