Tagged: “Forgiveness books”

Forgiveness and Finding Meaning in Sacrifice

〈This is an excerpt from my book, 8 Keys to Forgiveness, W. W. Norton & Company, 2015.〉

When you sacrifice for others, you are doing a lot more than acting in service to them. They may be bleeding emotionally inside, and you then bleed inside to help them stop bleeding inside.   For example, Brian’s mother, Yolanda, was overly-controlling toward him and his partner, Simone. Instead of distancing himself from Yolanda, he spent time gently giving her examples of her not letting him, in her own mind, develop independence in adulthood. This took energy, a checking of his anger so it did not spill out to her, and some suffering on his part to help her to understand.

Of course, we have to exercise temperance here too. Sacrifice does not mean that you do damage to yourself. The paradox is that as you sacrifice for others, you experience emotional healing.

Dr. Frankl, in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, provides a remarkable case study of the kind of meaning one can find in sacrificing for others. His example is not in the context of forgiveness.  I relate it to you so that you can see how sacrifice works and becomes an aid to the one who is doing the sacrificing. An elderly physician came to see Dr. Frankl because of the loss of his wife 2 years earlier. Dr. Frankl saw that he was psychologically depressed. His question to the physician was this: “What would have happened to your wife if you were the one to go first?” With that question a bigger picture opened for the physician. Had he gone first, then it would have been his beloved wife who would be visiting Dr. Frankl for her depression. By her going first, she was spared years of grief. The physician then understood that he could willingly take on the suffering on behalf of his wife……….

Can you see how a sacrificial attitude, within reason, could aid you in forgiving and in overcoming resentment? I say within reason because you do not want to overdo this either. If a person refuses to hear what you have to say, or refuses to accept your sacrificial gestures and begins to use you, then it is time to reexamine the approach. None of these approaches is foolproof. If you see benefit in the sacrificial attitude and related behaviors, then what is your particular plan? What will you do that is hard for you to do in service to the other? How long will you give this undertaking? Do you see even a glimmer of evidence……that the other is open to even small change? Be sure to monitor your coping level during this exercise so that the sacrifice does not lead to an even greater resentment. If that begins to happen over a period of time, then it is time to reevaluate this particular approach in your case. If, on the other hand, it seems to be working, then stay at it as long as you can and as long as the other is willing to work with you in changing behaviors.

Reflect on the possibility that without your forgiveness, that person may never learn to live well. You may be playing a part in helping him or her grow deeply as a person. How might that be? He or she is being given a chance to see what genuine love is and to see it in action. Your sacrificial approach may even be playing a part in the very survival of this person. Of course, you do not want to go so far with this sacrifice that you do damage to yourself. Instead, the point here is that as you give of yourself, within reason, this giving might prove to be emotionally healing for you. When you are ready, write down your answer to the question of how you may be aiding the other’s healing.

Dr. Frankl then gives the reader an insight that is worth remembering: Sacrifice changes as soon as it is linked to a sound meaning that underlies it. The physician now had a meaning for going on, and his willing acceptance of outliving his wife was a sign that he loved her and wanted her safe.

Robert

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Forgiveness Research Tools Flying Out the Door and Around the World

When The Christian Science Monitor called him “the father of forgiveness research” nearly 20 years ago (Dec. 19, 2002), Dr. Robert Enright, a University of Wisconsin-Madison educational psychology professor, had just completed what the news organization called “the first study ever to show a cause-and-effect finding regarding physical health. . . and forgiveness.”

Today, as Dr. Enright nudges close to 37 years of forgiveness study and interventions, his research tools and techniques have become the preferred instruments of social scientists and researchers around the world. To stimulate even further growth in the burgeoning field, the forgiveness pioneer is giving his research tools away at no cost and with no strings attached.

On April 20 of this year, Dr. Enright announced that the non-profit educational organization he founded–the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI)–would provide his highly regarded scientific research tools absolutely free to any forgiveness researcher who requested them. In just the four months since then, the IFI has received and fulfilled orders for 252 copies of his individual tool documents from researchers in 21 foreign countries and 27 US states.

The free research tools available from the IFI and the number of copies distributed since April include:

  • The Enright Self-Forgiveness Inventory (ESFI) – 76 Requests
    This measure is based on the conceptualization of forgiveness as a moral virtue. The ESFI is a 30-item scale featuring six subscales with five items each. Five additional items at the end of the scale allow for measurement of Pseudo Self-Forgiveness (PSF). Although several competing self-forgiveness measures exist, Dr. Enright’s is the only one that captures the idea that self-forgiveness is a moral virtue that includes behavior toward the self.
  • The Enright Forgiveness Inventory-30 (EFI-30) – 85 Requests
    This tool is a shorter version of the Enright Forgiveness Inventory for Adults that has become the interpersonal forgiveness measure of choice for research professionals in the U.S. and abroad since its development in 1995. The EFI-30 reduces the number of items from 60 to 30 for the purpose of a more practical assessment of this construct. Data from the United States were used in the creation of the new measure and applied to seven nations: Austria, Brazil, Israel, Korea, Norway, Pakistan, and Taiwan to develop its psychometric validation.
  • The Enright Group Forgiveness Inventory (EGFI) – 44 Requests
    The EGFI has 56 items across seven subscales with each subscale having eight items. Those subscales measure a group’s motivation and values regarding forgiveness, peace, and friendliness toward the other group. The instrument is a valuable tool that could enhance peace efforts in the world. The EGFI was validated and published earlier this year by Dr. Enright and a team of 16 international researchers who collected data from 595 study participants in three different geographic and cultural settings of the world—China and Taiwan, Slovenia, and the US.
  • The Enright Forgiveness Inventory for Children (EFI-C) – 47 Requests
    The EFI-C is an objective measure of the degree to which a child forgives another who has hurt him or her deeply and unfairly. It is a 30-item scale similar to the 60-item adult version and is presented orally to very young children and in writing to those who can read well. Thanks to a researcher in Pakistan, the EFI-C is now available in the Urdu language—the native language of an estimated 230 million people, primarily in South Asia.

“Making these tools available to researchers at no cost is one way to grow the repository of forgiveness knowledge,” Dr. Enright explained. “This area of moral development has produced significant advancements in the areas of education, medical treatment, and therapy, so why not encourage others to help expand that information base?”


“There’s no getting around it – forgiveness is good for you and holding a grudge is not.”
-The Christian Science Monitor


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Forgiveness Interventions Help Depressed Adolescents Cope and Thrive

Ample research has shown that depression is a significant and growing problem for today’s adolescents.  Depression can impair a teenager’s cognitive functioning (i.e., thinking, reasoning, etc.), relationships with parents and peers, academic performance, and for cases of severe depression may even result in suicide attempts. Moreover, adolescent depression is also associated with poor outcomes in adulthood such as low-income levels, low educational aspirations, and high substance use.

Now, two international education and forgiveness specialists believe they may have uncovered one of the keys to reducing adolescent depression and major depressive disorder (MDD).  According to the researchers, their first-of-its-kind study has shown that promoting social skills such as responsibility and self-control could be “particularly salient for the prevention of adolescent depression.”

The new study, A Longitudinal Analysis of Social Skills and Adolescent Depression: A Multivariate Latent Growth Approach, was published in the current issue of the International Journal of Psychological Research (the official publication of the Faculty of Psychology at San Buenaventura University in Medellin, Colombia.). The study authors included Dr. Zhuojun Yao, an educational psychologist and lecturer at Soochow (Suzhou) University in Suzhou, China, and Dr. Robert Enright, of our International Forgiveness Institute.

Concert Hall, Suzhou University in Suzhou, China.

BACKGROUND: Adolescence is a period of increased vulnerability to depression because of complex changes in biology, cognition, and social domains.  According to the  2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 3.5 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States (14.4% of the total) had at least one Major Depressive Episode (MDE), and 70% of these adolescents had an MDE with severe impairment in 2018.

Most clinical  depression among children starts in middle adolescence (ages 15-18) and is much higher for those in that age group than for those in early adolescence (ages 13-15). Although there are substantial empirical research studies demonstrating the association between social skills  and adolescent depression, the authors of this study could not locate a single scientific work investigating how the change in social skills influences the change in depression from early to middle adolescence.

THE STUDY: To  address  this  gap  in fundamental knowledge, the researchers in this study questioned how changes in social skills (cooperation, assertion, responsibility, and self-control) influence changes in depression from early to middle adolescence. Using internationally respected measurement tools, the authors measured both social skills and depression in 1,064 participants (half boys, half girls). Those participants were drawn from a separate longevity study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (NICHD SECCYD) that ran from 1991 through 2008.

STUDY RESULTS: According to the study authors, adolescents who had more increase in responsibility  and self-control from 5th grade to 9th grade tended to experience a slower increase in depression; while adolescents who had more reduction in cooperation  and assertion from 5th grade to 9th grade tended to experience a faster increase in depression. Overall, the results suggest that responsibility in early adolescence may decrease adolescent depression by protecting adolescents from risk-taking and problematic behaviors in middle adolescence.

These findings have important implications for practices in prevention science, say the authors: “For example, to facilitate adolescents’ cooperative and assertive behaviors, the ethic of care should be emphasized in community and school context. The ethic of care is characterized by a desire to maintain relationships, caring about and responding to others needs, and a responsibility not to cause harm. With a care orientation, adolescents would be more likely to make connections with others and to embrace cooperation for mutual benefit.”

“When used in association with other therapeutic modalities. . .the psychotherapeutic

use of forgiveness can resolve the anger associated with depressive disorders.”

Dr. Robert Enright


IMPLICATIONS FOR FORGIVENESS: Interventions to reduce adolescent depression are becoming more important with each passing day because, as outlined above, adolescent depression also is associated with poor outcomes in adulthood. A 2009 study revealed that at least 27 million Americans take antidepressants, nearly double the number (13.3 million) who did so in the mid-1990s (Olfson & Marcus, 2009). Less understood is the fact that approximately 80% of adult mental disorders begin during childhood and adolescence (Kim-Cohen et al., 2003) and typically include an intense emotional state of anger.

