I heard recently that a top peace negotiator was discouraged by the events in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. He said that the divide between the two is “unsolvable.”
Having just spent two weeks in Israel, I am convinced that there is a solution to the entrenched political and spiritual warfare in the broken Middle East. It is not an immediate but instead a long-range solution requiring patience and much perseverance. It is this: education on family, school, and community levels regarding what forgiveness is, what it is not, how to practice it, and how to bring it alongside justice. Those so schooled, perhaps in the next several generations, very well may find the way to community peace. “Justice first” may never come.
We have forgiveness education curriculum guides for teachers, parents, and school counselors in our Store. The guides show you, step-by-step, how to implement forgiveness education for about one hour a week or less to children as young as age 4 or as old as age 17. The medium for instructing students on forgiveness is through stories. We have summaries of these stories for your examination and use as you wish.
Our research shows that as students learn about forgiveness, they become less angry and can increase in academic achievement. After all, if someone is fuming internally, it is hard to pay attention to the regular school subjects.
Take a look below at what teachers in Milwaukee’s central-city are saying after teaching forgiveness for 12 to 15 weeks, about one hour a week:
Highlights of the evaluations (four-year averages) are as follows:
• 91% of the teachers found the forgiveness curriculum materials easy to use.
• 78% of the teachers observed that the students increased in cooperation as a result of learning about forgiveness.
• 71% of the teachers observed that, as a whole, the students improved in their academic achievement as a result of learning about forgiveness.
• 91% of the teachers thought that they became a better overall instructor as a result of teaching the forgiveness curriculum.
• 93% of the teachers thought that they became a better person as a result of teaching the forgiveness curriculum.
• 84% of the teachers thought that their classrooms as a whole began to function better as a result of the forgiveness curriculum.
• 76% of the teachers thought that the school as a whole began to show improvement because of the forgiveness education program.
Within world conflict zones, we would like to see at least two generations of students (a 24-year vision) introduced to forgiveness with an increase in the developmental challenges for the students each year. By the end of secondary school (post-primary, high school), the students should have a strong foundation in understanding the term forgiveness, know the nuances of forgiving and receiving forgiveness, and have insights into how to give back to the community. It is our hope that they might consider giving back to the community by introducing others to the concept of forgiveness and its application within friendship, family, and community groups.
Might these students, once they are adults, begin to see that all people possess inherent worth? Might it be a contradiction to one’s own identity to disparage people from “the other side” just because of where they were born, what they believe, or the color of their skin?
Consider some views of those who bullied others in school and now look back as adults.
I Feel Cheated
“I feel cheated. When I was a teenager, I thought I was rough and tough and I took this out on weaker kids. Little did I know that I was the one who was weak because I had no control over my anger. I am sorry to say this, but I really did not receive any help for that anger when in school. The helping professionals of the day were way too concerned with what I was doing and they did not see my rage. Forgiveness education would have made everyone’s life better then—those I bullied, the teachers, the other kids….and me.” An anonymous adult looking back.
My Guilt Can Still Pop Up
“I have not been in a middle school classroom in three decades. Yet, I can still look back and wince at what I did. I once had another student kiss the ground because….well….I just did not like him. How I wish I had instruction in forgiveness education then. I was pretty angry because I had a parent with a big temper. That got all over me and so my anger got all over other students. Yes, I did victimize some and they did not deserve it. I needed to confront my anger resulting from the home and never got the opportunity. I am not blaming anyone but myself. Yet, I do hope that educators wake up and start to help those who are angry now. Forgiveness education is one way out of anger’s trap.” J.P.
The Anger Entered My Marriage
“I was one who bullied other classmates through ignoring and spreading lies about them. I have to admit that back then it made me popular with the other girls. I should have stopped because each one of these little digs at others went into my own heart. The bad news is that I brought that pent up anger into our marriage and it hurt my husband. He had no idea what was going on and neither did I. Having read some of your books on forgiveness and anger, I came to realize that my bullying was a displacement onto unsuspecting classmates and then onto my husband. Forgiveness education is so needed. Otherwise the angers and disappointments are given to others. Where does it stop?” A.N.
Editor’s Note: The International Forgiveness Institute has developed a new Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program for children in grades 4 (age 9) through grade 9 (age 14). Regularly priced at $50.00 for the electronic version, it is now available at our limited-time introductory price of $30.00.
In our previous blog post, we described the first four of our “Nine Principles Underlying Forgiveness Education.” Here we discuss the final five. These are mostly taken from the book, Forgiveness Therapy, by R. Enright and R. Fitzgibbons, published in January, 2015 by the American Psychological Association.
Principle 5) Once a child understands what forgiveness is and has seen story characters forgive, then it is time for a child to start trying to forgive someone for a real offense against the child. This is best accomplished initially by choosing a small offense (being pushed on the playground, for example) and only later building up to more serious injustices.
6) As children learn about forgiveness, the instruction should be developmental. By this we mean that at first the child can see a story character forgiving one other story character for one offense. Then the child should begin to reason that if a story character can forgive one person for one offense, maybe that story character can forgive that same other person again and again, learning to generalize forgiveness across situations.
7) Next in the developmental sequence, the child learns that the generalization can occur across divergent other people so that he or she can forgive a variety of people for a variety of offenses.
8) Then in adolescence comes the more mature idea that “I can be a forgiving person.” In other words, forgiveness is not just something that one does in a behavioral sense, but instead forgiveness can go beyond actions to an internalized response that is part of the self, part of one’s identity as a person. It is here that the desire to forgive becomes more stable and enthusiasm for this moral virtue begins to develop. It is what Aristotle called the love of the virtues.
9) The developmental pathway of forgiving leads next to a motivation of giving forgiveness away to other people in the community. The adolescent, as part of a class assignment, might consider talking with counselors or families, as examples, to introduce them to what forgiveness is, how people forgive, and the benefits for self and others when forgiveness is properly understood and practiced.