BBC (UK) World Service Website, Carrollton, Texas – When Nancy (Shore) Howard drove home from church one day in August 2012, she was confronted in her garage by an armed masked man who grabbed her around the neck and demanded her purse. As she struggled to get free, the man shot her. The bullet traveled through her head and pierced her left eye before lodging in her right lung.
When she recovered consciousness, Nancy could barely breathe and was in excruciating pain. Somehow, miraculously, she struggled into the house and was able to call emergency services.
At the hospital, police were able to contact Nancy’s husband– John Franklin Howard, known to everyone as Frank–who quickly flew home from an out-of-town trip. The three children the couple had raised during their 30-year marriage were also soon at their mother’s bedside.
While Nancy is undergoing painful repairs to her face, throat, and paralyzed right arm, detectives aggressively pursue suspects, including Frank. They first discover that Nancy’s husband has been having a three-year affair. A few days later, they uncover connections between her CPA husband and a group known as the East Texas gang. The story becomes increasingly bizarre as evidence surfaces of a murder-for-hire conspiracy initiated–to Nancy’s horror–by her husband.
Investigators eventually uncover evidence that Frank has been paying large sums to the criminal gang–apparently to kill his wife–and that gang members were exploiting him for more and more money. The money source is Frank’s rich client, from whom he has extorted over six-million dollars, some of which he has used to give his mistress extravagant gifts. Frank is arrested and charged with attempted capital murder.
At Frank’s trial, the jury took only two hours to find him guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison and will have to serve 30 years before he will be considered for parole. By then he will be about 85 years old. A year later, the shooter is tried, found guilty, and sentenced to sixty years.
“I have forgiven him,” Nancy says of her husband. “The Bible says that if we don’t forgive those who have harmed us then we are unable to be forgiven and I couldn’t afford not to forgive him because I couldn’t live with bitterness.”
She goes on to say, “It’s because I still loved him at the time, and you know I have to say I still love him, not in a romantic love, but in a love that he’s the father of my children, and there’s always going to be a love there.”
Nancy says she “vigorously” celebrates every birthday she has had since the shooting and still experiences joy singing in the church choir. Nearly six years after the horror of the attack on her doorstep, she is moving on.
“I’m able to be thankful once again for how God has saved my life and the healing that’s happening in my children’s lives, it’s awesome,” she says. “I’m excruciatingly happy.”
Read the full story on BBC World Service: “My husband hired a hitman to kill me – but I forgive him”
Listen to Nancy Shore speaking to Outlook on the BBC
Read Nancy’s story: The Shooting of Nancy Howard: A Journey Back to Shore
Ciril Čuš, who grew up during the ’60s in Žetale, a small Slovenian parish on the border of Croatia, comes from a traditional Catholic family with two brothers and a sister. But there was nothing traditional about his childhood, his abusive father who nearly beat him to death, and his long journey down the path to forgiveness.
Ciril’s father worked as a builder and one day took a fall from 16 feet, spending a month in a coma. After the accident, he wasn’t the same. He started drinking, becoming very aggressive — and young Ciril was often the target. Between the ages of 7 and 10, Ciril’s head was fractured with a blunt object 14 times.
When his father was sober, he was a wonderful man; he taught his children a lot. But when he was drunk, he wasn’t safe to be around.
Ciril had to escape through the window several times and spent many nights in the barn. He was afraid to sleep because he had terrible nightmares. He had learning difficulties and barely finished school. When he was 10, he contemplated suicide. At 12, he took a job picking produce so he could get away from home and pay for his education. At 14, he wanted to run away from home but felt he had nowhere to go.
The abuse and distance from his father led Ciril to take up karate in school. Determined to prove himself — and protect himself — he won the national Slovenian kickboxing championship and became a kung fu coach.
After secondary school, Ciril got a job and moved to a nearby town. But, with a lot of time on his hands, he would often visit the local library. It was there that he started reading the Bible. ”I was drawn to the word of God, more and more every day.”
Convinced by a neighbor to accompany him to a Sunday church service, Ciril was revulsed by what he saw as the antics of the charismatic worshippers and he decided never to enter a church again. But his friend convinced him to try it a second time and that was when he heard a woman speaking about her husband who beat her and cheated on her, but she was still able to forgive him.
“For the first time in my life, I realized what my biggest problem was — that I was not able to forgive my father.” Ciril remembers. “I was so angry that I even considered killing him.”
In order to be able to forgive, a priest suggested that Ciril pray so he prayed a Rosary for his father every day and even made a solemn promise to God that he would pray until he could forgive his father. After a year and a half he realized that prayer alone was not enough, that he had to go to his father and tell him he forgave him.
Although he was somehow able to generate the courage to go meet with his father, there was no mutual forgiveness but from that point on Ciril prayed two rosaries a day instead of one.
