New Ideas

Does Forgiveness Have a Place in Contentious Regions of the World?: A Case for Forgiveness Education

Over at the maverickphilosopher.typepad.com website, we read a thoughtful post on Friday, December 4, 2015 in which the writer makes a compelling case that the “pacific” virtues have no place in the public sphere, in civil discourse, as compared with the private sphere of the family, for example. Why? It is because if one turns the other cheek, then those bent on destroying you will gladly take that cheek and all elseEye for an Eye which you have to offer.

So, then, given that forgiveness is one of the pacific virtues, does it have a place in the public sphere, and especially when societies are at war? I think that the answer is a yes. Please let me explain.

Let us suppose that Society A has done all that it can to suppress the voice of those in Society B. Further, Society A is oppressing those in Society B to such an extent that the people in Society B cannot make a living wage, own a healthy horse, or purchase a plot of land that is not rocky and barren.

Does it make sense to talk of forgiveness for the people in Society B? Justice first, otherwise, forgiveness could be the opiate of the people (as Marx said of religious faith) and lull them into a spiritual stupor, a disastrous situation from which they may never recover. And thus, centuries of ennui and passivity and continued oppression occur. . . .albeit with a smile on the faces of those oppressed because at least now they are having happy thoughts about their oppressor.Justice3I could not disagree more with the ideas in the paragraph preceding this one. Here is why. Yes, the people in Society B have suffered a great injustice. Do you realize that they have suffered a second injustice, which too many fail to see? Go ahead, I dare you: Find the second injustice. I will wait for you.

The second injustice is this: The people in Society B have now been given a disease by those in Society A and that disease is resentment, the persistent sense of ill will that can live within a person until it takes his or her life and then, like the virus it is, it jumps to another host to avoid extinction. And thus, the disease of resentment can be passed from generation to generation to generation to. . . . . .

Society A, if its intent is to oppress, has now done so twice, once in the original oppression with its unjust laws and treatment and second in its giving a disease to Society B.

Forgiveness will not solve the original injustice. Only justice can do that.

Yet, forgiveness is a cure for the second kind of injustice, the disease of resentment.  Forgiveness cures the disease of resentment. So, you do not believe me. I am not asking you to believe. I am asking you to examine the science on this issue. Go to the “Research” page of our website (by clicking on the “Research” link at left). Then read the many (but not exhaustive) peer-reviewed studies showing that forgiveness gets ridResentment3 of resentment. It cures the resentment.

And thus, we are no longer left with the burden of two injustices, but now only with one, the first one described above. Free of disease, the people in Society B now can have more energy, see and think more clearly, and act more wisely to persevere and persevere and persevere in righting the first wrong.

If we fail to see this, then we are engaging in an injustice ourselves—the failure to see and to act definitively in helping Society B to heal from a crippling disease.

By the way, do you know of anyone caught in a Society B situation? Here is your quiz for the day: What can you do to help rid that person and that society of a disease that can kill and keep on killing across time and across people?

Our failure to act is unjust and we want to be virtuous people. We need forgiveness education and forgiveness therapy in contentious regions of the world………..now.

Robert

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The Mathematics of Forgiveness

When we are treated deeply unjustly by others, we have a tendency to be wounded in at least eight ways. First is the injustice itself. Second is the emotional reaction, such as considerable anger or frustration or sadness. Third, we sometimes feel shame because others are looking and wondering. Fourth, all of the above can make us tired. Fifth, we sometimes can’t stop thinking about what happened. Sixth, as we compare ourselves to the one who hurt us, we see ourselves as coming up short. Seventh, we sometimes have to make unwanted changes in our lives. And eighth, we drift into pessimism.

One injustice, eight wounds. Now, suppose one person hurt you deeply 20 times. Mathamatics1That is 20 X 8 = 160 wounds you are carrying around inside of you.

Suppose further that 5 other people have hurt you 10 times each……just wait a minute., please….doing the math here……That is 400 more wounds. Adding the first person who hurt you to the other five who hurt you and look. You are carrying around at least 560 wounds inside of you.

Injustice has a way of making us round-shouldered if you think about it. But be of good cheer. Forgiveness properly practiced can eliminate Mathamatics7most of these wounds, allowing you to stand up straight perhaps for the first time in years.

Do the math…..then please consider forgiving.

Robert

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How to Pass Forgiveness to the Next Generation: Forming Forgiveness Communities

How can we pass forgiveness to subsequent generations?  Let us begin to explore some answers to this question through the implementation of forgiving communities.

By “forgiving community” we mean a system-wide effort to make forgiveness a conscious and deliberate part of human relations through: discussion, practice, mutual support, and the preservation of forgiveness across time in any group that wishes to cultivate and perfect this virtue (alongside justice and all other virtues). The Forgiving Community is an idea that can become a reality wherever there is a collection of individuals who wish to unite toward a common goal of fostering forgiveness, developing the necessary structures within their organization to accomplish the goal, and preserving that goal for future generations. We will consider The Family as Forgiving Community here and in a subsequent post, we will consider The School as Forgiving Community.

The central points of the Family as Forgiving Community are these:

1. We are interested in the growth of appreciation and practice in the virtue of forgiveness not only within each individual but also within the family unit itself.

Family 32. For family members to grow in the appreciation and practice of forgiveness, that virtue must be established as a positive norm in the family unit. This necessitates that the parents value the virtue, talk positively about it, and demonstrate it through forgiving and asking for forgiveness on a regular basis within the family.

