Tagged: “forgiveness is a choice”

What do you see as the most common misconception about what forgiving is?

I think right now the mot common misconception is this:  When I forgive I try to “move on” from the hurtful situation.  As I move on, then the inner pain may lessen.  Yet, in my experience with others, no matter how far you try to run from the pain, it runs even faster than you.  So, if you try to run from the pain for two weeks, as you stop to rest, there is the pain right beside you asking the question, “What do you want to do now?  Shall we reflect even more on me, the pain, now?”  Forgiveness is not a moving on from the pain, but instead is a moral virtue of offering good toward the offending other person.  The paradox is this: As you engage in goodness toward that other person, it is you who is healed.

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I have post-traumatic stress.  Is it better to treat the symptoms, such as sleeplessness, first or to forgive first?

The answer depends on the symptoms of the post-traumatic stress.  Because you have sleep challenges, these should be addressed first.  If, instead, another person has some anger or sadness and these are not impinging on the person’s everyday life, then forgiving first can lessen these symptoms.  The regulation of symptoms and forgiving can complement one another.  For example, once your sleep pattern is regulated, your forgiving may help in establishing a regular sleep cycle.  As the sleep cycle regulates, you may have more energy and focus to forgive well.

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Do most people decide spontaneously to forgive or do they need some persuading to give it a try?

In my experience, many people misunderstand what forgiving is, equating it with reconciliation or excusing the other person’s behavior.  In such cases, people are hesitant to forgive.  So, in such cases, people first need some time to learn about what forgiveness actually is, which tends to quiet fears.  Then people are more willing to try forgiving.

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I have tried every solution and still I am angry.  Even when I forgive, I am still angry.  Do you have any advice for me?

We are all imperfect forgivers and so once you forgive, you still may have some anger left over.  A key question for you is this: Is your anger strong and consistent or has it lessened and is not continually present?  As long as the anger is not controlling you, then you are doing well.  If, however, the anger continues to be strong and stays within you, I would recommend going back to the forgiveness process regarding this particular person.  Practicing forgiveness and persevering in this can reduce the anger even more.

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TIME Magazine: Forgiveness is One of Mankind’s Most Important Innovations

Calling forgiveness one of mankind’s “most important innovations,” TIME magazine is doubling down on its 22-year infatuation with the moral virtue by declaring, Beset by a global plague, political turmoil, and social reckonings, it’s time for forgiveness to go viral.”

The internationally acclaimed news publication first introduced the science of forgiveness to its readers on March 28, 1999, in an essay titled “Should All Be Forgiven?” That widely-cited introductory overview of forgiveness—one of the first ever in a publication designed for the general public—helped usher in a plethora of forgiveness-related articles since then that reported on the superabundance of new research projects focused on forgiveness.

“In the past two years, scientists and sociologists have begun to extract forgiveness and the act of forgiving from the confines of the confessional, transforming it into the subject of quantifiable research,” the TIME article in 1999 sermonized. “In one case, they have even systemized it as a 20-part ‘intervention’ that they claim can be used to treat a number of anger-related ills in a totally secular context. In short, to forgive is no longer just divine.”

The “20-part intervention” in the TIME quote (above) is a reference to the Enright Process Model of Forgiveness that was just being developed at that time by Dr. Robert Enright, a University of Wisconsin-Madison clinical psychology professor and forgiveness researcher. Dr. Enright had founded the International Forgiveness Institute four years earlier.

For his leadership work with that early model and for his development of innovative forgiveness interventions, TIME magazine crowned Dr. Enright “the forgiveness trailblazer.” Shortly after receiving that recognition, The Los Angeles Times editorialized that Dr. Enright is “the guru of what many are calling a new science of forgiveness.” The Christian Science Monitor called him “the father of forgiveness research.”

Fast forward 22-years and you will discover an updated and enthusiastic TIME magazine essay with this headline: “After a Year That Pushed Us to the Brink, It’s Time for Forgiveness to Go Viral.” The dictionary definition of “going viral,” of course, is when an idea is of such significance that it spreads quickly and widely on the Internet. In this case, it also refers to the actual implementation of that idea which is described in the article much like a miracle cure:

“It is a powerful solution backed up by both cutting edge neuroscience and age-old wisdom. It leads to greater cooperation, eases conflict, increases personal happiness, lowers anxiety and is completely free. It’s called forgiveness.”

One of the studies cited in this latest article is a comparison of various forgiveness interventions. Among those available for testing, the study concludes, Dr. Enright’s interventions are the most effective. “Using theoretically grounded forgiveness interventions is a sound choice for helping clients to deal with past offenses and helping them achieve resolution in the form of forgiveness,” according to the study. “. . . the advantage for individual interventions was most clearly demonstrated for Enright-model interventions.” (Efficacy of psychotherapeutic interventions to promote forgiveness: a meta-analysis)

That recent TIME article also makes a direct comparison between the success of the forgiveness coalition and the “mindfulness and meditation” movement:

“Like forgiveness, mindfulness and meditation have been shown in many circumstances to reduce stress levels, mitigate heart disease, and lower blood pressure. Can we create the same level of cultural penetration for forgiveness? Our future may well depend on it. Beset by a global plague, political turmoil, and social reckonings, it’s time for forgiveness to go viral.”

The latest TIME article was authored by Andrew Serazin, President of the Templeton World Charity Foundation and Chair of the Forgiveness Forum, a series of global conversations on the mental and physical health benefits of forgiveness.


Editor’s Note: To illustrate the dramatic upward trajectory of the forgiveness movement, when Dr. Enright began exploring the social scientific study of forgiveness in 1985, there were no published empirical studies on person-to-person forgiveness. Today there are more than 3,000 published articles on that subject according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), many of them authored by Dr. Enright during his 35+ years of forgiveness research and intervention ingenuity.


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