Tagged: “forgiveness journey”
There seem to be two questions here: 1) Should I consider giving a gift to someone with whom I choose not to have any further contact; and, 2) How can I give such a gift? Here is my answer to the “should” question: Forgiveness is about giving, even to those with whom you are angry and estranged. This is part of the paradox of forgiving: As you reach out in goodness to those who were not good to you, then you experience psychological healing. Therefore, it is morally appropriate and psychologically prudent to consider giving a gift, if you choose to forgive. The second question, regarding how it is even possible to give a gift to someone whom you will not see again is this: You can contribute to a charity in the person’s name. You can pray for the person if you have a religious belief. You even can say a kind word about the person to someone else.
A pioneering research study conducted with primary and secondary teachers and students in Spain has support for Dr. Robert Enright’s ideas on anti-bullying, which offers forgiveness education to those who do the bullying. His original Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program is available on our website.
Two recommendations in the study in Spain are these:
1) That school administrators “incorporate education in forgiveness into bullying prevention programs;” and,
2) That “forgiveness-based education, as an empirically supported approach to reducing anger, may be one of the answers to peace within conflict zones and societies.”
The study, Evaluation of the effectiveness and satisfaction of the “Learning to Forgive” program for the prevention of bullying, was published this month in the Electronic Journal of Research in Educational Psychology. It was conducted by psychologists at the University of Murcia—one of the largest and oldest universities in Spain (established in 1272)—with technical and procedural guidance from Dr. Enright himself.
The “Learning to Forgive” program that was the focal point of the new study, was inspired by The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program developed by Dr. Enright in 2012 based on his now more than 35 years of research into forgiveness. Forgiveness education as a way of reducing excessive anger has been tested and used for more than 17 years in schools located in places such as Belfast, Northern Ireland, and more recently in Monrovia, Liberia (West Africa), Iran, and Pakistan.
The purpose of the antibullying forgiveness program is to help students, who bully others, to forgive those who have deeply hurt them. It is based on the understand that bullying behavior does not occur in a vacuum, but instead often results from a deep internal rage that is not originally targeted toward the victims of those who bully. In other words, those who bully oftentimes are displacing their built-up anger onto unsuspecting others.
To help those who bully to forgive is to reduce the excessive anger that can be a direct motivation for hurting others. In this way forgiveness can be a powerful approach to reducing repressed anger and eliminating bullying behavior.
“This program tries to change the typical understanding, often incomplete, that we usually have about forgiveness,” according to the study in Spain. “With a deeper understanding about what forgiveness is, then the students may show less resentment, fewer relationship breaks, and less unpleasant emotions over time. Teaching young people this more complete view of forgiveness might avoid, in the words of Enright himself, many sufferings in adulthood.”
Study participants consisted of 88 primary and secondary school teachers at 11 educational centers and 153 students at 4 educational centers. In Study 1 of the two-part research project, “statistically significant improvements were found in the forgiveness group regarding their knowledge of forgiveness and marginally significant in emotional forgiveness compared to the control group.”
In Study 2 participants noted “high satisfaction with the program and that it had helped them forgive in a remarkable way. In line with other studies, it is recommended to incorporate education in forgiveness into bullying prevention programs.”
According to the study authors, their research as well as other studies indicate that “forgiveness is a protective factor against emotional problems and prevents victims of harassment from now demonstrating bullying behavior toward others.” They also recommended adding in-depth modules for adults who could then provide in-home reinforcement in helping students achieve and maintain their forgiveness-related skills.
“The results of these two pioneering studies in Spain on the ‘Learning to Forgive’ Program inspired by the research of Robert Enright and his team show positive results, both in teachers and students,” the report concludes. “The promotion of interventions based on empathy, compassion, and forgiveness contribute to sowing the path of peaceful coexistence.”
Read the complete English translation of the Spanish bullying-prevention study.
Read the complete Spanish version of the study.
Learn more about The Enright Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program:
- A School Anti-Bullying Program That Works
- The Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program – FREE for a Limited Time
- Can We Get Anti-Bullying Programs to Work?
- Obtain the Anti-Bullying Forgiveness Program
All three are moral virtues. Agape is the over-arching virtue out of which forgiveness emerges. Mercy does not necessarily emerge out of agape because mercy does not always require serving others through one’s own pain, as occurs in agape. The judge who shows mercy to a defendant by reducing a deserved sentence is not necessarily suffering in love for that defendant. Thus, not all aspects of mercy flow from agape. Forgiveness includes a number of virtues such as patience, kindness, and having mercy on others who behave badly. So, forgiveness is a specific part of agape. Forgiveness includes mercy, but mercy is not an over-arching virtue out of which forgiveness emerges. That distinction belongs to agape.
Forgiveness is being good to those who are not good to you. Love, particularly the most difficult form of love, what the Greeks call agape, is to be good to those who are in need of your services, even when it is difficult to offer this love. Forgiveness is one expression of agape. Forgiveness is a specific form of agape in that forgiving takes place specifically in the context of another person being unjust, even cruel, to the forgiver.
There are other examples of agape that do not include forgiveness. For example, a mother who is up all night with a sick child is showing agape because this is difficult and necessary and she does so out of goodness for her child. Forgiveness can occur exclusively in the human heart as the forgiver sees the hurtful other as possessing inherent worth and commits to the betterment of the other. In agape, there is the action within the human heart and mind, but in addition, there is the action of deliberately assisting people in need.
Forgiveness is being good to those who are not good to you. Mercy is refraining from punishing a person who deserves that punishment because of unjust behavior. Both are moral virtues and so hold that in common. When people forgive, they exercise mercy in that as they forgive they do not give an eye-for-an-eye to the one who hurt you. Instead, the forgiver offers a hand up to the person to come and join you as a person of worth. Mercy as part of forgiveness is a specific expression of mercy in that this mercy is occurring in the context of being treated unjustly by another or others.
There are other examples of mercy that do not include forgiveness. For example, legal pardon is a form of mercy in that a judge may reduce a deserved sentence within a court of law. The judge offering legal pardon never is the one who was treated unjustly by the defendant. Forgiveness, as a personal decision, occurs within the human heart, not in a court of law. Thus, forgiveness includes mercy, but mercy can occur in entirely different contexts than forgiveness. Further, forgiveness does not involve only exercising the moral virtue of mercy. Forgiveness also is an expression of love, particularly agape or the kind of love that is challenging and even costly to the forgiver.