A research project focusing on agape love and forgiveness, now underway in three culturally distinct areas of the world, will culminate next summer with an international educational conference to be held in Madison, Wisconsin. The conference will be hosted by the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI)—the nonprofit organization founded in Madison 27 years ago. The research is being conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Working with elementary school children in Northern Ireland, Israel (both Arabic- and Hebrew-speaking schools), and Taiwan, the research is being funded by the John Templeton Foundation which has been supporting research on forgiveness for more than 20 years. The Foundation’s primary goal is “to ignite a global conversation on forgiveness to help everyone experience its benefits and to increase the visibility and funding of forgiveness innovations.”
The 3-year project was developed by and is being conducted under the direction of Dr. Robert Enright, co-founder of the IFI and a professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Its principal focus is on incorporating agape love fundamentals with Dr. Enright’s Forgiveness Curriculum materials for 5th grade students.
“Agape love is drawn from Greek tradition and is the highest expression of forgiveness toward those who caused pain,” Dr. Enright explains. “I call it the ultimate form of love—the kind of love that has never before been scientifically examined as part of forgiveness research.”
The research portion of the agape love and forgiveness education project will continue through most of this school year with 60 teachers and up to 1,200 students at the experimental sites. Some of those educators will outline their experiences and present their findings during the July 19-20, 2022 International Educational Conference on Agape Love and Forgiveness at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
A new website that was created specifically for this Templeton Foundation project was recently launched with an abundance of information about agape love, forgiveness education, and the Conference. The website will serve as an ongoing platform where educators can access curricula and other teaching resources. It will also house all Conference presentations and education materials developed through the project. Visit the website: Agape Love and Forgiveness.
- Learn what agape love is and what makes it unique: Agape Love.
- Learn about the amazing benefits of Forgiveness Education.
An internationally-acclaimed organization that provides research-based tools for professional educators is touting the most recent International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) curriculum guide by creating an entire “best practices” forgiveness component for educators on its website.
Forgiveness for Elementary School is a collection of four practices that provide students with tools to help them understand and begin a journey toward forgiveness. Published on the Greater Good in Education (GGIE) website, the module is dedicated to helping teachers implement learning techniques that focus on forgiveness, mindfulness, and character education.
Those techniques are presented in the new IFI Curriculum Guide The Courage to Forgive: Educating Elementary School Children About Forgiveness. The guide was written by Dr. Suzanne Freedman, forgiveness researcher and Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Northern Iowa, and Dr. Robert Enright, IFI founder and Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The Courage to Forgive is a social-emotional learning (SEL)/character education teaching guide that features 16 lessons, each approximately 45 minutes in length. It includes a comprehensive 15-page introduction that explains what forgiveness is (and is not) as well as why forgiveness is such a crucial subject for grade school students. The guide becomes the 15th volume in the IFI’s library of curriculum guides (for students in pre-kindergarten through high school) and the 19th educational training program offered by the IFI.
“Although the new curriculum was written specifically with 4th and 5th grade students in mind, it can be used with younger students as well as those in middle school,” according to Dr. Freedman. “We designed it so that the instructional activities can be modified as necessary for different age groups–even adults.”
The GGIE website component includes these four modules which are based on The Courage to Forgive curriculum:
1. Creating Space for Forgiveness by Letting Go of Anger
In this module, students discuss the negative consequences that anger can have, identify the benefits of letting go of anger after expressing it, and brainstorm ideas for how to cope with anger.
2. Introduction to Forgiveness
Students develop a working definition for what forgiveness is and what it is not, and consider its relationship to justice, revenge, the role of apology, and reconciliation.
3. Understanding Inherent Worth: A Path towards Forgiveness
As a class, students read the book Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester to begin a discussion on inherent worth, then think critically about how inherent worth and forgiveness are related. Links to a virtual reading of the book are included.
4. Learning from Courageous Forgivers
Students read The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and reflect on the value of being a forgiving person, as exemplified by the story. Again, links to a virtual reading are provided.
“Forgiveness education focuses on recognizing and validating students’ anger, as well as teaching students to express emotions in a healthy way, understand the perspective and humanity of others, and practice empathy and compassion toward others,” Dr. Freedman added. “It is almost impossible to go through life without experiencing hurt, and knowing how to forgive gives students the opportunity to choose love and kindness over anger and hatred.”
Greater Good in Education is produced by the University of California-Berkeley’s award-winning Greater Good Science Center (GGSC). The Greater Good Education Program presents education professionals with practical, scientific insights that help them better understand the roots of kind, helpful–or “prosocial”–behavior and emotional well-being, and how they can build those skills in themselves, their colleagues, and their students.
The 65-page The Courage to Forgive curriculum guide is available in downloadable electronic format on the IFI website for $30. GGIE readers are able to purchase the electronic version at a discounted price of just $15.
