This blog first appeared here on June 9, 2014
From the pen of Patrick Wells, producer, director, video journalist:
Formal Forgiveness Education, invented by Robert Enright, is the best idea the Human Race has had since Jesus preached Forgiveness.
Many people on the planet continue to exist within a tribe, sect, gang, race or mentality, unable to overcome hatred or prejudice against another group. This frequently manifests itself as violence. Learning how to forgive may be the best and fastest way to end systemic negativity against “other peoples.
Teaching the art and power of forgiveness to children may be both the best and the fastest way to positively change our world. The best opportunity we have is to treat forgiveness as a skill and teach it at an early age in our elementary schools. If we can convince our children of the power and importance of forgiveness, when they become adults they will certainly be able to make effective use of this vital skill.
Forgiveness has the potential to transform our communities that have not known peace for decades and reshape our world.
First published in The Washington Post, March 26, 2010: “Embracing Forgiveness Education to Reshape Our World.” Patrick Wells
Read the full article as reprinted on Jan. 25, 2011 by rsn (Reader Supported News): “EMBRACING FORGIVENESS EDUCATION TO RESHAPE OUR WORLD.”
I go to the local gym frequently because I must stay as fit as I can for world travel centered on forgiveness education presentations. This is a very popular gym that frequently has 100 people working out at any one time. So, you get to see varying levels of fitness by the patrons of the gym.
One thing I have noticed over the past two years is this: there is a particular group of people, in a younger generation (I do not want to specify which generation this is), who can do, at most, about 6 push-ups at any one time. I am talking about the group as a whole; I am not just singling out one or two people…..and I am not doing this to criticize them.
I bring this up for the following reason: Somehow, in this particular generation (because it is common to every one of the gym patrons I have seen over a two-year period) the people (as students growing up) were never challenged in their education to do push-ups. My generation, in contrast, had what they used to call the Marine Corp Physical Fitness challenge during gym class. The challenge consisted of doing 60 push-ups at any one time. It is painfully obvious to me, as I walk through this gym, that the idea of doing 60 push-ups in a row was absent during their educational years…….and the consequence is that they cannot. Their upper bodies are not strong and this seems to hold across the board for all whom I see in this generation.
And this brings me to the point of this blog. If we do not challenge children to learn about forgiveness, to practice it, to stay at it, then when they are adults and are hurt by injustices, they will be weak in their response. They will not know how to forgive, they may not stay at it. Not being able to do push-ups is hardly an inconvenience in modern First-World societies. Not being able to forgive could be deadly.
What we do in schools matters for adulthood. Do educators really know the consequences of not encouraging students to do their forgiveness “push-ups”?
We need forgiveness education…………now.
“I was too busy trying to survive. I did not have room to bring forgiveness into my world.”
These two sentences, spoken by someone who lived with an abusive partner for decades, is one of the strongest rationales I have ever read for forgiveness education, starting with 4-year-olds or 5-year-olds.
Do you see that the person, as an adult, did not have the energy and focus to add something new to her arsenal of survival?
What if forgiveness was a natural part of her survival arsenal starting at an early age?
We do this for learning how to speak and write coherent sentences.
We do this for learning how to add so that a budget can be maintained.
We do this for learning how to be just or fair as corrections and punishments are swift to come once one enters the school door and then misbehaves in the school setting.
I think it is tragic that educational institutions and societies fail to make forgiveness a natural part of life through early education. Isn’t a central point about education to help people make their way in society? And isn’t a central point of making one’s way in society having the capacity to confront grave injustices and not be defeated by them? And isn’t a central point of confronting grave injustices the knowledge of how to forgive? And isn’t a central point of knowing how to forgive the thinking about forgiveness and the practice of it in safety, before the storm of evil hits?
And isn’t a central point of knowing forgiveness and practicing forgiveness to aid in the survival of people who could be crushed by others’ cruelty?
Education in its essence will be fundamentally incomplete until educators fold into it the basic strategies for overcoming grave injustice and cruelty so that students, once they are adults, never have to say, “I was too busy trying to survive. I did not have room to bring forgiveness into my world.”
And the tragedy of this incompleteness is this: We now know scientifically-supported pathways to forgive. We have scientifically-tested forgiveness curricula for children and adolescents.
It is time to make “room to bring forgiveness into my world.”
My world travels are bearing fruit and I am glad this is the case. Forgiveness deserves this. For the very latest news, see my recent update: “Forgiveness Education Around the World.“
2002…. That is the year the International Forgiveness Institute began writing forgiveness education curriculum guides for teachers. We started with first grade classrooms in Belfast, Northern Ireland. When we started knocking on principals’ doors to discuss this life-giving project, we were met with skepticism.
“You will not last more than three years,” was what we heard consistently. Three years? Why three in particular?
“Because when people come from foreign lands to help Belfast, those well-meaning people never stay more than three years,” was the retort.
It became apparent that people go to Belfast with high expectations, great enthusiasm, and lots of adrenaline as they embark on their new adventure. Then the reality strikes. By year three the fatigue sets in, the streets of Belfast are all too familiar. It is now work and not adventure. Goodbye, Belfast!
The IFI has had a presence in Belfast for 14 years now. So far, we have beaten the odds by staying almost 5 times longer than expected.
This issue of perseverance and endurance has me thinking. How can one preserve the idea of forgiveness in families, schools, places of worship, and places of employment? That seems easy……for about three years, but what about the next 10 or 20 or even 40 years?
How can forgiveness endure when there are so many diversions in life, so many new and good and novel ways to introduce new curricula to schools or new programs to businesses?
It takes a team and at least one person with an iron-clad will in the short-run. Forgiveness can too easily fade from the scene without this.
How will you preserve forgiveness in your own heart and in your most
important relationships? How will you keep it from drifting out to sea, almost unnoticed as it fades? The first step is to realize that this can happen….and then not let it happen.