Lance Morrow: “Evil possesses an instinct for theater, which is why, in an era of gaudy and gifted media, evil may vastly magnify its damage by the power of horrific images.” If this is true, we need forgiveness all the more in our times.
Is there a better way of destroying the damaging effects of evil than forgiveness? As a mode of peace, forgiveness is a paradox because at the same time it is a weapon, one that fights against the ravages of evil. By destroying resentment, forgiveness is a protection for individuals, families, groups, and societies.
A teenage girl received a series of texts allegedly from her boyfriend in which she is severely demeaned. Her reaction is to take her own life. The boyfriend never wrote the texts. His account was hacked for the purpose of cyberbullying.
Cyberbulling is a relatively new term to signify aggressive communication through the electronic media of cell phone texting, email, and social networking sites on the Internet. It is an insidious problem because it is too often anonymous, goes viral (spread to many others), and the victim feels powerless. Those who engage in cyberbullying are less easily identified than those who punch someone in the face.
So, what can we do about all of this? Of course, we can warn our children as StopCyberbullying does (the first cyberbullying prevention program in North America). We can call for more vigilance so that those who engage in this behavior are more easily identified, as is suggested in the film Submit the Documentary.
Justice is a vital part of cleaning up this problem. Yet, this is insufficient. The seeking of justice (punishment, arrest, or other form of fairness) is a temporary protection, but it is not a solution. We need to get to the heart of the matter which is the heart of those who engage in such destructive behavior.
Those who cyberbully have enraged hearts. They are displacing their anger onto others. They are wounded. If we only see their behavior, then we are missing the punchline that they are wounded inside. We can constrain behavior through justice and we can cure wounded hearts through forgiveness.
In previously posted blogs, we already have discussed the necessity of our forgiveness education anti-bullying guide for teachers, school counselors, psychologists, and social workers being in as many schools as possible. The uniqueness of this guide is that it deliberately targets the anger in the heart of those who bully. The principle behind the guide is this: Emotionally-wounded people wound others. We have a way to help bind up these emotional wounds through forgiveness education. We help those who wound others to heal from the wounds inflicted previously on them, thus reducing their motivation to wound others. The information for this guide is available in the IFI Education Store.
Yet, what do we do in the case of cyberbullying? We must recall that those who do this are not easily identified. Oh, yes they are. Although we do not catch them in the act of punching someone in the face, we can identify them because the overly-angry tend to wear that attitude on their face, in their words, in the trouble they find in school….over and over. Of course, not all who are excessively angry engage in cyberbullying. Yet, those who cyberbully likely come from this group of the excessively angry. We have to cast our intervention-net widely in this age of cyber-anonymity.
School counselors, psychologists, and social workers please take note: When you have in front of you a student who is entrenched in rebellion, in verbal aggression, in indifference to school itself, please presume that this person of inherent worth has a wounded heart. Consider presenting the contents of our anti-bullying curriculum to him or her individually or in a group for those showing such symptoms. You are indirectly covering cyberbullying if you do this. The more you can target the angry students, the more you may be either preventing or remediating cyberbullying behavior.
The stakes are way too high to ignore this advice. Your “yes” to mending the wounded hearts of students in your school through helping them to forgive could, quite literally, save lives.
We just received this beautifully-stated image from someone recovering from abuse through practicing forgiveness:
“I have always viewed my recovery work like studying a tapestry. In the beginning, I stood up close, with all of my attention on the threads of abuse, which prevented me from seeing the full beauty of the tapestry. I thought with an up close view, I would be able to unravel the pain that it caused me. With each step in recovery, I am able to step back from the threads of abuse, and see a grander view of the tapestry that is my life. Each time I make progress, I allow the abuse to fade into the background of the tapestry. The abuse is becoming a fiber in the background, which is how everyone, but me, has viewed my life.”
This person is more than each strand of abuse suffered. There is a beautiful tapestry of this life to be seen and appreciated.
Thank you for the email. Thank you for the courage to heal through forgiveness.
Do you know the film, Independence Day, from 1996? One of the characters, an alcoholic crop-duster, Russell Casse, played by Randy Quaid, kept insisting that he was abducted by aliens. No one was buying it. Once the aliens landed, he had his day by saying, “What did I tell you?” (Quoted from memory).
