Tagged: “forgiving communities”

Benefits of Classroom Forgiveness Education Confirmed by New Groundbreaking Study

The first-ever meta-analysis of classroom Forgiveness Education programs, a study involving nearly 1,500 grade school students in 10 countries, has determined that such programs “effectively decrease anger and increase forgiveness among children and adolescents. In addition, results indicated that forgiveness education interventions have robust effects that remain even after the termination of the program.” 
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Published this month in Child Development1 (Volume 93, Issue 2, March/April 2022), the critique analyzed 20 randomized intervention studies of forgiveness education programs that were implemented during school years 1996 through 2021. These studies spanned demographically diverse geographic areas including North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

The research, “A meta‐analysis of forgiveness education interventions’ effects on forgiveness and anger in children and adolescents,” was conducted by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers Hannah Rapp and Jiahe Wang Xu (both graduate students in the Dept. of Educational Psychology), and Dr. Robert Enright, educational psychology professor and co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI).

Other significant observations and findings in the just-published report include:

  • Children and adolescents inexplicably experience hurt and conflict in their interpersonal relationships and can “benefit from learning more about what forgiveness is and the process of how to forgive.”
  • Forgiveness education interventions “are effective regardless of whether participants have experienced severe or mild offenses or attend schools in economically disadvantaged areas.”
  • Programs of both short and long durations “can lead to significant positive change in anger and forgiveness outcomes.”
  • Children who forgive are more accepted by their peers.
  • Positive results for students “echoed findings from previous reviews of forgiveness interventions with primarily adult populations.”
  • Forgiveness education interventions are “significantly effective” whether they are facilitated by schoolteachers or by researchers.
  • The forgiveness education curriculum and process developed by Dr. Enright2 and the IFI “yielded significant effects.”

Overall, the analysis presents strong evidence that “children and adolescents can benefit from forgiveness education interventions.” Read the full meta-analysis report.
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1 Child Development is a 92-year-old bimonthly scientific journal published by the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD). It is a vital source of information not only for researchers and theoreticians, but for a broad range of psychiatrists and psychologists, educators, and social workers in more than 60 countries around the world.

The Forgiveness Education curricula developed by Dr. Enright and the IFI for pre-k through 12th grade students is based on children’s story books. Those stories teach about forgiveness and other moral virtues and equip children with the knowledge of how to forgive a specific person who offends if they choose to do so. Lessons begin by educating participants about the five concepts that underlay forgiveness: inherent worth, kindness, respect, generosity, and agape love. During the program, participants read and discuss several age and culture-appropriate stories that display forgiveness between characters such as in The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo and in Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss.

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The Path to Peace Through Forgiveness

Dr. Robert Enright and the organization he founded, the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI), undertook their first foray into the peace movement in 1999. That was the year they worked with a national team led by the Rev. Jessie Jackson that convinced Yugoslav (now Serbia) President Slobodan Milošević to release three captive American soldiers during the Kosovo Conflict.

In 2002, Dr. Enright initiated a forgiveness education program in Belfast, Northern Ireland that has now been in operation for 20 consecutive years. His Belfast work is featured in the award-winning documentary The Power of Forgiveness. Dr. Enright started similar programs in Liberia, West Africa in 2011 and in Israel-Palestine in 2013. He now has such programs in more than 30 contentious regions around the world and an IFI Branch Office in Pakistan at the Government College University Lahore (GCU-Lahore, Pakistan).

Eight years ago, Dr. Enright was invited by the United Nations to join an international “Expert Group” tasked with responsibility for developing intervention models aimed at ending gender-based violence across the globe. His initial presentation to the United Nations Population Fund in New York City was titled “Forgiveness as a Peace Tool.” Just three weeks later, delegates at the United Nations Peace Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, voted to embrace forgiveness and education as essential tools in peacebuilding.

Since those early years of his career, Dr. Enright has developed scores of peace-education initiatives and research projects in some of the world’s most contentious areas. Two of those projects were published recently involving teachers in the case of China and adult clients in the case of Pakistan. Other research projects have demonstrated that children as young as 4-5 years are capable of absorbing the basics of forgiveness and making it a natural part of their early life.

