In today’s news, we read that Israel and Hamas are on the brink of all-out-war. In Belfast, Northern Ireland, today one group is verbally threatening violence because a parade commission banned them from a particular parade route. Anger. Toxic anger. It is at the heart of war. Yes, there are land disputes and ethnic disputes adding to the war and threat of violence, but disputes can be handled without violence…..if the hearts are without toxic anger. Our science shows this: forgiveness education reduces toxic anger. We need forgiveness education…..now….so that future generations can be protected from angry hearts in those who hold power. Maybe they will use their power more wisely when schooled in forgiveness.
An admired colleague of mine lost her child to kidnapping and murder when the child was just entering her teenage years. This event was so shocking, so vicious that it started to enter into the mother’s heart. She said that she would have gladly killed the man if she could and would have done so while she smiled. Yet, in time she realized that her entire being was being transformed by the effects of the resentment living within her….and she did not like at all who she was becoming.
The killer was about to take a second victim, the mother, as she emotionally degenerated because of the stress and monstrous nature of the act. She chose to forgive instead and her life took on great meaning. She became a conduit of good for her other children. She began to show them a new way, one based on goodness instead of the absence of goodness. The children were able to see this new way and to take that goodness into their own hearts. A life of meaning and purpose in service to others grew in the heart of the family.
The killer did not claim them as other victims and there was triumph. The mother came to realize that profound injustice can kill without even touching another–but it did not happen here. There is something so powerful about realizing that forgiveness helps us stand against the chaos of cruelty and triumph over it even when the grave injustice has had its way for a while. It no longer continues to have its way because the absence of good (the chaotic injustice) is met by goodness itself and goodness is the one that seems to win in the long run.
Short answer: Yes.
Some of our latest findings, soon to appear on this website, are these:
A recent study on forgiveness education, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, was done with middle school students in Korea who are bullied and who do the bullying. The results showed that our forgiveness program helped these students reduce in anger and hostile attribution, and increase in empathy. Their academic grades improved and they reduced in behavioral aggression and delinquency. Some of these adolescents were in a correctional facility for their aggressive behavior.
And here are some quotations from school administrators and teachers who have used our forgiveness education curricula:
“The work of Professor Enright has helped us develop the life skills of hundreds of children in North Belfast and is continuing to impact on their lives.” Claire Hillman, Principal, Ligoniel Primary School, Belfast, Northern Ireland
“As teachers we are always promoting the positive attributes and virtues we wish those in our care to portray. The Forgiveness (Education) Programme consolidated our aspirations for kindness, generosity, sharing and understanding. It gave us an extra tool to enhance our pupils’ experiences.” Gary Trainor, Vice Principal, Mercy Primary School, Belfast.
Dinah McManus, Principal, Holy Family Primary School, Belfast, has dubbed Holy Family as a ‘Forgiving School’ because they have imbedded the virtue of forgiveness into their school ethos. Mrs. McManus states, “I can say with confidence and some pride that in creating a ‘forgiveness ethos’ in Holy Family we have provided our children with a very nurturing environment which reflects the essential elements of our Mission Statement: We are a living Faith community, centred on the Gospel values of love, justice and forgiveness, within which each member of our school community is valued and respected.”
“The Forgiveness Education Programme has spent the past ten years dedicated to helping children, schools and communities develop a better understanding of what it means to value all people, to understand our own and others’ humanity and to practice respect, kindness, generosity and forgiveness.” Becki Fulmer, The Corrymeela Community, Belfast
“I will continue to teach the program every year until I retire as I only see HUGE positive life-changing behavior changes in the students who are touched by the program. My wish is that all students in Milwaukee Public Schools and other districts could be touched in some way by the powerful message the program delivers.” Amy Domagalski, teacher, Milwaukee Public Schools
You know how it goes. You go into a department store and have an unpleasant encounter with the person at checkout…..and you never go back there again. The particular incident has given you a bad feeling for the entire organization.
You break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and, at least for a while, you think that no one really can be trusted. This one relationship makes you mistrustful of such relationships in general.
Generalization. It can help us when the generalization is true and can distort reality for us when false. For example, when we touch poison ivy in one woods, it is wise to avoid it in the next….and the next. The effects of poison ivy generalize regardless of which plant we touch. On the other hand, one boyfriend’s bad behavior does not predict another person’s behavior. In this case, generalization closes down our mind and heart when there is no need for this.
When you are hurt by someone, you have to be careful not to generalize this to many, most, or all others. Not everyone is out to hurt you. Such generalization can form the unhealthy foundation for a world view that is pessimistic and inaccurate. Has this happened to you?
If so, it is time to fight back against this. Try saying the following to yourself as a way to break the habit of a false view of others:
I have been wounded by another person. For today, I will not let his/her wounds make me a bitter person who thinks negatively about people in general. I will overcome any tendency toward this by seeing others as having special worth, not because of what they have done, but in spite of this. We are all on this planet together; we are all wounded. Not all are out to wound me.