How can we pass forgiveness to subsequent generations? Let us begin to explore some answers to this question through the implementation of forgiving communities.
By “forgiving community” we mean a system-wide effort to make forgiveness a conscious and deliberate part of human relations through: discussion, practice, mutual support, and the preservation of forgiveness across time in any group that wishes to cultivate and perfect this virtue (alongside justice and all other virtues). The Forgiving Community is an idea that can become a reality wherever there is a collection of individuals who wish to unite toward a common goal of fostering forgiveness, developing the necessary structures within their organization to accomplish the goal, and preserving that goal for future generations. We focus specifically on The Family as Forgiving Community.
The central points of the Family as Forgiving Community are these:
2. For family members to grow in the appreciation and practice of forgiveness, that virtue must be established as a positive norm in the family unit. This necessitates that the parents value the virtue, talk positively about it, and demonstrate it through forgiving and asking for forgiveness on a regular basis within the family.
3. For each member of the family unit to grow in the appreciation and practice of forgiveness, that virtue must be taught in the home, with materials that are age-appropriate and interesting for the children and the parents.
4. Parents will need to persevere in the appreciation, practice, and education of forgiveness if the children are to develop the strength of passing the virtue of forgiveness onto their own families when they are adults.
To achieve these goals, one strategy is the Family Forgiveness Gathering. We take that up in Part 2.
Short answer: Yes.
Some of our latest findings, soon to appear on this website, are these:
A recent study on forgiveness education, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, was done with middle school students in Korea who are bullied and who do the bullying. The results showed that our forgiveness program helped these students reduce in anger and hostile attribution, and increase in empathy. Their academic grades improved and they reduced in behavioral aggression and delinquency. Some of these adolescents were in a correctional facility for their aggressive behavior.
And here are some quotations from school administrators and teachers who have used our forgiveness education curricula:
“The work of Professor Enright has helped us develop the life skills of hundreds of children in North Belfast and is continuing to impact on their lives.” Claire Hillman, Principal, Ligoniel Primary School, Belfast, Northern Ireland
“As teachers we are always promoting the positive attributes and virtues we wish those in our care to portray. The Forgiveness (Education) Programme consolidated our aspirations for kindness, generosity, sharing and understanding. It gave us an extra tool to enhance our pupils’ experiences.” Gary Trainor, Vice Principal, Mercy Primary School, Belfast.
Dinah McManus, Principal, Holy Family Primary School, Belfast, has dubbed Holy Family as a ‘Forgiving School’ because they have imbedded the virtue of forgiveness into their school ethos. Mrs. McManus states, “I can say with confidence and some pride that in creating a ‘forgiveness ethos’ in Holy Family we have provided our children with a very nurturing environment which reflects the essential elements of our Mission Statement: We are a living Faith community, centred on the Gospel values of love, justice and forgiveness, within which each member of our school community is valued and respected.”
“The Forgiveness Education Programme has spent the past ten years dedicated to helping children, schools and communities develop a better understanding of what it means to value all people, to understand our own and others’ humanity and to practice respect, kindness, generosity and forgiveness.” Becki Fulmer, The Corrymeela Community, Belfast
“I will continue to teach the program every year until I retire as I only see HUGE positive life-changing behavior changes in the students who are touched by the program. My wish is that all students in Milwaukee Public Schools and other districts could be touched in some way by the powerful message the program delivers.” Amy Domagalski, teacher, Milwaukee Public Schools
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” The anthropologist, Margaret Mead said that. She was talking about the ripple effect—one small stone cast into the lake can expand the ripple more widely than the small beginning.
It is this way with anger as well. It can be passed on from generation to generation without seeming to stop. One June night I witnessed the ripple effect of anger in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was late June, the beginning of “parade season,” when British and Irish communities stage parades to remember their heritage, including battles between them that took place over 300 years ago. In those battles one side won, the other lost. And anger raged.
On that June night, youth from each group gathered on either side of the street. They had hatred in their eyes as they glared at each other, daring the other to make the first move. In a small way, they were replaying the Battle of the Boyne, fought between King William of Orange and King James II in 1690. Think about that for a moment. A battle was fought in the 17th century and its effects are being seen and felt in the 21st century in the Ardoyne neighborhood of Belfast.
