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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On the Vital Importance of Forgiveness Education

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.”

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.

Peace Symbol
“Forgiveness has the potential to transform our communities that have not known peace for decades and reshape our world.”



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Why Our Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program Matters

“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.

We all have a storyYet, 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.


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The Delusions Leading to War and How Forgiveness Can Help

Whenever there is war, there are serious disagreements between or among those who fight. One kind of disagreement is the contradiction in which two sides cannot both be correct. One is right and the other wrong. Then we have as a second kind of disagreement, what we call contrary views. Here, it is not necessarily the case that one is correct and the other incorrect. Both may have a partial truth. Thus, both may bewar pointers wrong on some level and in different ways.

When groups insist that they are correct and morally right when this contradicts reality, and if this belief persists in the face of clear evidence against the position, we have a delusion. Delusions are part of the totality of war. Both sides can be wrong (in different ways) or just one side might be wrong and hold to a dangerous delusion that their own group is completely correct.

Forgiving others is one strong way of looking reality in the face and saying, “Yes, this person (or group) treated me (or our group) wrongly,” or “Now that I think about it, there is nothing to forgive because I cannot see how this person (or group) acted wrongly.”

Forgiving clearly is one way to break delusions that others deserve harsh treatment.

Forgiving clearly is one way to stop a war before it gets started if the aggressor can face his or her own delusions, see that others should not world kidsreceive that aggression, and therefore stop acting on the delusion and aggression.

We need forgiveness in educational institutions when children are 4 years old.  Forgiveness education needs to be part of instruction through the end of high school.  Such education gives students the opportunity to grow up knowing how to look reality in the face, discern fair and unfair treatment, and stop the delusions, that can lead to war, before the aggression begins.


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The Missing Piece to the Peace Puzzle