Tagged: “forgiveness research”

DOES PRACTICING THE VIRTUE OF FORGIVENESS MAKE YOU A MORE LOVING PERSON?

How many times have you heard or been asked the age-old question of: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” While that problematic conundrum may never be adequately answered, researchers are confident they are making inroads into solving a similar enigma: “Which is first required to engender the other, forgiveness or love?”

A just-published research study by world-renowned forgiveness trailblazer Dr. Robert Enright and three of his associates helped provide some answers to that larger question by examining three related questions:

  • Do forgiveness and love develop together?
  • Does love or forgiveness predict the other at a later time?
  • Does one’s spirituality moderate the relationship between forgiveness and love?

The study, The Development of Forgiveness and Other-focused Love, was published last month in the online version of the Journal of Psychology and Theology, a peer-reviewed academic journal. It explores the development of forgiveness and other-focused love and examines the role of spirituality in the relationship between forgiveness and love.

As part of the study, participants from a large Christian university filled out measures of compassionate love, forgiveness, and dedication to God at Time 1 (T1) and measures of love and forgiveness after 4 weeks at Time 2 (T2). While love at T1 did not predict forgiveness at T1 or T2, forgiveness at T1 positively predicted love at T2, indicating that forgiveness temporally preceded love.

“Because the aim of the study was to see the natural unfolding of forgiveness and love over time, there was no treatment or intervention between T1 and T2,” according to study researcher Jican J. Kim, an Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the M.A. in Applied Psychology program at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA. “The results, however, suggest that we may be able to help people grow in other-focused love by helping them to forgive. That’s a really dramatic revelation.”

Dr. Enright emphasized those findings by explaining that the study shows a possibility that as one grows in the virtue of forgiveness (toward a specific offender), the person might experience growth in love toward others in general, thus becoming a more loving person (through the act of forgiveness toward a particular offender).

“In theory, this idea seems to have merit because a forgiving person must be able to love the most unlovable person–one’s offender,” Dr. Enright added. “That kind of love, what we call agape love, might make loving others in general comparably easy.”

The evidence from this study, together with findings from other recent empirical studies, have only begun to examine the development and relationship between forgiveness and love—a relatively new focus for forgiveness researchers. Further research needs to be done to document in what ways one’s practice of forgiveness results in greater love toward others.

The two researchers agree, however that it is time to extend forgiveness interventions with adults to not only focus on psychological healing of the unjustly treated but also to investigate how forgiveness can promulgate the development of other-focused love.


“The fact that forgiveness can increase love at a later time tells me that love and forgiveness grow together and the practice of forgiveness is a concrete
expression of love that matures over time.”

Dr. Jichan J. Kim


Read the full report: The Development of Forgiveness and Other-focused Love

Research Report Authors:

  • Jiahe Wang Xu is a graduate student in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interest is in forgiveness and the development of agape love.
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  • Jichan J. Kim (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison) an Associate Professor of Psychology and the Director of the M.A. in Applied Psychology program at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA. His research focuses on interpersonal, self-, and divine forgiveness.
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  • Naomi Olmstead (M.A. Psychology, Liberty University) is a secondary educator at Lanakila Baptist School, Ewa Beach (island of O’ahu), Hawaii.
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  • Robert D. Enright holds the Aristotelian Professorship in Forgiveness Science within the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a founding board member of the International Forgiveness Institute in Madison, Wisconsin.

 

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Your Help Is Needed: New Research Project – You Could Win Cash or a Gift Card

You are invited to participate in a voluntary, confidential, first-of-its-kind research study about your driving behaviors and attitudes toward those who have deeply hurt you in the past and your current emotional state. Participation simply involves the completion of a number of simple-to-answer survey questionnaires.

“Those who participate in this study will be part of a select group whose survey answers will help us construct study data and develop interventions,” according to Jacqueline Song, Principal Researcher for the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI). “This project is likely to have life-saving implications that will stretch around the world but we need help to accomplish that.”


You are eligible to participate in the study if you can answer “Yes” to these five questions:

  • Are you age 21 or older?
  • Are you a resident of either the United States or the metro Manila area of the Philippines?
  • Do you have a valid driver’s license?
  • Can you read and understand English?
  • Do you have Internet access in order to complete the online surveys?

If you answered “Yes” to those questions, you can be one of our select participants and you could win a cash prize or a gift card.

Join us today! Click one of these links:

Six Reasons Why You Should Participate in This Research Project

  • US participants who complete the survey will be entered in a random drawing to win one of ten Amazon Gift Cards ($20 value each); Filipinos who complete the survey will be entered to win one of 20 cash prizes of 500 Philippine pesos.
  • You will have an opportunity to participate, at no cost and only if you choose to, in the interventions that are developed as a result of the research data acquired.
  • You will receive our immense appreciation for helping us help others.
  • You will acquire the self-satisfaction of demonstrating your compassion and willingness to help others around the world.
  • You will be a participant in a life-changing project designed to improve the human condition.
  • You will have an opportunity to spend some valuable time reflecting on your thoughts and feelings about yourself and others.

