Author Archive: directorifi

Closure for Boston Bombing Victims: Death Penalty, Life in Prison, or Forgiveness? U.S. News, New York City, NY – When a federal jury sentenced Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death last month, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh issued a statement expressing “hope [that] this verdict provides a small amount of closure” to everyone affected by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed four people and wounded hundreds more.

Like Mayor Walsh, most everyone hopes the victims of the bombing — including the families of the four people murdered by the Tsarnaev brothers — can find some relief from their anguish. Will this death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev help them?

Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old son was killed in the bombing, don’t think so. They recently wrote an open letter in the Boston Globe urging the Justice Department to take the death penalty “off the table.”

“The continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives,” wrote the Richards, who suffered severe injuries from the bombing; their 7-year-old daughter lost her left leg.

For many victims, feelings of pain and loss may never go away, regardless of how Tsarnaev is punished. But psychological research has found that one way to achieve greater peace of mind is through forgiveness.

Researchers like Dr. Robert Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute in Madison, WI, stress that forgiving does not mean absolving an offender of guilt; instead, it means deliberately letting go of feelings of anger and vengeance toward the offender — a way to stop ruminating on the offense and free yourself of the power it has over you.

“It’s a way of saying, ‘I’m going to take my life back because I’m getting swallowed up by hatred,” according to Loren Toussaint, an associate professor of psychology at Luther College (Decorah, Iowa), who studies forgiveness. “It’s an act of transformative empowerment … that allows someone to move forward.”

Read the full story including research results from crime victims on the effects of punishment vs forgiveness:Does Death Penalty Bring Closure?

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When a family member expresses as a couple they no longer wish to be part of the family and has no desire to discuss anything-is it our response to honor that request and only communicate if they do first? We pray and wait. Thank you.

That request is not necessarily their final word. They are saying this out of a sense of hurt. They are not feeling loved. You can and should approach them in love, knowing that they are hurt. Approach them from that position—-they are wounded in some way. I would not criticize them for that. The situation is what it is from their perspective and so your acknowledging their hurt may get their attention. You and others also may be hurt, but if you put your own woundedness on the table along with theirs, you likely will get nowhere. So, humility and courage are required if you approach them. If you can make progress, then in time your own hurt can be put on the table for (gentle) discussion.

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I cannot forgive Hitler. To do so would be folly given his evil acts. So, in some cases is forgiving an act of folly?

Forgiveness is a moral virtue. All moral virtues (such as justice, patience, kindness, and love-in-service-to-others) are good. Therefore, forgiveness is good. Goodness is not folly. Because forgiveness is part of goodness, it follows that forgiveness cannot be folly.

That said, you may not be ready right now to forgive certain people for certain unjust actions. This does not make you a bad person. Forgiveness does not have the same quality as justice. Certain forms of justice are so important that they are encoded into laws of the state: Do not murder, for example. Forgiveness is not codified into law because it is the person’s choice whether or not to forgive a given person for a given unjust action. So, if you do not want to forgive Hitler for the pain he has caused to you (and he can cause pain to those who were born long after World War II), then you need not do so, and remain a good person.

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Dr. Lisa Gassin, IFI Founding Board Member, Receives Award for Academic Excellence

Dr. Elizabeth (Lisa) Gassin, a founding board member of the International Forgiveness Institute, received the 2015 Samuel L. Mayhugh Award for Scholarly Excellence from Olivet Nazarene University during the 102nd Commencement Convocation on May 9.

Dr. Lisa Gassin Founding IFI Board Member

Dr. Lisa Gassin
Founding IFI Board Member

Dr. Gassin teaches courses in developmental and cross-cultural psychology. She has been an Olivet faculty member since 1995, except when she was working in Russia from 2000 through 2003. In 2007, she received Olivet’s Richard M. Jones Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence.

She holds degrees in human development; educational psychology with an emphasis in gifted education; educational and developmental psychology with minors in research and statistics and moral education; and marriage and family counseling. She focuses her research on the psychology of forgiveness, bereavement and play therapy.

Dr. Gassin has produced various publications and presentations on the topic of forgiveness. She is a member of the Association for Play Therapy and the American Counseling Association. Serving the greater Kankakee community, she provides counseling services and also volunteers with Hospice of Kankakee Valley.

She has earned a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, two master’s degrees — one from Purdue University and one from Governors State University — and a bachelor’s degree from the University of California-Davis. Currently, she is in a specialized graduate research program in Olivet Logoqualitative research methods with Nova Southeastern University.

“Dr. Gassin is an outstanding example for our students of scholarly achievement, Christian service and compassion for others,” said Dr. Dennis Crocker, vice president for Academic Affairs. “Her commitment to learning and growing, both as a professor and an academic leader, continues to inspire others.”

Olivet Nazarene University is an accredited Christian, liberal arts university offering more than 120 areas of undergraduate and graduate study. Olivet’s main campus is in Bourbonnais, Illinois, 50 miles south of Chicago.

Read Dr. Gassin’s full Curriculum Vitae.

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A Reflection on “Do No Harm”

In the process of forgiveness that we have outlined in two different books (Forgiveness Is a Choice and The Forgiving Life) there is one part of the process in which we ask the forgiver to “Do no harm” to the one who has been unjust. This idea of “Do no harm” is actually transitional to the even more difficult challenge to love the one who has hurt you. Yet, “Do no harm,” even though an earlier and supposedly easier part of the process, is anything but easy.

To “Do no harm” means three things: 1) Do not do obvious harm to the one who hurt you (being rude, for example); 2) Do not do subtle harm (a sneer, ignoring at a gathering, being neutral to this fellow human being); and 3) Do not do harm to others. In other words, when you are angry with Person X, it is easier than you think to displace that anger onto Persons Y and Z. If others have to ask, “What is wrong with her (him) today?” perhaps that is a cue that you are displacing anger from one incident into your current interactions.

It is at these times that it is good to take stock of your anger and to ask, “Whom do I need to forgive today? Am I ‘doing no harm’ as I practice forgiveness? Am I being vigilant not to harm innocent others because of what I am suffering?”

My challenge to you today: Do no harm to anyone throughout this entire day…..and repeat tomorrow…..and the day after that.


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