Yet another tragic school incident, this one involving two 11-year-old boys. Yet another case of bullying gone uncurbed. Yet another example of amazing forgiveness.
An 11-year-old boy at Pacific Christian School in Auckland (on the north island of New Zealand), was stabbed in the right temple by an 11-year-old classmate wielding a pair of school scissors on Tuesday (June 24, 2014). The injured boy was taken to Starship Children’s Hospital, where he remains in critical condition in a coma. Doctors are unable to determine if he will ever fully recover.
The boy’s assailant, an 11-year-old classmate, was taken into custody and turned over to Child, Youth and Family care. According to The New Zealand Herald, “the stabbing shocked the country given the ages of those involved.”
The injured boy’s uncle said his nephew’s parents have already forgiven the other boy. “We don’t hold grudges, we remember the Lord’s Prayer. That’s how they feel.”
In the wake of the stabbing, which happened just moments after the teacher left the room, Pacific Christian School has been accused of “knowing about classroom bullying but failing to act,” the Herald reported.
“That’s not at all unusual,” says Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute based in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. “In most cases, teachers don’t know how to handle students that bully and administrators are unable to provide clear guidance except for disciplinary procedures.”
Earlier this year, Dr. Enright developed The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program: Reducing the Fury Within Those Who Bully based on his more than 20 years of scientific forgiveness research and his Forgiveness Education Curriculum Guides that have been tested and in full use for more than a dozen years by schools in places like Belfast, Northern Ireland, and more recently in Monrovia, Liberia (West Africa), and Israel-Palestine.
“It is our contention that bullying starts from within, as anger, and comes out as displaced anger onto the victim,” Dr. Enright said. “Forgiveness targets this anger and then reduces it, thus reducing or eliminating the displaced anger which comes out as bullying.”
Unless we eliminate the anger in the hearts of those who bully,” Dr. Enright believes, “we will not eliminate bullying.”
International Forgiveness Institute
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
“Bullying will not be tolerated in this school.”
“You are entering a no bullying zone.”
Consciousness raising is good precisely because it challenges each of us to be our best self, to do good for others.
Yet, sometimes some students are so emotionally wounded that their anger overwhelms the attempt at consciousness raising. The students are so very wounded that they cannot listen well. Some are so wounded that they refuse to listen. Even others are so mortally wounded that they find a certain pleasure in inflicting pain on others. It is when it gets to that point—others’ pain equals pleasure for the one inflicting it—that we have a stubborn problem on our hands. No signs, no consciousness raising, no rally in the gym, no pressure to be good is going to work…..because the gravely wounded student is now beyond listening.
Yet, we have found a hidden way to reverse the trend in those who are so hurting that they derive pain from hurting others. It is this: Ask the hurting students, those labeled so often as bullies, to tell their story of pain, their story of how others have abused them. You will see this as the rule rather than the exception: Those who inflict pain over and over have stories of abuse toward them that would make you weep. In fact, we have seen the weeping come from the one who has bullied others, the one who has inflicted serious pain onto others. He wept because, as he put it, “No one ever asked me for my story before.” His story was one of cruel child abuse from an alcoholic father who bruised him until he bled. And no one ever asked him about this. And so he struck out at others. Once he told his story, he began to forgive his father and his pain lessened and thus his need to inflict pain on others slowly melted away.
This is what our Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program does. It aids counselors and teachers in bringing out the stories in the pain-inflictors so that their own pain dramatically decreases. As this happens, through forgiveness, bullying behavior is rendered powerless……because in examining their own hurt they finally realize how much hurt they have inflicted…..and with their own emotional pain gone, they have no desire to live life like this any more.
Come, take our anti-bullying curriculum and save the life of at least one child and help prevent inflicted pain on countless others.
I was reflecting on all of the disorder within schools during 2013. It has been reported that there were 30 shootings at schools in the United States in this one year period. Think about that for a moment. The context of the shootings centers on innocent children, adolescents, and young adults (at universities) who are unarmed and innocent.
How many family break-ups were there in 2013 or acts of bullying that cut deeply into the very being of those bullied?
Forgiveness is a profound response to disorder. What do you think? Do you think any of those school shootings would have happened if the men responsible for the mayhem had practiced forgiveness and rightly ordered their emotions from rage to calm?
What do you think? Do you think all of the family break-ups would have happened if both sides of the conflict practiced forgiveness? And perhaps the forgiveness needed to be toward people from years before because our left-over anger from childhood can follow us into adulthood and strike the innocent.
Forgiveness likely could have averted some of those break-ups if forgiveness toward each other in the present and toward parents from the past had been practiced. Forgiveness could have restored order……..and prevented disorder.
The same theme applies to bullying. If those who bully could only forgive those who have abused them, would the bullying continue or would the behavior become more orderly, more civil?
Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces on the planet for restoring order within an injured self, within relationships, and within and between communities. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces on the planet for preventing disorder.
What do you think? Do you think that forgiveness could save our planet from destruction by enraged people with the weaponry to destroy? Forgiveness is about order, protection, wholeness, and love.
It is time for individuals and communities to see this and to have the courage to bring forgiveness into the light….to restore and then enhance order while it prevents the destruction of disorder.
BBC News reports that bullying behavior has claimed yet another victim, Izzy Dix, age 14, who apparently killed herself after struggling with cyber bullying. This kind of tragedy must end. We at the IFI just recently have published an Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program focused on helping those who bully to forgive. You see, those who bully usually have pent-up anger…..and they displace their own wounds onto others. Our program is meant to take the anger out of the heart of those who bully so that they no longer bully others. Here is information on that life-giving program, which we hope gets into as many schools, internationally, as possible.
What is particularly sad is that we posted a very similar blog in October of 2012….and the tragedies continue.