Final notes from the Principal Researcher:

  1. One of the survey questions asks you to share a personal experience of a deeply unjust event or pattern of unfavorable events that happened to you in the past;
  2. We expect that most participants will be able to complete the online survey in          60-90 minutes;
  3. To avoid distractions, we discourage use of a mobile phone to answer the online survey questions; and,
  4. Please share this invitation with others who meet the criteria listed above.
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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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Sometimes It Takes 36 Years to Get Your Point Across: The Case for Forgiveness Therapy in Correctional Institutions

In 1985 I began to explore the social scientific study of forgiveness.  At the time there were no published empirical studies on person-to-person forgiveness.  For my very first attempt at a grant (36 years ago),  I wanted to see if we could help men in a correctional institution to heal from past trauma due to severe injustices against them prior to their crime and imprisonment. The approach was to offer forgiveness therapy for those who experienced severe abuse when they were children, as a way of reducing the resentment that can be displaced, sometimes violently, onto unsuspecting others.

For that first grant attempt over three decades ago, I was interviewed by a world famous experimental psychologist who was part of this granting agency.  This world famous person listened to my idea and then proclaimed, “This is an absolutely excellent idea.  I am going to rate your protocol as #1 in this competition.”  About a month later, much to my surprise, I received a rejection letter from the granting agency.  I made a phone call to the world-famous experimental psychologist and asked about the contradiction between his saying how excellent the work is and then I received a rejection notice.

New Study: “Approximately 90% of the men in the maximum security correctional institution have had very serious injustices against them in childhood, such as ongoing sexual abuse and abandonment.”

He angrily and intensively said to me, “Dr. Enright, you embarrassed me!  I went into the meeting with very high-powered  people, praised your work, and the entire committee was outraged.  They said to me, ‘Give Enright money to help prisoners forgive??  No.  In fact, those prisoners should be seeking forgiveness from all of us for the crimes they committed! Rejected!'”

I then went in different directions (other than corrections) with the randomized clinical trials of Forgiveness Therapy (now considered an acceptable form of psychotherapy by the American Psychological Association) until 5 years ago when professionals in corrections began to contact me saying that our Forgiveness Therapy approach might work well with incarcerated people and they asked me if I thought that was a good idea. Well……yes, I said.

We continued to be rejected as we submitted at least three more grant requests, all of which were rejected.  So, we decided to move ahead with no funding.

Our point of Forgiveness Therapy in correctional institutions is this:  Forgiveness Therapy first screens those in corrections to see if they have suffered abuse while growing up.  Our scientific examination of this, now published in the Tier-1 journal, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, shows that approximately 90% of the men in the maximum security correctional institution have had very serious injustices against them in childhood, such as ongoing sexual abuse and abandonment.  In other words, the unjust treatment toward them as children has left them with a deep resentment that can then be displaced onto others in society.  If we can find a way of reducing and even eliminating that resentment, then the person may be more amenable to traditional rehabilitation.  Forgiving the abusers is the way to do this.

To forgive is to strive to be good to those who are not good to the forgiver.  The one who forgives is practicing the moral virtue of forgiveness without excusing the behavior, or forgetting what happened (so it does not happen again), necessarily reconciling with the abuser, or abandoning the quest for justice.

For a year-and-a-half, a corrections psychologist within a maximum-security correctional institution engaged in a randomized experimental and control group clinical trial in which the professional worked with two groups of men, who were screened for abuse against them during childhood and currently have clinical levels of anger, anxiety, and depression and low empathy toward other people in general.  The research program took 6 full months for two experimental groups.

Study Results: Forgiveness Therapy can be a new, empirically-based protocol for correctional institutions which might precede and augment traditional approaches already in place.

The results show strong statistical effects for the Forgiveness Therapy in that those in the experimental group, after they forgave their abusers from childhood, went to normal or near normal levels of anger, anxiety, and depression and their empathy for people in general rose significantly relative to the control group that had traditional rehabilitation strategies.  These results were maintained 6 months after the treatment ended for the first experimental group.  These results are unprecedented in the published literature within a maximum security correctional institution.  It is extremely difficult to improve empathy in this context.  We found the strongest psychological effects for any rehabilitation approach ever published. Here is a reference to that Tier-1 publication:

Yu, L., Gambaro, M., Song, J., Teslik, M., Song, M., Komoski, M.C., Wollner, B., & Enright, R.D. (2021). Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy.

We now are receiving inquires about this approach from scholars in Brazil, Israel, and Pakistan.

So, I have gone from being a total embarrassment to a granting agency 36 years ago to someone whom correction officials and researchers want to contact because of a vital idea.  Viewpoints can change over a 36 year period.  Sometimes we just have to be patient with true ideas that are life-giving until some in the world are ready to receive those ideas.

Robert

Read more about Dr. Enright’s prison work:

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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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VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR RESEARCH PROJECT

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