It is now our turn. No, we have not been abducted by aliens, but we have been speculating within our institute about Adam Lanza, the tragic figure who turned his own fury onto innocent children in a Connecticut school on December 14, 2012. We have been saying to each other that he himself in all likelihood was a victim of severe bullying.
A recent article in the New York Daily News (April 13, 2013) by Matthew Lysiak and Larry McShane supports the view that Mr. Lanza was a victim of bullying. According to this article not only was Mr. Lanza taunted but also beaten by fellow students when he attended Sandy Hook Elementary School. A relative of Mr. Lanza, who wished for anonymity in that article, gave this evidence of bullying: “Adam would come home with bruises all over his body,” the relative said. “His mom would ask him what was wrong, and he wouldn’t say anything. He would just sit there.” The mother considered suing the school because of this abuse that she suspected.
The one bullied transformed into the one who bullies, and even worse, into the one who kills.
For a moment, let us presume even with this news story that the accusations of bullying toward Adam Lanza are incorrect. Even so, there are thousands of children as I write this being bullied and bullied very abusively in schools.
How many of them will transform into the one who bullies?
We have to do something to protect the victims, yes, but what is rarely emphasized is this: We must find a way to quell the fury within those who bully. Their fury is what is abusing and in some cases contributing to the death of other students.
What did I tell you? We are suggesting this to the world: We strongly urge all school districts in the United States and abroad to develop comprehensive psychological programs to reduce the rage in those who bully. One source for school psychologists, counselors, and social workers is the Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Education Program available in the store section of this website. This curriculum targets the anger within those who bully.
It is time to quell the fury within—-for the sake of the next victim and for the sake of those who harbor the fury. We have the resources. Now let us all pull together and do our part not to let anger have its insistent upper hand. Let us start today and achieve Independence Day for those who bully—-independence from the binding torture of their own anger.
While in Northern Ireland last week, I gave two invited talks on the topic of forgiveness in the context of a loved-one’s suicide. Suicide, especially among young-adult males, is a serious and growing problem there. I made the point that there are at least four scenarios with moral import surrounding this issue:
1) Some people who have lost loved ones in this way will reason that suicide is not immoral. Therefore, they will see no need to forgive because no injustice occurred;
2) Some people who have lost loved ones in this way will say that suicide is not immoral, but they are most likely in denial because their reasoning is not clear and their emotions are raw and angry;
3) Some will say that suicide is always wrong because it is always wrong to take an innocent life, including one’s own;
4) Some will say that the act of suicide itself is not morally wrong, but the consequences of doing so are wrong because those left behind have had love taken from them.
My linking forgiveness with suicide will have direct relevance for those in situations 2-4, but not in situation 1 above. Those in situation 2 might get very angry at me (and some did) for even mentioning the issue of morality and forgiveness in the context of suicide because they harbor worry (about the loved one’s eternal salvation, as an example) and they may harbor some guilt (in that they did not do enough to prevent it). People in this situation 2 want to distance themselves from the worry and/or the guilt. A talk on forgiveness and suicide does not help them to distance from these issues.
Those in situations 3 and 4 tend to seek relief for their own bitterness and anger. They are often angry at the deceased and they can be angry at others who did not do more to help. They also can be angry with themselves for a number of reasons, including their extreme emotions such as hatred or their reasoning that they could have done more. In these cases, it seems that it is worth hypothesizing that forgiveness education and therapy could be helpful in restoring emotional well-being.
What I found interesting is that some (a rare few) in situation 2 were adamant against my speaking at all about this topic. They were offended by the talk. It is as if I have no right to speak about a link between suicide and forgiveness and no one else has a right to hear about it or to work in a psychological sense on their own emotions.
So, here is my recommendation. Let us respect each person as a person and let us respect each one’s choice to hear or not to hear such information. Some will choose not to hear, but they should not condemn those who do. Some will choose to hear, but they should not condemn those who wish not to hear.
This is an important and sensitive area. We must move forward to help those who seek help through forgiveness and we must do so with gentleness and respect for all.