Calling forgiveness one of mankind’s “most important innovations,” TIME magazine is doubling down on its 22-year infatuation with the moral virtue by declaring, “Beset by a global plague, political turmoil, and social reckonings, it’s time for forgiveness to go viral.”
The internationally acclaimed news publication first introduced the science of forgiveness to its readers on March 28, 1999, in an essay titled “Should All Be Forgiven?” That widely-cited introductory overview of forgiveness—one of the first ever in a publication designed for the general public—helped usher in a plethora of forgiveness-related articles since then that reported on the superabundance of new research projects focused on forgiveness.
“In the past two years, scientists and sociologists have begun to extract forgiveness and the act of forgiving from the confines of the confessional, transforming it into the subject of quantifiable research,” the TIME article in 1999 sermonized. “In one case, they have even systemized it as a 20-part ‘intervention’ that they claim can be used to treat a number of anger-related ills in a totally secular context. In short, to forgive is no longer just divine.”
The “20-part intervention” in the TIME quote (above) is a reference to the Enright Process Model of Forgiveness that was just being developed at that time by Dr. Robert Enright, a University of Wisconsin-Madison clinical psychology professor and forgiveness researcher. Dr. Enright had founded the International Forgiveness Institute four years earlier.
For his leadership work with that early model and for his development of innovative forgiveness interventions, TIME magazine crowned Dr. Enright “the forgiveness trailblazer.” Shortly after receiving that recognition, The Los Angeles Times editorialized that Dr. Enright is “the guru of what many are calling a new science of forgiveness.” The Christian Science Monitor called him “the father of forgiveness research.”
Fast forward 22-years and you will discover an updated and enthusiastic TIME magazine essay with this headline: “After a Year That Pushed Us to the Brink, It’s Time for Forgiveness to Go Viral.” The dictionary definition of “going viral,” of course, is when an idea is of such significance that it spreads quickly and widely on the Internet. In this case, it also refers to the actual implementation of that idea which is described in the article much like a miracle cure:
“It is a powerful solution backed up by both cutting edge neuroscience and age-old wisdom. It leads to greater cooperation, eases conflict, increases personal happiness, lowers anxiety and is completely free. It’s called forgiveness.”
One of the studies cited in this latest article is a comparison of various forgiveness interventions. Among those available for testing, the study concludes, Dr. Enright’s interventions are the most effective. “Using theoretically grounded forgiveness interventions is a sound choice for helping clients to deal with past offenses and helping them achieve resolution in the form of forgiveness,” according to the study. “. . . the advantage for individual interventions was most clearly demonstrated for Enright-model interventions.” (Efficacy of psychotherapeutic interventions to promote forgiveness: a meta-analysis)
That recent TIME article also makes a direct comparison between the success of the forgiveness coalition and the “mindfulness and meditation” movement:
“Like forgiveness, mindfulness and meditation have been shown in many circumstances to reduce stress levels, mitigate heart disease, and lower blood pressure. Can we create the same level of cultural penetration for forgiveness? Our future may well depend on it. Beset by a global plague, political turmoil, and social reckonings, it’s time for forgiveness to go viral.”
The latest TIME article was authored by Andrew Serazin, President of the Templeton World Charity Foundation and Chair of the Forgiveness Forum, a series of global conversations on the mental and physical health benefits of forgiveness.
Editor’s Note: To illustrate the dramatic upward trajectory of the forgiveness movement, when Dr. Enright began exploring the social scientific study of forgiveness in 1985, there were no published empirical studies on person-to-person forgiveness. Today there are more than 3,000 published articles on that subject according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), many of them authored by Dr. Enright during his 35+ years of forgiveness research and intervention ingenuity.
- Read the full TIME article: “After a Year That Pushed Us to the Brink, It’s Time for Forgiveness to Go Viral.”
- Read the full March 28, 1999 TIME article: “Should All Be Forgiven?”
World Education Week 2021, an annual celebration of practical educational innovations that kicks off this week, will focus on Dr. Robert Enright’s Forgiveness Education initiatives—particularly those in Greece, Northern Ireland, and Liberia (West Africa).
The event, sponsored by the Templeton World Charity Foundation, provides a platform for schools and education organizations to share how they have developed their expertise with the express purpose of inspiring other schools and organizations to understand the journey to excellence. More than 100 schools and organizations around the world will be sharing their unique expertise and success stories with a global audience.
“The best thing we can do to build a better future is empower our students with the social and emotional tools they will need to live healthy, productive, thriving lives,” according to Andrew Serazin, President of Templeton World Charity Foundation. “Forgiveness is one of those critical tools.”