After three years of praying, Ciril approached his father again. He apologized for everything he had done wrong. He told him that he was his only father and he loved him very much. In response, his father grabbed a knife and shouted, “I will kill you like a pig!” Ciril escaped while his father ran to the garage to get a chain saw. Ciril’s response: he began praying three rosaries a day instead of two.
Nine months and more than 800 rosaries later, Ciril learned that his father was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, coughing up blood and that his doctors told him he only had a month to live. Determined to forgive him before his father died, Ciril approached him once again.
“I took his hand, looked him in the eyes, told him I forgave him, that I was sorry for everything, and that I loved him,” Ciril recalls. “I held his head close to my heart. It was the first time in my life that I hugged my father.”
From that moment on, Ciril’s father stopped drinking and peace returned to the family. For the first time ever, Ciril saw his father embrace his mother and heard him tell his brothers and his sister that he loved them. His father lived another 16 years.
”Once I forgave, I was happy, joyful. This real encounter with God is more powerful than any hatred, curse, suffering or distress,” says Ciril. He never stopped praying, either. Today he is a parish priest in a small Slovenian town.
Ciril now says he realizes that he had to walk his path of suffering to be able to understand and help people who go through similar experiences. His life bears a powerful witness. He travels a lot around the world, witnessing about his experience of forgiveness.
”If we do not forgive, we stop God’s blessing from entering and God cannot work within us” Ciril says. “Forgiveness means establishing a new relationship with another person. And that is a great gift from God. But everyone has his own path. Sometimes it takes a long time.”
Read the full story: His father abused him, fracturing his skull 14 times, but he was still able to forgive – Aleteia, June 6, 2018
Aleteia (aleteia.org) is an online publication distributed in eight languages (English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Polish and Slovenian). Its website “offers a Christian vision of the world by providing general and religious content that is free from ideological influences.” With more than 430,000 subscribers to its newsletter and more than 3 million fans on Facebook, Aleteia reaches more than 11 million unique visitors a month.
Making the Mind-Body Connection: Self-Care Strategies for Cancer Patients
by Brad Krause
The importance of the mind-body connection is evident in the increasingly impactful role that mindfulness and spiritual belief play in helping cancer patients improve their quality of life. And a growing number of cancer patients are turning to alternative approaches that draw on the mind’s ability to moderate the body’s responses to illness.
There is a growing body of research, including research done by the International Forgiveness Institute, showing that mind-body approaches in oncological medicine aid the healing process; help patients with advanced cases of the disease cope with their condition and its devastating emotional effects; and help sufferers maintain a happier lifestyle and positive mindset. Self-care strategies and spiritual strength can also help alleviate depression, anxiety and fatigue, and even energize the patient.
Cancer patients have to cope with an overwhelming situation dominated by treatments that are often as unpleasant as the disease. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy cause nausea, weakness, hair loss and other side effects that keep the patient feeling sick. Fortunately, there are many powerfully-effective mind-body strategies that help the cancer patient maintain a healthy and efficacious self-care regimen.
Breathing deeply and mindfully helps establish the mind-body connection. It’s a core component of yoga and many forms of meditation. Deep-breathing exercises relax you, lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and enable you to focus on positive thoughts. Try breathing deeply and center on how it makes you feel. If you prefer, listen to calming music during your breathing exercise. You can also combine breathing with some form of physical exercise, such as walking, biking, or yoga.
Forgiveness and self-forgiveness
According to the respected health website WebMD.com, if you can bring yourself to forgive, you are likely to enjoy lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system, and a drop in the stress hormones circulating in your blood. Back pain, stomach problems, and headaches may disappear. And you’ll reduce the anger, bitterness, resentment, depression, and other negative emotions that accompany the failure to forgive.
While refusing to forgive may not directly cause disease, according to WebMD, the negative impact of holding on to painful memories and past wounds can weaken the immune system and make you more susceptible to illness including cancer.
“It’s important to treat emotional wounds or disorders because they really can hinder someone’s reactions to the treatments — even someone’s willingness to pursue treatment,” says Dr. Steven Standiford, chief of surgery at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. “In fact, forgiveness therapy is now an integral part of treatment at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.”
Watch a short video about the amazing power forgiveness has had on one woman’s life and her battle with cancer. “If I hadn’t learned to forgive,” says Jayne Valseca, a cancer patient who was essentially given a death sentence, “I may not even be alive today.” Watch the video here.
“If I hadn’t learned to forgive, I may not even be alive today.” Jane Garcia Valseca
While not a treatment method per se, the act of forgiving yourself can free you mentally and emotionally so that you may best concentrate on healing. When you get cancer, you may blame yourself for smoking, eating the wrong foods, spending too much time in the sun…the list could go on forever. You question every decision you’ve ever made and punish yourself for the actions you did, or did not do, that might have contributed to your disease. By practicing self-forgiveness, you will gain an inner peace and the freedom to look to the future instead of the past.