Police cars came, the crowds grew, and in a short while there was rock throwing, hatred, and rioting……among youth who probably have never met each other. They hate each other without a direct cause. The cause is a ripple effect from hundreds of years ago, when one side won and the other lost. That night in June in the 21st century, everyone lost.
It seems too easy for the ripple effect to be seen when anger takes root. It made me think: Can we start a ripple effect of forgiveness in such a community, even if it is a “small group of thoughtful, committed individuals?” This would seem possible, but it further seems to me that it requires special care, a kind of care that anger does not need to stay alive. The small group of thoughtful, committed individuals could start a ripple effect of forgiveness, but they would have to know this: The ripple effect of goodness is much more easily disrupted by anger than the ripple effect of anger is disrupted by goodness.
It is too easy to stay angry. It is not nearly as easy to stay forgiving and good. We need that small group of thoughtful and committed individuals to stay strong and to pass that sense of passionate commitment to the next generation. How is this accomplished?
I was reflecting on all of the disorder within schools during 2013. It has been reported that there were 30 shootings at schools in the United States in this one year period. Think about that for a moment. The context of the shootings centers on innocent children, adolescents, and young adults (at universities) who are unarmed and innocent.
How many family break-ups were there in 2013 or acts of bullying that cut deeply into the very being of those bullied?
Forgiveness is a profound response to disorder. What do you think? Do you think any of those school shootings would have happened if the men responsible for the mayhem had practiced forgiveness and rightly ordered their emotions from rage to calm?
What do you think? Do you think all of the family break-ups would have happened if both sides of the conflict practiced forgiveness? And perhaps the forgiveness needed to be toward people from years before because our left-over anger from childhood can follow us into adulthood and strike the innocent.
Forgiveness likely could have averted some of those break-ups if forgiveness toward each other in the present and toward parents from the past had been practiced. Forgiveness could have restored order……..and prevented disorder.
The same theme applies to bullying. If those who bully could only forgive those who have abused them, would the bullying continue or would the behavior become more orderly, more civil?
Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces on the planet for restoring order within an injured self, within relationships, and within and between communities. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces on the planet for preventing disorder.
What do you think? Do you think that forgiveness could save our planet from destruction by enraged people with the weaponry to destroy? Forgiveness is about order, protection, wholeness, and love.
It is time for individuals and communities to see this and to have the courage to bring forgiveness into the light….to restore and then enhance order while it prevents the destruction of disorder.
Today is “Pay it Forward Day” inspired by the book “Pay it Forward” by Catherine Ryan Hyde and the movie by the same name. Yesterday we reflected on Forwarding Forgiveness and how forgiveness can reach out to entire communities in a rippling effect.
I’d like to challenge everyone reading this to Forward Forgiveness to one other person as a way to pay it forward today. Forgiveness is one of the most beautiful acts of kindness and love we can give. It has the power to change lives.
Who in your life might you need to forgive? Try to start thinking about forgiving this person. What would it be like to offer forgiveness to this person? How might it benefit your life and this person’s life? What is one step you can take today in forgiving this person?
Is there anyone who you might encounter today and need to forgive? Keep forgiveness in the forefront of your mind so that you can be prepared to forgive without letting your anger get the best of you.
Can you think of someone who could benefit from learning about forgiveness? Tell him or her about how forgiving has helped you and others in your life.? Share a book on forgiveness? (Dr. Enright has a few).
Do you have a personal story of forgiveness that could inspire others ?Share it in our “Forgiveness Stories” page.
I hope you can be inspired by this beautiful and powerful song entitled “Forgiveness” by Peter Katz. It was inspired by the courage and forgiveness of Michael Berg, father of Nicholas Berg who was kidnapped and murdered in Iraq by Al-Zarcawi. (Credits – Composer: Peter Katz, Director: Andrew Moniz, Producer: Daniel Mazzucco, Cinematographer: Roger Singh. www.peterkatz.com)
Be inspired and pass that inspiration along by forwarding forgiveness!