Tagged: “forgiveness”

Expert Forgiveness Advice from Media Giants

The 6th-largest newspaper in the US and the country’s most popular weekly supermarket magazine have highlighted the importance of forgiveness in the past few days. The Washington Post and Woman’s World recently ran articles offering advice on how to forgive from forgiveness experts including Dr. Robert Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute.

“Moving lessons on forgiveness out of religious spaces and into schools”

This full-length article is featured in the Jan. 27 issue of The Washington Post (a 146-year-old daily newspaper with average weekday circulation of nearly half a million). The article highlights the benefits of forgiveness education work being done by Dr. Enright, one of his research associates Dr. Suzanne Freedman (University of Northern Iowa), and Dr. Frederic Luskin (director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project).

“. . .people who forgive are less anxious and angry and have lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels and a better quality of sleep,” the article states, citing the published literature. “Studies also show that children who learn how to forgive are better adjusted socially and have higher levels of self-esteem than those who don’t. They even perform better academically.”

Much of the article focuses on Dr. Enright’s forgiveness education work in Northern Ireland, where both public and private schools have been teaching his forgiveness curriculum for the past 21 years. One school, Mount St. Michael’s Primary School, a Catholic school in Randalstown, 23 miles from Belfast, recently paired up with a Protestant school in the same town to offer forgiveness education to a joint class of 7-to-9-year-olds.

“We really need this over here,” St. Michael’s Principal Philip Lavery said. “We teach children how to read and write, but we have to spend more time teaching them how to live, how to be members of a society.”

At Stranmillis University College in Belfast, forgiveness education is a required subject for all students in its teacher training program, where they learn the protocol developed by Dr. Enright and his team at the University of Wisconsin. In a country that has been torn for decades by religious violence, the article concludes, it is only through forgiveness and unselfish love that “we can leave the past behind us.”

Read the full article in The Washington Post.


“Expert Advice: How Can I Stop Beating Myself Up?”

This article appears in the January 26 issue of Woman’s World magazine (circulation 1.6 million). Subtitled “Sometimes it’s harder to forgive yourself than to forgive others,” the article presents “easy ways to silence the self-blame and welcome self-love.”

The article is based on interviews with three mental health specialists the publication calls its Expert Panel:

  • Robert Enright, Ph.D., educational psychologist and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison;
  • Everett Worthington, Ph.D., Commonwealth Professor Emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth University; and,
  • Kathryn J. Norlock, Ph.D., author of The Moral Psychology of Forgiveness and an ethics professor at Trent University in Ontario, Canada.

The first (and, arguably, the most important) bit of advice offered in the Woman’s World article is:

Remember You’re Worthy – The very first step to self-forgiveness is simply knowing you deserve it, says expert Robert Enright, PhD. “This doesn’t mean letting yourself off the hook without reflecting on what’s happened; rather, it’s reminding yourself that you’re worthy when you’ve started believing the lie that you’re not.” Just reminding yourself that you deserve this nurturing will begin to transform guilt into self-compassion.

Read the full article in Woman’s World.

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Although I value and try to forgive and mean well to those who harm me, I feel like that alone does not fix my wrecked inner world (lost trust, cynicism, depression). I can try my best to mean well, but that does not mean anyone else will. Does this mean I need more than forgiveness to heal?

You show insight in saying that forgiveness alone will not heal all of the lost trust, cynicism, and even psychological depression. This is the case because forgiveness does not necessarily alter the quality of your relationships.  Forgiveness makes possible a change in relationships because you are offering the hand of peace, offering a second chance to those who acted unfairly.  Yet, some people will continue to act badly toward us.  So, we may have an unsatisfying relationship that damages trust toward that person or increases cynicism toward that person. This is a problem of a failure to reconcile and if this is the case for you, then you might ask the person to correct the unfairness.  The person may not comply.  In such a case, please note that in your forgiving, you have done the best that you can.  Also, please keep in mind that you now, in forgiving, have a way of reducing excessive anger toward particular people which can be a protection in future relationships.  In other words, you need not generalize the mistrust to all people.  Some may accept your kindness and even if they do not, you can be free of toxic anger even if disappointment or sadness or even cynicism toward a particular person remains. 
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What does love have to do with it?  Do you really think that to forgive, we have to love the one who was brutal to us?

We have to make a very important distinction between what Aristotle calls the Essence of any construct and its Existence.  The Essence defines its purest form.  Existence is how we actually deal with this construct in the real world.  The highest or purest form of forgiving is to love those who do not love you.  This is its Essence, for which we have a possible goal.  In reality, in Existence, this is not always possible for us.  The legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers football team, Vince Lombardi, once said, “…..if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”  So, we should be aware of the Essence of forgiveness so that, even if unattainable in some cases, we can reach a higher sense of forgiveness, an excellence of forgiving such as genuine respect toward the other, that might not have been possible otherwise.
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What is one major difference between forgiving other people and forgiving yourself?

When we forgive ourselves, we have broken our own standards.  When this happens, it usually does not occur in isolation.  In other words, we so often hurt other people when we break our own standards.  Therefore, as we self-forgive, in contrast to forgiving others, we often need to go to those offended by what we did and seek forgiveness from them.
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