In 2015, Dr. Enright accompanied Eva Mozes Kor, a survivor of the Holocaust, on a guest tour of US radio and television stations to promote peace through forgiveness. Ms. Kor, with her twin sister Miriam, was subjected to human experimentation under Josef Mengele at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II yet she publicly forgave her tormentors.

During that tour, Ms. Kor repeatedly used this axiom:

“Let’s work together to heal the world through forgiveness. Not bullets, not bombs. Just forgiveness. Anger is a seed for war. Forgiveness is a seed for peace.” 

In a 2018 guest blog that Ms. Kor wrote for this website, “My Forgiveness,” she writes that forgiveness can “improve life for everyone in the world.” Read Dr. Enright’s eulogy to Ms. Kor (upon her death on July 4, 2019): “In Memoriam: Eva Mozes Kor and Her Independence Day.”

In addition to Dr. Enright, others named Paul Harris Fellows include U.S. President Jimmy Carter, U.S. astronaut James Lovell, and polio vaccine developer Jonas Salk.

In recognition of his contributions to the peace movement, Dr. Enright was awarded the Distinguished Peace Educator of the Year Award (2008-2009), from the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies. In 2012, he received the Cecil Findley Distinguished Service Award for international peacemaking and was named a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International in 2016. Three years later he was awarded the  2019 Mazzuchelli Medallion from Edgewood College along with a pronouncement that forgiveness, relevant in every age, may be one of the clearest paths to peace, individually and collectively, for our world today.” 

While Dr. Enright was one of the first forgiveness research investigators to envision a path to peace through forgiveness, he says there is still much more work that needs to be done.

“We must double our efforts so that peace and forgiveness become a team that is routinely tapped in matters of conflict,” Dr. Enright says. “The flames of resentment can be extinguished by sound forgiveness programs.”

Read Dr. Enright’s essay in Psychology Today“Reflecting on 30 Years of Forgiveness Science.”

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I think it is so important to foster forgiveness in families.  Children need to learn to forgive.  What advice can you give to parents for this?

Yes, I agree that it is of vital importance that this happen so that we can fortify children against the injustices that likely will occur when they are adults.  Knowing how to forgive can be a protection against the build-up of unhealthy anger.  Here is a link to one of my essays on the Psychology Today website that gives details on how a family can become a forgiving community:

Is Your Family a Forgiving Community?

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Is forgiveness the same thing in all cultures and times?

We talk about forgiveness as if it has universal meaning, but should we be talking about early 21st Century forgiveness in Western cultures, rather than a generic “forgiveness?” Should we presume that forgiveness is not the same everywhere and across all time of human history?

Although there are wide cultural and religious differences among the Hawaiian family ritual of Ho-O-Pono-Pono, the discipline of forgiveness in the Jewish customs of Yom Kipper, and the sacrament of Penance within Catholicism, this does not mean that each is dissimilar at the core. The behaviors manifested in these three kinds of forgiveness differ, but all three are concerned about confronting injustice with love. All three acknowledge that there is right and wrong; all three acknowledge resentment or some kind of moral response to wrong; and all three see forgiveness as a merciful response of goodness toward the offender(s). At their core, these three seemingly disparate cultures and/or religions share much in common.

Across time, we have ancient stories of forgiveness that do not differ from the present day. In Hebrew writings, there is Joseph forgiving his brothers, and we see an unconditional, merciful response to their injustices against him. In Christian scripture, there is the father of the prodigal son offering him acceptance and love in the face of injustice. In Muslim writings there is a parallel story to Joseph, also showing mercy in the face of wrongdoing. Hindu, Buddhist, Confucian, and other ancient literature are more alike than different in describing what forgiveness is. The preserved meaning has not changed to this day.

Might we come across a culture that defines forgiveness very differently than those above? Might we come across a culture that condemns forgiveness as unnecessary or unimportant? Perhaps, but it seems just as likely to find a culture that de-values justice and honors cheating and lying and murder. No such culture to date has been found. While it is true that different cultures might give different examples of what constitutes a just action, all cultures honor just action.

Is forgiveness the same thing in all cultures and times? Despite wide cultural nuances, it appears to be so.