3. For each member of the family unit to grow in the appreciation and practice of forgiveness, that virtue must be taught in the home, with materials that are age-appropriate and interesting for the children and the parents.

4. Parents will need to persevere in the appreciation, practice, and education of forgiveness if the children are to develop the strength of passing the virtue of forgiveness onto their own families when they are adults.

To achieve these goals, one strategy is the Family Forgiveness Gathering.

Family Forgiveness Gathering
The parents are encouraged to create a time and place for family discussions. We recommend that the parents gather the family together at least once a week to have a quiet discussion about forgiveness. They are to keep in mind that to forgive is not the same as excusing or forgetting or even reconciling and that forgiveness works hand-in-hand with justice.

Questions for the family forgiveness meeting might include:

– What does it mean to forgive someone?
– Who was particularly kind and loving to you this week?
– What did that feel like?
– When the person was really loving toward you, what were your thoughts about the person?
– When the person was really loving, how did you behave toward that person?
– Was anyone particularly unfair or mean to you this week?
– What did it feel like when you were treated in a mean way?
– What were your thoughts?
– Did you try to forgive the person for being unfair to you?
– What does forgiveness feel like?
– What are your thoughts when you forgive?
– What are your thoughts specifically toward the one who acted unfairly to you when you forgive him or her?
– How did you behave toward the person once you forgave?
– If you have not yet forgiven, what is a first step in forgiving him or her? (Make a decision to be kind, commit to forgiving, begin in a small way to see that the person is in fact a person of worth.)

The parents are reminded that they do not have to know all the answers.

Robert

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A Day Discussing Forgiveness in a Maximum Security Prison

In late August, my colleague, Gayle Reed, and I visited a maximun security prison to discuss forgiveness. The point was not to focus on those in prison seeking forgiveness for their crimes, but instead to help each of them to begin forgiving those who have abused them prior to their serious crimes. Many of these men have been deeply abused by others, but this becomes invisible as the focus is on their crimes and rehabilitating them for those actions.

Yet, this next point seems so little understood: Those who perpetrate crime so often have an anger, a hatred, a fury within because of the HatePrison-Loveinjustices they have suffered, often long before they lash out at others. If it will diminish, this kind of fury within needs major surgery of the heart. All the rehabilitation in the world, if it only focuses on their bad behavior, will do nothing to cleanse the heart of fury. Only forgiveness therapy will do that—and this idea of “only forgiveness therapy” came from one of the counselors at the prison, who supervised a forgiveness group for 6 months.

The day at the institution was special for us as we saw the men’s hearts melt at the realization (over 6 months of forgiveness therapy) that they have been deeply hurt by others, not only perpetrators of hurt onto others. They gained the insight that their own anger, rage, and fury built up to such an extent that it came roaring out onto others. As one man said, “Forgiveness is the enemy of hatred.”

Another man had this remarkable insight that anger, which is displaced onto unsuspecting other people, leads to the victim possibly passing that anger to another person, who may pass it on yet again. At some point, he reasoned, someone has to stop the passing on of anger and forgiving can do that job. He said this: “When another is in pain, they are on the hook.  Then they put you on the hook. hen you put others on the hook.” He was clearly seeing that his anger was passed to his victim(s).

After our meeting with the men who took part in the 6-month CellWindowforgiveness group, several of the men came up privately to me. Each one had tears in his eyes and whispered that he needs to forgive himself now. They are having a hard time living with themselves.  The remorse was genuine and the pain real.

After 30 years of studying forgiveness and seeing the scientific results of a significant reduction in anger by those who forgive, I am confident that as the people in prison (both men and women) learn to forgive, their anger within the institution may diminish, making their prison home safer for everyone, including the officers and all who attend to them.

This is a new idea for corrections. May it be a standard idea within a decade.

Robert

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A Thought Experiment for You: A World Without Forgiveness and Mercy

It is the year 2525 and somehow the word “forgiveness” has been dropped from the vocabulary of every person on the planet.  The word “mercy” was dropped long before that.  Justice first, justice last, justice foremost is the unchallenged thought of all.  If justice gets a bit out of InTheYear2525hand, that is just collateral damage to be corrected some time in the future so we can all move on with our business now.

If someone steals because he was hungry, then he knew the rules. Punish him.

If an adolescent is too depressed to study, then she knew the rules and so fail her.  Trying to understand her or to sympathize with her is to let her off too easily.  What if we let off others, too, who are anxious or abused or troubled?  There would be chaos.

Rules are rules and as we know rules prevent chaos and lead to an orderly society.  We want a clean, sanitized community and taking time to heal people’s emotional wounds can be so messy.  And besides, there is no rule in our rule book that says we are obligated to clean up the messiness of sadness or loneliness or alienation.  One person’s loneliness is another person’s blissful, refreshing solitude.

We do not forgiveIf you are kind to those who are not kind to you, then you are weak and are letting that person walk all over you.  Be strong.  Walk away.  You will never regret it.

Pass by that child on the street who just ran away from a father who abused her.  She might cry and disrupt those who are on their way to important meetings to make the world better.  She will get over it.

The crying infant can wait.  We have to teach it—it—to delay gratification.

You don’t agree with me?  I have a committee that does agree and you will be hearing from them in due course.  It will be better for you if you adjust to the right way of thinking so we just can all get along.

So, how are you liking the world without forgiveness and mercy so far?  What will you do to plant a bit more of forgiveness and mercy into the world…….today?

Robert

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