Sometimes a person is not stubbornly closed to consider forgiveness. Sometimes a person is not distorting the meaning of forgiveness or being distracted or even too impatient to walk its path. Sometimes a person even knows the path of forgiveness….but is not forgivingly fit enough to walk it well. Sometimes a person just has not had the experience to get it right. As an analogy, a person might want to join in the marathon run, but has never trained for one. All of the good intentions in the world, all of the knowledge in the world, will not aid the person in finishing the task. It can be the same with forgiveness. The person may have read about “bearing the pain” and understand what this is and what it is not, but it remains strangely vague and unfamiliar because of a lack of experience with it. The person needs practice for it to become familiar.
We all need to be schooled in the art of forgiveness to be able to find and stay on the path and then to complete the journey. Forgiveness education is one way for children, adolescents, and adults to learn about forgiveness…..to practice it and then to practice it some more…….before tragedy strikes, before confusion and discouragement set in. We have the opportunity to help youth overcome a major barrier to forgiveness—inexperience—by helping them to learn about forgiveness, and to practice it, and to become proficient at it. Can you see the great advantage of meeting injustice while a person already is forgivingly fit, being familiar with the “how to” of forgiveness? We need forgiveness education…..now.
“But, I just don’t know how to forgive. How do I go about it?”
I have heard this so often…..and it breaks my heart because it should not happen. How have people’s teachers somehow failed to show a growing child the path to forgiveness? Don’t we work hard—very hard—to show a child how to find his or her way home so that, when lost, there is a map in the memory? Why do we fail to work even harder to place the map of forgiveness in a child’s mind? To have to grope in the dark for the forgiveness path when one’s heart is bleeding is not fair. When we neglect to show children the path out of darkness and into the light of forgiveness, we are neglecting a key point of being human….a key point in surviving tragedy and others’ mayhem.
Children need forgiveness education to know that, when forgiving, a first step is the freedom to admit injury. Another has withdrawn love from me and I am hurting.
Facing such a reality helps people to see the injustice for what it is. It can give a person courage to look injustice in the eye and call it by its name. Such courage can propel a person to commit to forgiving, committing to reducing resentment and offering goodness in spite of the hurt.
The courage helps the forgiver to let compassion grow in the heart as a response of mercy to those who have not had mercy on the forgiver. Eventually, the forgiver begins to find meaning in the suffering and to reach out to the offender, at least within reason so that the forgiver protects the self from further serious injury.
This path is vital to a restored emotional health. We need to see this and to have the courage to teach children how to forgive so that they do not ask, in confusion, as adults: “How do I forgive? I do not know the path.”
The negative impacts of childhood bullying are much more pervasive and long-lasting than researchers previously believed, according to a just-published study.
Those bullied in childhood had increased levels of psychological distress at ages 23 and 50, according to the British study that covered a 50-year timespan. Victims of frequent bullying had higher rates of depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol dependence, and suicidality than their non-victimized peers nearly four decades after exposure. Additionally, childhood bullying victimization was associated with a lack of social relationships, economic hardship, and poor perceived quality of life at age 50.
While those impacts for adults were undocumented up until now, the study also confirms what researchers have long known—that childhood bullying can be devastating.
“Not only do victims of bullying have elevated symptoms of anxiety and depression in childhood and adolescence,” the study reports, “they also show increased rates of self-harm, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, and psychotic symptoms. As a result, victimization by bullies is increasingly considered alongside maltreatment and neglect as a form of childhood abuse.”
The new study was published in the July 2014 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry: Adult Health Outcomes of Childhood Bullying Victimization: Evidence From a Five-Decade Longitudinal British Birth Cohort. Data were from the British National Child Development Study, a 50-year prospective cohort of births in 1 week in 1958. The authors studied data from 7,771 participants whose parents reported bullying exposure at ages 7 and 11 years, and who participated in follow-up assessments between ages 23 and 50 years. Of the three well-respected researchers who completed the study, one is a Newton International Fellow while another is a British Academy Mid-Career Fellow.
“Like other forms of childhood abuse, bullying victimization has a pervasive effect on functioning and health outcomes up to midlife,” the study concludes. ”Our ﬁndings. . .emphasize the importance of gaining a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the persistence and pervasiveness of the impact of childhood bullying. These risk mechanisms could become suitable targets for intervention programs designed to reverse the effects of early life adversity later in the life course.”
And at least one researcher is already addressing those risk mechanisms.
Dr. Robert Enright, a University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology professor, says his research and interventions may be the only ones in the world focusing on pent-up anger as the source of bullying. Dr. Enright, called “the forgiveness trailblazer” by Time magazine, has been researching forgiveness for more than 25 years, has created the International Forgiveness Institute to disseminate the results of his work, and has produced Forgiveness Education Curriculum Guides for students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade that are being used around the world.
Now Dr. Enright has just released a new curriculum guide called “The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program: Reducing the Fury Within Those Who Bully.”This guide can be used by school counselors, social workers, and teachers. It is for students in grade 4 (age 9) through grade 9 (age 14) and is intended for use with those who are showing bullying behavior.
“Bullying behavior does not occur in a vacuum, but can result from deep inner rage, not resulting from those who are bullied but often from others who have hurt them in family, school, or neighborhood,” Dr. Enright says. “The purpose of our guide is to help such students to forgive those who have deeply hurt them so they no longer take out their rage on others.”
International Forgiveness Institute
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
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.