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The Road to a Healthier Life in Your Golden Years

Exercise, get adequate sleep, eat right, reduce stress — you’ve probably been told to do all of these things to manage your health. All those actions contribute to a healthy lifestyle, and failing to follow them could lead you down a path of health issues and serious medical conditions. The risk of health problems due to poor lifestyle choices is even greater when you’re older.

The International Forgiveness Institute wants you to thrive throughout your life.  If you’re a senior who hasn’t begun prioritizing your physical and mental health, here are some ways to get it under control.

Nourish Yourself

Eating healthy is not only important to keep your systems working smoothly, but according to Verywell Fit, it’s also important for weight management. Younger people might struggle to lose weight and stay thin, but older adults have different concerns.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics explains that being underweight is unhealthy for seniors, and many seniors fall into this category. To keep your health under control, stick to a diet that hits all of your caloric and nutritional needs. A healthy, well-fed body is at a lower risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, and kidney disease.

Sleep Well

Most adults under-sleep, but it’s also possible to over-sleep. Family Doctor notes it’s important to get the right amount of sleep, specifically between seven and eight hours per night. If you find yourself having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or staying awake, then it’s time to adjust your sleep patterns to get on a regular schedule. Ample sleep will bring you energy, mental clarity, better moods, and relaxation from the chaos of daily life.

Healthline suggests you should turn off your electronics at least an hour before bedtime, take a relaxing bath, read a book, and meditate for a few minutes. Make sure to avoid caffeine after lunch or chocolate close to bedtime. If you suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome or sleep apnea, be sure to get the problem treated by a doctor so you can finally rest at night. Read: 15 Proven Tips to Get a Better Sleep.

Why You Should Start a Business Instead of Retiring

Retirement often seems like the last step after years of working but it usually leads to an unfulfilling and boring period of our lives. According to the AARP, many seniors are looking to entrepreneurship as a way to stay busy and motivate themselves in an exciting way.

There are plenty of reasons why seniors are starting new businesses too. Aside from the work being much more enjoyable than the typical 9 to 5 grind, it also lets us turn our hobbies into a career and create our own dream jobs.

And once you’ve decided to start your own business, the next step is just to get it off the ground and get going. After a basic plan is established and you learn how to start a business, all that’s left to do is start working your dream job and, who knows, maybe one day you’ll even be hiring employees!

Stress Less

Stress doesn’t show obvious signs like some medical conditions, but it can lead to serious complications if you let it get out of control. Besides leading to depression and anxiety, which the APA explains can result in poor quality of life, stress can actually cause death through cardiovascular disease. Reign in your stress by practicing meditation, developing hobbies that promote well-being, exercising, building relationships and community, and seeking help from a mental health professional when the stress feels like too much.

Get Outside

As we rely more and more on technology, we ultimately spend more time indoors. However, Psychology Today explains this isn’t healthy for us, either mentally or physically. So, whenever possible, spend some time in nature, whether that’s grabbing some new gear and hitting the trails or simply biking through a local park, hanging out in the sunshine and breathing plenty of fresh air can work wonders on your overall well-being.

Be Forgiving

Speaking of stress, when we hold on to resentment and anger, it builds up and eats away at us emotionally, contributing to our stress. Retirement is a time to enjoy the fruits of your labor and the life you’ve built. This is an especially good time to consider forgiveness. Whether it’s among family, friends or even forgiving yourself. Forgiveness allows you to let go of those pent up feelings holding you back from living your best life. And while forgiveness can feel like a challenge, when we learn to forgive, we are reinvesting in our loved ones and ourselves. For additional information on  forgiveness for senior citizens, check out more of this International Forgiveness Institute website.

Your senior years are the time to reclaim your body and your mind, to preserve them as long as possible, and to reverse the damage done over the years. You can’t age backward, but you can control your quality of life so that aging forward is a positive experience. Put your health and happiness first to make the most of your golden years.


This article was written for the International Forgiveness Institute by Jason Lewis, a certified personal trainer who became the primary caretaker for his mother following her surgery in 2002. As he helped her with her recovery, he realized there is a growing need for trainers who can assist seniors in their own homes and communities. With a degree in Health Science and Human Performance, Jason works with medical professionals and other personal trainers to create programs that are customized to the special health needs of those over the age of 65. Visit his website, packed with health information for seniors and their caregivers, at strongwell.org.

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The Missing Piece to the Peace Puzzle

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