Meditation is another self-centering exercise in which quiet and inner stillness focus one’s awareness. Meditation can help cancer patients manage nausea, pain and stress, and aid the body’s ability to heal by improving sleep and mood. Mindfulness is key to self-care in cancer patients, and few things help focus one’s energy and inner resources better than meditation. There are many forms of meditation. Some people concentrate on one part of their body, while others focus on a word or phrase as they meditate. Some meditative disciplines focus on controlling pain, while others are designed to help practitioners accept and cope with the physical changes their bodies are going through.
The mind’s ability to project images with sensory qualities is another effective means of making the mind-body connection. Mental images can affect your senses, a useful exercise for people suffering the physical discomforts of cancer. Some patients combine their spirituality with meditation by concentrating on religious images. Patients with a strong sense of spirituality often gain a strong sense of well-being, which makes it easier to cope with the disease.
It should be noted that spirituality and religion are not interchangeable terms. Some people use religion to channel and focus their spirituality, while other patients consider themselves spiritual, though not religious, at least not in the formal sense of the word. A cancer diagnosis may cause some people to become religious, or to return to a religious practice they may have previously abandoned. Research has shown that spirituality is capable of enhancing the patient’s quality of life through renewed optimism and hope for a future free of the disease.
Cancer patients sometimes experience difficulty with prescriptive medications, as these are often used as necessary pain management. Incorporating self-care practices like deep breathing and meditation can help prevent cancer patients from becoming addicted to opioids during their course of treatment. The use of alternative therapies to create the mind-body connection has been proven effective at alleviating pain without an excessive use of prescriptive methods.
Cancer ravages the body in many ways. Its effects can also oppress the mind, impeding its ability to help patients deal with the symptoms of the disease. But alternative self-care therapies and spirituality can help marshal the power of the mind to mitigate the pain and physical misery of cancer.
About Brad Krause:
After four years in the corporate world working 15-hour days, 6 days a week, Brad Krause demonstrated the ultimate act of self-care by leaving his draining, unfulfilling job behind. He now spends full-time helping others as a self-care guru, writer and life coach (SelfCare.info). He sums up his vision by saying, “We all have the potential to be the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be, but it comes down to prioritizing our own wellness through self-care. And that’s what I’m here to help people discover!”
You can contact Brad at Brad@selfcaring.info.
The entrance of the idea of forgiveness into the social sciences is quite recent. The first publication within psychology that centered specifically on people forgiving other people was published in the late 20th century (Enright, Santos, and Al-Mabuk, 1989). That article examined children’s, adolescents’, and adults’ thoughts about what forgiving is. In other words, the study took one slice of forgiveness, in this case people’s thoughts, and examined those thoughts from a scientific perspective. Such an investigation, of course, does not then imply that forgiving is all about thoughts and thoughts alone just because that was the focus of the scientific investigation.
People forgiving other people is an ancient idea, first explicated thousands of years ago in the story within the Jewish tradition of Joseph forgiving his 10 half-brothers who sold him into slavery. The portrait of forgiveness in that ancient report includes Joseph’s entire being, not just his thinking, as he shows anger, a sense at first of revenge, which slowly transforms into tenderness toward his half-brothers in the form of weeping, hugs, generosity, and an outpouring of love. His entire being was involved in the forgiving.
Philosophers, such as Aristotle and Aquinas, have developed what is known as the virtue-ethics tradition to explain morality. To be virtuous is, like Joseph, to produce a moral response with one’s entire being: thoughts, feelings, behaviors, motivations toward goodness, and relationships that reflect that goodness.
Psychologists, in contrast, and especially if they do not rely on this wisdom-of-the-ages, tend to compartmentalize forgiveness. For example, they may borrow from personality psychology and conclude that there is a trait of forgiving and a state of forgiving and these are somehow different. A trait forgiver, it is assumed, already has a personality geared to forgiving. In other words, expertise in forgiving is not forged by practice, practice, and more practice as we all have this opportunity toward developing expertise in forgiving.
Other psychologists, when they do not take the virtue-ethics position, tend to think of forgiving as mostly emotional as the forgiver substitutes more pleasant feelings for the existing resentment toward an offending person. Substitution of feelings, as seen in the Joseph story, is only one part, and not even the most important part of forgiveness. Offering love in a broad sense is the most important part.
The bottom line is this: Taking only a psychological perspective on the concept of forgiving tends toward reductionism, breaking up of forgiveness into smaller and more exclusive parts than should be the case. This tends to distort the concept of forgiveness. If a distorted view of forgiveness is presented to clients in therapy, are we helping those clients reach their highest potential as forgivers?
