Why do you advocate all the time for forgiveness when the research on assertiveness shows that it is effective in stopping another’s inappropriate behavior? The passivity of forgiveness just does not compare to this.
Why should we take sides on this? For those who reject forgiveness, there are other approaches. For those who view assertiveness approaches as too harsh, there is forgiveness.
Regarding research, we respectfully disagree. You can find the research based on forgiveness therapy with adults at: Peer Reviewed Experimental Studies. You can find the research based on forgiveness education with children and adolescents at: Journal Articles on Forgiveness Education. As you will see, the research shows that those who forgive experience considerable emotional healing.
Finally, forgiveness is not a passive activity. It is an active struggle to love through pain, hardly an inactive approach.
By Leslie Neale, Chance Films, Inc.
Would you become friends with the person who shot you or killed your only son?
For most of us this is unimaginable.
There are those, however, who in order to understand the crime have reached through the bars to connect with and then surprisingly befriend the criminals who devastated their lives.
This is the premise of my newly completed film, Unlikely Friends, a feature length documentary narrated by acclaimed actor, Mike Farrell, telling the heroic journey that five victims of horrific, violent crime choose to walk.
The seeds of this film were planted many years ago when I met Nelson, a bank robber featured in my first documentary, Road to Return. Nelson told me he was consumed with an overriding compulsion to go back to the bank he robbed once he was released from prison and APOLOGIZE.
He told me the story of sitting around a conference table in a small town community bank tucked in the rural banks of Louisiana, sharing pictures of one another’s families with the bank’s employees and swapping stories of their lives. They were all crying. The teller, who Nelson held a gun to 12 years prior, finally looked up at him with tears streaming down her face and said, “Thank you. Thank you for coming back here and apologizing because for 12 years I have not been able to get you out of my mind, and I have lived in fear you would come back and kill me.” I thought to myself the brilliance in that simple act of forgiveness. I immediately understood the implications, not only for his heart to be unburdened from the weight of knowing he harmed innocent strangers but also for the victim to be released from the terror of that nightmare. She was finally able to let go of her obsessive thoughts and fears.
This story convinced me to make a film on the concept of forgiveness, to explore how it might be used to affect positive change within our criminal justice system.
Nelson told me that it took him eight years to realize the damaging effects of what he had done. He had left a couple of precious stamps on his bunk “his only link to the outside world” and another inmate stole them. He vowed then to apologize to those he robbed if and when he got out.
The cornerstone to any true and lasting rehabilitation is taking full accountability for what you’ve done. Victims and offenders coming together in victim offender dialogues can be the catalyst for that connection to be made. Forgiveness is not expected from these dialogues but when it happens, it is life changing for both.
Debbie wanted the death penalty for Gabriel, the man who killed her only son. She says she was eaten up with anger and bitterness before she forgave him. In turn, Gabriel shares that her forgiveness affects every action he now takes–if she can forgive him, then he can forgive all the daily transgressions that occur around him in prison. Most of us think theses stories are the exception. Yet, I was surprised to find more stories than I could tell. There are many people who have forgiven acts that most of us deem unforgivable–and the numbers are growing.
Guest Blog by Leslie Neale, Chance Films, Inc.
Because of the efforts of Josiah Cheapoo who runs Grace Network, and others at The Crossing, the International Forgiveness Institute, and the University of Wisconsin (all in Madison, Wisconsin, USA), a bold forgiveness education initiative has begun in Monrovia, Liberia, Africa.
Liberia has emerged from a horrendous civil war in which over 250,000 people were killed. It took the efforts of some very brave women to stand in the chasm between the warlords and the innocent citizens to finally end the war.
Part of the reconstruction effort now is forgiveness education for children so that they can grow up with a sense of the inherent worth of all.?? It is hard to capture, torture, and kill someone whom you see as possessing the exact same precious inherent worth as you. Forgiveness education emphasizes this kind of thinking toward all.
To date, Mr. Cheapoo has been able to establish six “Community Centers” in which children gather to learn the life-giving principles of forgiveness. They learn the inherent worth of others by reading stories of Dr. Seuss and seeing how all people are special, unique, and irreplaceable.
Within these centers, 600 children are beginning to learn the lessons of forgiveness. We are also planning a “pen-pal” program among four 11th grade classrooms in Monrovia and one 11th grade classroom at Edgewood High School in Madison, Wisconsin.
We want students on each side of the globe to see a different perspective on life so that their views can be challenged, enriched, and begin to include the concept of forgiveness in their everyday lives.
We can’t wait for tomorrow because tomorrow always is filled with hope when forgiveness accompanies us on our life’s journey.
Editor’s Note: Read a related story in the Forgiveness News section of this website: “Forgiveness and New Skills in Liberia, Africa.”
Today I had the privilege of giving a forgiveness education workshop for faculty in a school in the Czech Republic. They have decided to implement a forgiveness curriculum for children from age 4 through about age 10.
This is not an easy endeavor for them. They have had to hire someone to translate teacher guides from English into the Czech language, and these guides are rather extensive as you can see in our online Store.
One impression I had that is quite important is this: Some of the faculty came into the workshop equating forgiveness with reconciliation. In other words, the thought was that if I forgive, I have to go back for more abuse. Seeing that this is not the case was freeing for those who misunderstood what forgiveness is.
Another impression I had was their surprise to hear that forgiveness education can boost academic performance in those students who are excessively angry. After all, if you are fuming inside, it is difficult to learn. As the resentments melt, there is more energy and focus for the academic tasks of school.
You can read a scientific paper, published in 2008 in the Journal of Research in Education, showing this boost in academic performance for a small group of middle school students who were at-risk for academic failure. They went from a D+ average to a C+ average the next academic year: Can School-Based Forgiveness Counseling Improve Conduct and Academic Achievement in Academically At-Risk Students?
We at the International Forgiveness Institute wish the administrators, faculty, and students well in this Czech school as they embark on the exciting new journey of forgiveness education.
For the past 11 months, we have been tracking the number of unique visitors to this website and the tally to date is approximately 90,500 and counting. That is a large army.
You did not know you were in an army, particularly a forgiveness army, did you? Well, now is your chance to make war against war by introducing at least one person to the concept of forgiveness. It is not easy to do that. It requires courage.
May courage be yours in 2013.
It is not easy to introduce one person to forgiveness because it is not always clear when and how and what to present to someone who needs to know about forgiveness. It is not easy to do that. It requires wisdom.
May wisdom be yours in 2013.
It is not easy to introduce one person to forgiveness because it takes energy and perseverance and then more energy and perseverance as he or she criticizes or shows indifference or even insults you. It is not easy to “hang in there” when this happens. It requires love.
May love be yours in 2013.
Courage, wisdom, and love in the service of forgiveness. These are our weapons for making war against war.
May 2013 be a year of peace because we, each of us, each of our 90,500 soldiers-for-peace, have taken the time to introduce at least one person to the topic of forgiveness.