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Does Forgiveness Work? Let’s Ask the Experts. . .

The benefits of forgiveness have been discussed and debated for centuries but scientific evidence that forgiveness actually “works” has been scant. All that has changed during the past few decades as legions of psychologists and clinicians have begun studying the ancient virtue from a stringently documented, peer-reviewed empirical perspective.

Dr. Robert Enright, an educational psychologist labeled the “forgiveness trailblazer” by Time magazine (and co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute), published the first scientific study on person-to-person forgiveness in 1989. In the 15 years following the publication of that article in the Journal of Adolescence, the number of published forgiveness articles had jumped to more than 1,100. And today, researchers can pore through more than 3,000 published articles brandishing empirical evidence on the virtue of forgiveness.

Here is a quick look at several recent research reports related to the benefits of forgiveness:

Forgiveness Reduces Suicidal Behavior

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young adults and about 1,100 college students die by suicide each year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). According to a study of 158 college students, all suffering from mild to severe depression, psychologists at East Tennessee State University found that:

“Students who are more capable of forgiving themselves and others after stressful life events or interpersonal problems have lower rates of suicidal behavior than their peers who are less able to forgive. This study points out that interventions that boost levels of forgiveness can increase self-esteem, hopefulness, positive emotions toward other people, and perceived self-control while reducing levels of depression, anxiety, and drug use.”

Source: Forgiveness, Depression, and Suicidal Behavior Among a Diverse Sample of College Students.

Forgiveness Education Program Reduces Depression, Anxiety, and Stress

After implementation of Dr. Enright’s Forgiveness Education curriculum for high school students in Turkey, study results demonstrated that:

“Forgiveness Education has led to significant decrease in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. Conclusion: Forgiveness Education can be used effectively for adolescents in school settings.” 

Source: Effect of Psychoeducational Forgiveness Program on Symptoms of Depression, Anxiety, and Stress in Adolescents.

Even Brief Enright Forgiveness Education Programs Improve Health

Chinese college students demonstrated positive improvement in emotional health following brief (4 sessions compared to the normal 12 sessions) exposure to Enright Forgiveness Education curriculum classes. According to the study:

“The analysis of the pretest and post-test scores indicated that both the Enright Psycho-social Programme and the Chinese Value-oriented Programme had positive effects on improving participants’ general emotional forgiveness, decreasing their negative emotions toward the offender, and improving life satisfaction.”

Source: Piloting Forgiveness Education: A Comparison of the Impact of Two Brief Forgiveness Education Programmes Among Chinese College Students.

Forgiveness Significantly Predicts Life Satisfaction

Researchers have begun to investigate the relationship between happiness and subjective factors like Forgiveness. A study with 380 students from different departments of Bursa Uludag University in Bursa, Turkey, found that:

“Happiness has been found to be negatively related to stress and positively related to positive emotions, satisfying relationships, self-esteem, forgiveness, self-compassion, and quality of friendships.Results in this study also indicate that forgiveness and life satisfaction are positively related and that forgiveness significantly predicts life satisfaction. For this reason, my results are important for psychological healthcare workers, who can include these variables into their supportive and preventive programs in order to assess important characteristics that contribute to good psychological health.”

Source: Predictive effects of subjective happiness, forgiveness, and rumination on life satisfaction.

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How to Move Past Resentment

A 54-minute podcast called “How to Move Past Resentment with Dr. Robert Enright, Founder of the International Forgiveness Institute” was released today and is now available free of charge on The Growing Through It Podcast network and major podcast channels.

“When someone wrongs, hurts, or violates us, we get angry,” according to podcast host Jen Arnold.  “If we hold on to  that anger and resentment it can fester, leading to increased stress, negative emotions, poorer mental health, a weakened immune system, and higher blood pressure. In this podcast, Dr. Enright outlines how can you get past the anger so you can get on with your life.”

The interview with Dr. Enright is episode 23 of the podcast series that Arnold has been taping and airing since last year. The series, she says “offers advice, real conversations, and stories of personal setbacks to help you grow from your challenges.”


Don’t just go through it. Grow through it.

Jen Arnold


Dr. Enright opens the podcast interview by defining what forgives is and what it’s not (since forgiveness, he says, is so often misunderstood). He goes on to explain what happens when people hold on to resentment before walking listeners  through his process for forgiving others and forgiving one’s self as well as how to ask for forgiveness.

Jen Arnold is the founder and CEO of Redesigning Wellness, Inc., a company that offers resilience training to individuals and employee groups. She defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.” Forgiveness, she adds, is an important component of that adaptation process.

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Forbes: Forgiveness has “Immense Benefits”

Forbes Magazine is undeniably one of the most highly read news publications in the world. With 49 global editions licensed in 83 countries and printed in 28 languages, it reaches more than 140 million people worldwide on a monthly basis through direct subscription and its website.

Now the 105-year-old publication has teamed up with medical experts to tout the “immense benefits” of forgiveness on both mental and physical health in an article titled “Forgiveness: How to Forgive Yourself and Others.” It was published on Aug. 31, 2022, and received the coveted Forbes Health Advisory Board seal of approval.

“The benefits of forgiveness greatly outweigh holding a grudge, and can affect both mental and physical health in profound ways,” according to the article. “While forgiveness may feel impossible in certain circumstances, forgiveness experts—yes, this is a real field of study—say that forgiveness can be learned no matter how great the offense. Even if the person you have the hardest time forgiving is yourself, this too, they say, can be learned.”

