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.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog is reposted from Forgiveness Factor, the website of Tim Markle, a contributing writer and speaker for the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI). Markle says his two major aspirations in life are “helping individuals with developmental disabilities and educating people about the benefits of forgiveness.”
I like watching ice hockey. Live is best (if I could afford it and if there was not a worldwide pandemic), but I also enjoy watching it on TV. When I watch other sports, I think to myself, “I could throw or run a football, I could catch a baseball, I could kick a soccer ball, I could dribble a basketball–nowhere near the level of proficiency of a, well, 7th grader, but I could do it.” But hockey–not a chance.
There is so much about hockey I could never do. Let’s just start, and end, with skating on ice. Not going to happen. As I watch the games, I see hard hits, slap shots, precise passing. But what brought forgiveness to mind was watching someone skate the puck up the ice as they were constantly poked, prodded, slashed, blindsided, bothered and battered just for doing their job.
Sometimes forgiveness is hard because it feels like we are being constantly poked and reminded of the pain some else caused. We can be blindsided by a memory or prodded by anger.
The hockey player keeps his feet moving, his stick moving, the puck moving and keeps his eyes on the goal. It can be the same with us. When life wants to bounce us around, keep moving forward. Remember the goal of forgiveness. Remember the rewards of the goal are less anger, less anxiety, less depression, less stress, more confidence, more joy, and a better quality of life. Keep your eyes on the goal, keep moving forward and if you get knocked down, get back up and find that puck.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tim Markle is an Outreach Specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Waisman Center. In his various capacities, Markle works to improve the lives of children and adults with developmental disabilities and neurodegenerative diseases, some of life’s most challenging conditions. He also develops curriculum for a variety of audiences, provides training for both children and adults, and is a prolific speaker.
Markle has a BA in Psychology from Bowling Green State University, a Masters in Counseling (MC) from John Carroll University, and a Master of Arts in Christian Studies (MACS) from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. As the capstone project for his MACS degree, Markle developed a six-week course that focused on how to forgive and why forgiveness is indispensable for dealing with anger, depression, anxiety and trauma. The course is based on the ground-breaking work of Dr. Robert Enright, co-founder of the IFI. Markle is also the founder of a forgiveness education organization called Forgiveness Factor.