“Anger begins in early childhood and later extends to relationships with significant others, particularly those one wants to trust,” Dr. Enright writes in Forgiveness Therapy, the widely-heralded forgiveness intervention manual he authored with psychiatrist Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons. “Anger from childhood hurts and disappointments with parents and others can be unresolved and later misdirected unconsciously at others. [page 108]

“Once anger develops, three options are available for addressing this powerful and complex emotion: denial, expression (active or passive-aggressive), and forgiveness. If the anger is resolved through a forgiveness process, it can facilitate the healing of the associated sadness, depression and the tendency to ruminate over past hurts.”  [page 108]

According to Dr. Enright, “This study provides yet another compelling reason why we need Forgiveness Education in our schools NOW.”

This study on adolescent depression is just one of the many research projects undertaken by Drs. Zhuojun Yao and Robert Enright. Others include:

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The Transformative Power of Storytelling

A new and innovative online training course is now available through The Forgiveness Project, a London (UK)-based organization that collects and shares stories of forgiveness in order to build hope, empathy and understanding.

“Working with stories of lived experience – the transformative power of storytelling,” draws on The Forgiveness Project’s 16-years of experience to explore approaches and perspectives relating to forgiveness, restorative narratives, shame, and resilience. The course also offers tools and techniques to build participants’ knowledge of and the use of storytelling in their work.

An introductory forum kicks off the course and is followed by five 3-hour sessions starting in July. Participants are expected to devote an estimated 3-4 hours of their own time between the sessions exploring and trying out different creative approaches. Because of the difficult subject matter being covered, all potential participants will be interviewed prior to final acceptance into the course and enrollment will be capped at 18 participants.

Marina Cantacuzino

Marina Cantacuzino, MBE, The Forgiveness Project founder, and Sandra Barefoot, the organization’s Programme Development Lead, will facilitate the course. Cantacuzino is an award-winning journalist who embarked on a personal project in 2003 collecting stories of people who had lived through trauma and injustice, and who sought forgiveness rather than revenge.  Barefoot, among her various responsibilities, is the manager of the organization’s prison program, RESTORE, and the lead facilitator of that work for the past eleven years. Course participants will be offered one-to-one mentoring time with each of the two facilitators.

Learning objectives and detailed course information is available on The Forgiveness Project’s “Working with stories of lived experience website page. Cost of the course is £950 GBP (~ $1,350 USD) for individuals and £1350 GBP (~ $1,900 USD) for organizations.


The Forgiveness Project shares stories of forgiveness in order to build hope, empathy and understanding.”


As the title of this innovative course suggests, storytelling can indeed embody the power to transform lives. That power is exhibited in the hundreds of personal stories shared on The Forgiveness Project website from both victims/survivors and perpetrators of crime and conflict who have rebuilt their lives following hurt and trauma.

That reliance on storytelling is also a crucial component of the strategy employed by the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI). Co-founder Dr. Robert Enright has incorporated storytelling (through the use of childrens’ literature) into most of the 17 Forgiveness Education Curriculum Guides developed by the IFI. Additionally, many of the same individuals featured on The Forgiveness Project website have been featured on the IFI website including:

  • Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his opposition to South

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu

    Africa’s brutal apartheid regime, forgave those who tortured him and established a nonviolent path to liberation for his country. Archbishop Tutu is a “Founding Patron” of The Forgiveness Project and an Honorary Member of the IFI Board of Directors.

  • Eva Mozes Kor, the Holocaust survivor who forgave her Auschwitz persecutors and who partnered with Dr. Enright on various media and personal projects before her death on July 4, 2019.
    .
  • Anne Gallagher, a Belfast, Northern Ireland nurse who: 1) tended to victims of bombs and bullets on both sides of the sectarian divide; 2) founded Seeds of Hope, an organization that facilitates storytelling based on The Troubles; and, 3) helped the IFI establish Forgiveness Education Programs in Belfast schools more than 19-years ago—programs that are still operating today.
    .
  • Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger—Elva was a 16-year-old student in Iceland when she was raped by 18-year-old Stranger (an exchange student from Australia). She later forgave her attacker and the two have since appeared together in countless presentations and co-authored a book South of Forgiveness.

Stories like those and the many others featured on the websites of The Forgiveness Project and the International Forgiveness Institute demonstrate that forgiveness is first and foremost a personal journey with no set rules or time limits. True forgiveness is also a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and an alternative to the cycles of conflict, violence, crime and injustice so prevalent around the world.


 

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How do we promote the true meaning of forgiveness, given that there are so many misunderstandings of it?

We have resources to help, such as three self-help books (Forgiveness Is a Choice, The Forgiving Life, and 8 Keys to Forgiveness).  We also have forgiveness education curriculum guides for teachers and parents in our Store.  With all of these materials, we have tried to be very accurate regarding what forgiveness is and what it is not.

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VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR RESEARCH PROJECT

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