We have come to a new year. Let us gently move forward one year from now to January 1, 2014. Let us do a mental exercise and pretend that 2013 is now over—gone forever. What you have said and done has now gone out to others for good or for ill. Regrets? Guilt? Remorse? These could be part of the package as you reflect back on 2013 on the first day of 2014. How have you lived in 2013? What could you have done to make the world a more loving place?
Back to present-day January 2013…now is your chance to open the door of opportunity to this New Year. An opportunity to fulfill your January 1st, 2014 hopes and dreams that you just reflected on—to make them whole, peaceful, joyous and a reality. Despite the unforeseen trials and hardships, regardless of others’ injustices and unfairness, you have the power to make the year 2013 a triumph of love worth remembering and celebrating next January 1st of 2014.
You are not the master of your fate in that you can prevent the unwanted. You, however, do have a strong influence on all of this if you make a commitment with me now to love. 2013 will be the year that you grow in love, give love to others, give love to those whom you do not think necessarily deserve it. The kind of love connected to forgiveness is that which serves–out of concern for the other. You have within you now the capacity to give this love freely, without cost, without anyone earning it. Go ahead, try it. Give love away as your legacy of 2013.
How can you start? I recommend starting by looking backward at one incident of 2012. Please think of one incident with one person in which you were loved unconditionally, perhaps even surprised by a partner or a parent or a caring colleague. Think of your reaction when you felt love coming from the other and you felt love in your heart and the other saw it in your eyes. What was said? How were you affirmed for whom you are, not necessarily for something you did? What was the other’s heart like, and yours?
This kind of love will not necessarily be a two-way street in 2013. You may have to extend the love through forgiveness, a hard but joyous road. Forgiveness is part of your unfolding love story. Forgiveness, which serves the other through compassion and gentleness, is not always reciprocated. Yet, one thing is certain: When others reflect upon 2013 in early January, 2014, they will remember your kindness, your unconditional love, your forgiveness. They will see who you really are. And as for you? Well, you will have added a chapter to your unfolding love story. How do you think that will feel?
Welcome to 2013. The International Forgiveness Institute is here to support you as you add a new chapter to your book of life.
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.
The Forgiveness Education Programme is celebrating its 10-Year Anniversary of working with children, schools and communities in Northern Ireland to make the virtue of forgiveness more understandable and accessible.
“Forgiveness is an important aspect in the emotional and moral development of any individual,” states Gary Trainor, Vice Principal at Mercy Primary School, “and if we can sow those seeds at an early age, we are increasing the chances of them bearing fruit throughout their lives.” It was with this long term goal in mind that the Forgiveness Education Programme first began to take shape..
In 2002, Dr. Robert Enright, Educational Psychologist at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, USA began to establish relationships with a couple of principals and schools in North Belfast. With the help of Anne Gallagher of Seeds of Hope, Dr. Enright was able to introduce Forgiveness Education to the first classroom of Primary 3 pupils in Ligoniel Primary School.
Ten years on, Claire Hillman, Principal at Ligoniel PS says, “At the time we started we had very few personal development resources in the primary school and no coherent programme of work. The Forgiveness (Education) Programme helped us to formulate a whole school approach to building personal qualities such as empathy, respect and trust. The programme now sits alongside the PDMU (Personal Development for Mutual Understanding) programme of work developed by the curriculum council. 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.”
This same perspective is echoed by Mr. Trainor from Mercy PS who says, “During our daily interactions with our pupils, 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 through story, discussion, art and role play. The children’s ability to communicate their feelings also improved, they began to develop a vocabulary that was both respectful of others and of themselves.” Mercy Primary School first began teaching Forgiveness Education in 2005.
Over the years, the Forgiveness Education Programme has developed and grown from that first Primary 3 classroom. Overseen locally by Padraig O’Tuama and then Becki Fulmer, in cooperation with Youth with a Mission, Peacelines, and now The Corrymeela Community since 2009, the programme has grown throughout the years from one classroom in one school to the curriculum being taught in over 100 classrooms in 20 schools across Northern Ireland.
One school in particular who has been involved with Forgiveness Education since 2004 is Holy Family Primary School. Dinah McManus, Principal, always refers to Holy Family as a “Forgiving School” because they have imbedded the virtue of forgiveness in to 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.”
She goes on to say, “As the Forgiveness Education Programme has developed in Holy Family we, as teachers, have explored the messages within the programme and have come to appreciate their value to us in our efforts to create a strong, cohesive team. We acknowledge that we are all human and, as such, flawed. We now take time, for example on our ethos day, to remind ourselves of the power of forgiveness. To forgive another does not mean to forget what happened or to negate the other person’s responsibility for their actions. It simply means that we no longer allow another’s actions or words to cause us anger or resentment. By understanding the other person’s humanity, by forgiving without expecting anything in return, we are the ones who are healed. There is no doubt that we are, as a result, much more understanding of each other’s foibles and less inclined to find fault or to take offence at others’ comments or actions.”
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. We look forward to what the next ten years have to offer.
If you would like more information on how to bring the Forgiveness Education Programme to your school in Northern Ireland please contact Becki Fulmer, Forgiveness Education Programme Coordinator, at email@example.com. If you are in the Republic of Ireland or anywhere else in the world and would like to bring Forgiveness Education to your school, please contact the Director of our International Forgiveness Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Becki Fulmer, Director
Northern Ireland Forgiveness Education Program
Is it possible that…..
…..forgiveness can awaken a sleeping world?
…..you can play a part in this awakening?
…..even if people treat you like a stray cat and throw a shoe to silence you……you continue to startle by loving?
…..others eventually might thank you for awakening them from their Rip-Van-Winkle slumber?
…..you will have a wide-awake new purpose for your life?
It is possible.
I just came up with this idea of “future-forgiveness” this week, after almost three decades of thinking daily about forgiveness. I think it is an important idea.
By “future-forgiveness” I mean an attitude you cultivate in moving into the future. As you forgive people for past injustices, forgiveness comes to be a part of you. You begin to see that you can love those who are cruel to you, and if you can do that, then you can love those who are interacting pretty well with you. Then you come to realize that this is how you can live your life—loving others as a way of life—no matter what life throws at you.
“Future-forgiveness”—committing to going into your future with love for others no matter how they treat you—is a joyous way to live.