What advice do you have for parents when there are conflicts between siblings? What are the dangers to be avoided?
Sometimes, when parents want the children to forgive one another, the parent engages in a superficial ritual such as this:
“What do you say?” (directed toward the one who acted unjustly).
The parent waits for the words, “I am sorry.”
The parent then asks the one who was hurt by the other, “Now what do you say?”
The parent waits of the words, “I forgive you.”
Parents have to be careful that they do not equate forgiveness, in the children’s minds, with a language-ritual of “sorry” and “I forgive.” This is the case because forgiveness originates in the heart and the one who was treated badly might need a cooling-off period. It is best if the children are drawn both to forgiveness and to being forgiven rather than being forced into these.
Suppose that of your 20 guideposts in your Process Model of Forgiveness, you had to eliminate one of them. Which would that be?
I would prefer to keep all 20. Yet, since you asked, I probably would eliminate the first guidepost, the one that asks people if they have been denying their anger. Even if they had been denying the anger, this tends to lessen as people come to realize that they have a safety net for that anger, and that safety net is forgiveness. So, even if a person was denying anger, this tends to fade away as people courageously confront the amount of anger that they have been carrying in their heart, in preparation for forgiving the one who acted unjustly.
Yes, here is the reference to a successful forgiveness education program in Northern Ireland in which parents taught forgiveness education to their children:
Magnuson, C. M., Enright, R. D., Fulmer, B., & Magnuson, K. A. (2009). Waging Peace in Belfast-IV Journal of Research in Education, 19, 57-65.
I actually cannot think of even one atrocity in which no one would forgive. I know a person who forgave the Nazis who imprisoned her during World War II. I know a person who forgave the murderer of her 7-year-old daughter. It is not the situation per se that is at issue here. Instead, it is the heart of the ones who have been crushed by the injustice. I have been amazed at the resilience of the human heart in forgiveness. We need to realize that forgiveness in these dire circumstances are the free will choices of those who forgive. We must not condemn those who would not forgive.
Is it possible for someone to actually improve in forgiveness? If so, what do you suggest as some keys for me to do that?
Forgiveness is not a superficial action (such as saying, “It’s ok” when someone is unfair to you). Instead, it is a moral virtue, as is justice and kindness and love. Aristotle told us thousands of years ago that one challenge in life is to become more perfected in the virtues. In other words, we do grow more proficient in our understanding and expression of the virtues, but only if we practice them. It is a struggle to grow in any virtue, including forgiveness. So, first be aware that you can grow in this virtue. Then be willing to practice it, with the goal of maturing in love, which is what forgiveness is (loving those who are unkind to us). You need a strong will to keep persevering in the struggle to grow in forgiveness. In sum, you need: understanding of what forgiveness is, practice, a strong will, and keeping your eye fixed on the goal of improving in love a little more each day.