The Forbes article relies extensively on the work of Dr. Robert Enright and calls him “a pioneer in the scientific study of forgiveness” and “a leading expert on forgiveness.” Dr. Enright is a professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute who last year was awarded the 2022 American Psychological Foundation Gold Medal Award for Impact in Psychology.

“As you can see, all the ways of practicing forgiveness as well as its benefits aren’t really about the person who wronged you; it’s about yourself,” according to the Forbes article. “Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it can be done. When you commit to putting it into practice, your mental and physical health will both be better for it.”


“Clearly forgiveness has immense benefits.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Forbes Magazine


Here are the scientifically-demonstrated benefits of forgiveness cited in the article:

Mental Benefits of Practicing Forgiveness

  •    You experience less anxiety when you forgive
  •    Inability to forgive and depression can be linked
  •    You feel more hopeful and empowered when you forgive
  •    You’re less likely to hurt others

Physical Benefits of Practicing Forgiveness

  •    Forgiveness is good for your heart
  •    It’s associated with better sleep
  •    Forgiving supports the immune system

In addition to lauding the benefits of forgiveness, the article includes a helpful list of “10 Ways to Practice Forgiveness for Yourself and Others.”

Read the full Forbes Magazine article.

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FORGIVENESS IS A GIFT

Over the past 20 years, Joe Daguanno has climbed the corporate ladder at the Mid-West Family of Companies to become Chief Profit Strategist – Partner. That means he is a media, branding, and advertising professional who excels at revenue generation. He’s also a pretty good, and consistent, blogger.

What’s up in the Cosmos? is the title of Daguanno’s personal blog that he has been writing for the past dozen years. His recent Dec. 20 blog post was titled “The Gift of Forgiveness.” Here’s a brief excerpt:

Joe Daguanno, Chief Profit Strategist – Partner, Mid-West Family of Companies

Forgiveness is a gift. It’s love. It’s generosity. It’s mercy.

As we give this gift, we heal.

Holding a grudge acts like a tourniquet to the flow of healing. It closes the heart and the wounds remain open.

Real forgiveness takes strength. It takes courage. It takes honesty. It takes time.

But it’s worth it.

So very much.

Daguanno’s depth of perception about forgiveness developed several years ago when he met Dr. Robert Enright, forgiveness research pioneer and founder of the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI). That encounter led Daguanno to spearhead development of a series of public service announcements that were broadcast hundreds of time on Wisconsin Public Radio and by numerous commercial radio stations throughout the Midwest—all at no cost to the IFI.

As his title references, Daguanno is a partner in Mid-West Family of Companies—an alliance of more than 40 radio stations covering 8 separate geographic markets–all  assembled by the late Dr. William Walker and his son Thomas Walker. Dr. Walker co-founded the IFI along with Dr. Enright in 1995. Thomas Walker continues to provide the IFI with both financial and hands-on support through the Walker Family Trust.

Read Daguanno’s full Dec. 20 blog: “The Gift of Forgiveness.”

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Partnership Achievement Award Presented to Mary Lou Coons

Mary Lou Coons, founder of the Puppets For Peace Foundation, has been recognized with the “Healing Hearts Hero Award” by the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI). The award recognizes exceptional efforts by individuals who have partnered with the IFI and its co-founder, Dr. Robert Enright, to advance the broader understanding and application of the virtue of forgiveness.

Mary Lou Coons

An always-cheerful optimist, Mary Lou excels at using every tool available to her to overcome life’s adversities–like the brain and spinal cord maladies that have caused her to endure years of debilitating pain as well as repeated life-threatening (and life-saving) surgeries.

In fact, just days after her second Chiari Malformation brain surgery (technically known as posterior fossa decompression surgery) in 2012, Mary Lou made her first call to the IFI after learning that Dr. Enright was pioneering Forgiveness Education work with children. She was convinced that her passion for ventriloquism and puppets could somehow supplement those efforts so she volunteered her services.

In the ten years since then, Mary Lou has become a self-appointed “forgiveness ambassador” on a mission to teach as many others as she can about the benefits of forgiveness. Her efforts have included:

  • Single-handedly convincing her parish elementary school (Holy Family School, Syracuse, NY) to adopt and teach Forgiveness Education in all of its classrooms from pre-kindergarten through 6th grade;
  • Organizing and setting up a display booth to promote forgiveness to the more than 1,000 attendees at a Women’s Conference in Syracuse – resulting in more of the state’s schools considering the use of Forgiveness Education Curriculum Guides; 
  • Creating and producing three video recordings featuring her red-haired puppet Lily that are used by elementary school teachers to help illustrate Forgiveness Education principles to students;
  • Introducing IFI staff to teacher-missionaries in Rwanda in order to add that country to the list of more than 30 around the world where Forgiveness Education is being taught;
  • Producing a 10-minute online video version of Rising Above the Storm Clouds, Dr. Enright’s storybook for children, that is used in the 3rd and 4th grade programs.

“Despite all that activity, Mary Lou never asked for a penny of payment or reimbursement,” Dr. Enright said in recognizing her with the Healing Hearts Hero Award. “Through the Puppets for Peace Foundation she set up 15 years ago, she continues to make important contributions that focus particularly on the lives of one of our most important assets—our children.”

According to Mary Lou, the mission of her foundation is “to help spread peace, love and forgiveness. One of the best ways I’ve found to do that is by working with Forgiveness Education programs because it brings happiness to my heart as well as to the hearts of so many others.”

Visit the Puppets for Peace Foundation website.

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