Why We Need Forgiveness Education…….NOW

“I was too busy trying to survive.  I did not have room to bring forgiveness into my world.”

ArgumentThese 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 PakistanChildrennatural 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?

Why do we spend time helping children learn to speak and write, learn essential mathematic skills, and be just…….but completely neglect teaching them how to overcome gHoly Family School-Belfastrave injustices?

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.”


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The Importance of Forgiveness Education: A Report from Jerusalem


Dr. Robert Enright

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.

My current thinking about the importance of forgiveness education is here: Does Forgiveness Have a Place in Contentious Regions of the World? A Case for Forgiveness Education.” 
Finally, I was asked to create an Executive Summary on our ideas about forgiveness therapy and forgiveness education for peace leaders in Jerusalem. You can read that one-page document here: “Forgiveness as the Path to Peace.”
It is snowing in Jerusalem….damp and cold……but my heart is warm from the reception here for forgiveness education.
PS: I would very much appreciate your thoughts about this blog post, about my world travels, and about the direction we have taken with international forgiveness education. Thank you for your feedback.
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Reflections on Three Young Men and Their Recent Suicides

I am sitting here in a workshop far from my home in the United States. All of the participants are in small groups discussing themes of forgiveness for the self, for home, and for school. The place will remain anonymous to keep the information here private.

Suicide 3I just recently had a meeting in a school and the principal was unsettled about three recent suicides by young men just out of high school. They attended school in that very area of the city where this principal works.

“The community is rocking from this,” the principal said. “It is taking us time to adjust and the helping professionals are being kept quite busy with those who are mourning the loss.”

It is important that we not stand in judgement of the three men who took their lives. And so the point of this essay is not to judge the act of suicide or to judge the young men. Instead, the point is to ask a central question: What was in each of their hearts as theySuicide decided that this life is not worth living? What misfortunes or even injustices came to visit them so that their hearts were broken? Could the pain in their hearts have been healed?

I write with a sense of urgency because, where I currently am in the world, the suicide rate is high for young men such as these. Too many of the young men in this community are thinking and feeling that this life is not worth it. There is too much pain, too much alienation.

My urgency centers on this: There is a cure for hopelessness borne out of alienation and unjust treatment and that cure is forgiveness. Forgiveness can cure a shattered heart. Forgiveness can cure a sense of hopelessness and a sense that life holds no meaning or purpose.

Forgiveness can reduce resentment and give a person the meaning that life can be about loving….even when others are not loving you. Forgiveness can give a person purpose as he School Picor she strives to put more love into the world today than there was yesterday. A person who is alienated and broken, if introduced to forgiveness, can begin to reduce pain and to love more……and to see that life, indeed, is worth living.

I am perplexed by this question: What if each of these three hurting young men had sound forgiveness education in their elementary and high school education?

Would they not only be alive today but also be alive with hope and love and purpose?

We need forgiveness education…………


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Does Forgiveness Have a Place in Contentious Regions of the World?: A Case for Forgiveness Education

Over at the website, we read a thoughtful post on Friday, December 4, 2015 in which the writer makes a compelling case that the “pacific” virtues have no place in the public sphere, in civil discourse, as compared with the private sphere of the family, for example. Why? It is because if one turns the other cheek, then those bent on destroying you will gladly take that cheek and all elseEye for an Eye which you have to offer.

So, then, given that forgiveness is one of the pacific virtues, does it have a place in the public sphere, and especially when societies are at war? I think that the answer is a yes. Please let me explain.

Let us suppose that Society A has done all that it can to suppress the voice of those in Society B. Further, Society A is oppressing those in Society B to such an extent that the people in Society B cannot make a living wage, own a healthy horse, or purchase a plot of land that is not rocky and barren.

Does it make sense to talk of forgiveness for the people in Society B? Justice first, otherwise, forgiveness could be the opiate of the people (as Marx said of religious faith) and lull them into a spiritual stupor, a disastrous situation from which they may never recover. And thus, centuries of ennui and passivity and continued oppression occur. . . .albeit with a smile on the faces of those oppressed because at least now they are having happy thoughts about their oppressor.Justice3I could not disagree more with the ideas in the paragraph preceding this one. Here is why. Yes, the people in Society B have suffered a great injustice. Do you realize that they have suffered a second injustice, which too many fail to see? Go ahead, I dare you: Find the second injustice. I will wait for you.

The second injustice is this: The people in Society B have now been given a disease by those in Society A and that disease is resentment, the persistent sense of ill will that can live within a person until it takes his or her life and then, like the virus it is, it jumps to another host to avoid extinction. And thus, the disease of resentment can be passed from generation to generation to generation to. . . . . .

Society A, if its intent is to oppress, has now done so twice, once in the original oppression with its unjust laws and treatment and second in its giving a disease to Society B.

Forgiveness will not solve the original injustice. Only justice can do that.

Yet, forgiveness is a cure for the second kind of injustice, the disease of resentment.  Forgiveness cures the disease of resentment. So, you do not believe me. I am not asking you to believe. I am asking you to examine the science on this issue. Go to the “Research” page of our website (by clicking on the “Research” link at left). Then read the many (but not exhaustive) peer-reviewed studies showing that forgiveness gets ridResentment3 of resentment. It cures the resentment.

And thus, we are no longer left with the burden of two injustices, but now only with one, the first one described above. Free of disease, the people in Society B now can have more energy, see and think more clearly, and act more wisely to persevere and persevere and persevere in righting the first wrong.

If we fail to see this, then we are engaging in an injustice ourselves—the failure to see and to act definitively in helping Society B to heal from a crippling disease.

By the way, do you know of anyone caught in a Society B situation? Here is your quiz for the day: What can you do to help rid that person and that society of a disease that can kill and keep on killing across time and across people?

Our failure to act is unjust and we want to be virtuous people. We need forgiveness education and forgiveness therapy in contentious regions of the world………


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Perseverance and Forgiveness

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, Holy Family School-BelfastNorthern 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 endurancepreserve 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.


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