As outlined on the World Education Week website, Forgiveness Forum, a panel of experienced forgiveness teachers and educational advocates from around the world will share their unique experiences building forgiveness into curriculums and discuss its impact on classroom dynamics, on student attainment outcomes, and on teacher well-being.
Two members of that three-person panel of experts have a combined 20 years of experience either teaching students or educating teachers about Dr. Enright’s Forgiveness Education Program:
- Dr. Peli Galiti, Ph.D., M.Ed., has been conducting training workshops for Greek teachers for the past 9 years and has trained more than 600 teachers to use Forgiveness Education. The Program is now being taught to more than 6,000 students as part of the Greek Forgiveness Education Program that Dr. Galiti directs.
- Annette Shannon, Learning Support Teacher at Holy Cross Girls’ School in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has been teaching and coordinating the school’s Forgiveness Education Program for the past 11 years.
Another prominent participant in World Education Week, Bishop Kortu Brown, Chairman/CEO of Church Aid Inc., has been National Coordinator of the Liberia Forgiveness Education Program since it was established by Dr. Enright nearly 10 years ago. Bishop Brown also appears in a 30-second promotional video about the week’s activities.
The widely acclaimed Forgiveness Education Program, developed by Dr. Enright along with collaborating curriculum experts and experienced teachers, is administered by the International Forgiveness Institute. Using children’s story books and Social Emotional Learning (SEL) techniques, the Program teaches students about the five moral qualities most important to forgiving another person–inherent worth, moral love, kindness, respect and generosity. The Program is now being used in more than 30 countries around the world.
Learn more and register for World Education Week activities (all sessions are free) on the Forgiveness Forum website.
How many times have you heard or been asked the age-old question of: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” While that problematic conundrum may never be adequately answered, researchers are confident they are making inroads into solving a similar enigma: “Which is first required to engender the other, forgiveness or love?”
A just-published research study by world-renowned forgiveness trailblazer Dr. Robert Enright and three of his associates helped provide some answers to that larger question by examining three related questions:
- Do forgiveness and love develop together?
- Does love or forgiveness predict the other at a later time?
- Does one’s spirituality moderate the relationship between forgiveness and love?
The study, The Development of Forgiveness and Other-focused Love, was published last month in the online version of the Journal of Psychology and Theology, a peer-reviewed academic journal. It explores the development of forgiveness and other-focused love and examines the role of spirituality in the relationship between forgiveness and love.
As part of the study, participants from a large Christian university filled out measures of compassionate love, forgiveness, and dedication to God at Time 1 (T1) and measures of love and forgiveness after 4 weeks at Time 2 (T2). While love at T1 did not predict forgiveness at T1 or T2, forgiveness at T1 positively predicted love at T2, indicating that forgiveness temporally preceded love.
“Because the aim of the study was to see the natural unfolding of forgiveness and love over time, there was no treatment or intervention between T1 and T2,” according to study researcher Jican J. Kim, an Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the M.A. in Applied Psychology program at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA. “The results, however, suggest that we may be able to help people grow in other-focused love by helping them to forgive. That’s a really dramatic revelation.”
Dr. Enright emphasized those findings by explaining that the study shows a possibility that as one grows in the virtue of forgiveness (toward a specific offender), the person might experience growth in love toward others in general, thus becoming a more loving person (through the act of forgiveness toward a particular offender).
“In theory, this idea seems to have merit because a forgiving person must be able to love the most unlovable person–one’s offender,” Dr. Enright added. “That kind of love, what we call agape love, might make loving others in general comparably easy.”
The evidence from this study, together with findings from other recent empirical studies, have only begun to examine the development and relationship between forgiveness and love—a relatively new focus for forgiveness researchers. Further research needs to be done to document in what ways one’s practice of forgiveness results in greater love toward others.
The two researchers agree, however that it is time to extend forgiveness interventions with adults to not only focus on psychological healing of the unjustly treated but also to investigate how forgiveness can promulgate the development of other-focused love.
“The fact that forgiveness can increase love at a later time tells me that love and forgiveness grow together and the practice of forgiveness is a concrete
expression of love that matures over time.”
Dr. Jichan J. Kim
Read the full report: The Development of Forgiveness and Other-focused Love
Research Report Authors:
- Jiahe Wang Xu is a graduate student in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interest is in forgiveness and the development of agape love.
- Jichan J. Kim (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison) an Associate Professor of Psychology and the Director of the M.A. in Applied Psychology program at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA. His research focuses on interpersonal, self-, and divine forgiveness.
- Naomi Olmstead (M.A. Psychology, Liberty University) is a secondary educator at Lanakila Baptist School, Ewa Beach (island of O’ahu), Hawaii.
- Robert D. Enright holds the Aristotelian Professorship in Forgiveness Science within the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a founding board member of the International Forgiveness Institute in Madison, Wisconsin.