Enright, R. D., Santos, M., & Al-Mabuk, R. (1989). The adolescent as forgiver. Journal of Adolescence, 12, 95-110.
“Introducing Forgiveness Counseling to the Schools”
If you do an electronic search for anti-bullying programs, you will see three prominent approaches, the 3 P’s:
- Peer mediation
- Persistent norms. (This is a “no-bully zone;” we do not tolerate bullying in this school)
What makes people so angry that they:
a) retain the anger for a long time, sometimes years;
b) find no solution to that anger; and,
c) give the never-say-die anger to others?
We find that unfair treatment from other people is the source of so much anger in this world (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015). Anger as a source of inner disruption in the form of anxiety, low-self esteem, and pessimism all too often goes unrecognized. After all, if a person with high anxiety comes to a mental health professional, it is natural to focus on the presenting symptom. Yet, our research and the clinical work connected to it suggest that toxic anger, the kind that is deep and long-lasting, often is at the heart of many psychological symptoms for those who have a history of being treated unfairly.
Forgiveness therapy, as an empirically-verified treatment, reduces and even eliminates the toxic anger (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015). This is a paradoxical psychotherapy. As the client discussed the unfair behaviors coming from others, the treatment focus shifts from the client’s symptoms to an exploration of who the offending person is, what emotional wounds this person has, the vulnerabilities and doubts and fears that person brought to the painful interactions with the client.
As the client realizes that to forgive is not to excuse or forget or abandon the quest for justice or necessarily even reconcile with the other, then forgiveness therapy can proceed without distortion of what, exactly, it means to forgive. To forgive is to offer goodness to those who have not been good to the client. It is the offering of a virtue that has been around for thousands of years across many philosophies and religions and worldviews. To forgive offers the client a way to eliminate resentment by offering goodness…and it works (see, for example, Lin, Mack, Enright, Krahn, & Baskin, 2004).
When a student in school begins to aggress onto others, those who use the lens of forgiveness therapy start to ask these questions:
- Does the one showing the bullying behavior seem to be particularly angry?
- What is the source of this anger? Might it be unfair treatment from others in the past, perhaps at home or in school or in the peer group?
- Might this student be in pain, which emerged from the injustice, and might that pain now have turned to a toxic anger?
- Might this student be willing to examine who perpetrated the injustice and the subsequent hurt and ask, “Can I forgive this person (or persons) for what they did to me?”
School counselors now have a resource for taking this kind of therapy directly to those who bully (Enright, 2012). Rather than focus on the symptoms of aggression, disobedience to school expectations, or even the student’s own anger, the treatment shifts: Who hurt you? Is this person hurting and vulnerable and confused? Do you know what forgiveness is and is not? Would you be interested in trying to forgive the one who caused you so much pain? This kind of therapy can take up to 12 or more weeks, but that is the blink-of-an-eye relative to anger that can last for years.
As the student’s pain subsides by seeing the inherent worth in the one who was cruel and by fostering compassion toward that person (not because of what was done but instead because of whom the other is as a person), so too does the anger within the one who bullies start to fade, and this takes away the incentive to bully. The focus is not on the symptoms exclusively any more, nor is it on only creating school norms (which are all too easily ignored by those who bully when they are nurturing a rage inside).
To reduce bullying, we need to see the anger inside those who bully and have a plan to reduce it. Forgiveness therapy, as empirically shown, already has done its job. Now it is time to transport such therapy from the clinician’s office into the school setting for the good of those who bully and for the good of those who are the unwitting recipients of their pain.
Posted in Psychology Today December 17, 2016
- Enright, R.D. (2012). Anti-bullying forgiveness program: Reducing the fury within those who bully. Madison, WI: International Forgiveness Institute.
- Enright, R.D. & Fitzgibbons, R. (2015). Forgiveness therapy. Washington, DC: APA Books.
- Gambaro, M.E., Enright,R.D., Baskin, T.A., & Klatt, J. (2008). Can school-based forgiveness counseling improve conduct and academic achievement in academically at-risk adolescents? Journal of Research in Education, 18, 16-27.
- Lin, W.F., Mack, D., Enright, R.D., Krahn, D., & Baskin, T. (2004). Effects of forgiveness therapy on anger, mood, and vulnerability to substance use among inpatient substance-dependent clients. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72(6), 1114-1121.
- Park, J.H., Enright, R.D., Essex, M.J., Zahn-Waxler, C., & Klatt, J.S. (2013). Forgiveness intervention for female South Korean adolescent aggressive victims. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 20, 393-402.
- Reed, G. & Enright, R.D. (2006). The effects of forgiveness therapy on depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress for women after spousal emotional abuse. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 920-929.