How can we keep forgiveness initiatives going in schools and social groups, such as correctional institutions?
Forgiving is much more than just calming down. This is the case because some people calm down because they have dismissed from their life the one who was unfair. When a person calms down, there is not necessarily a sense of goodness toward the other, only an inner state that is no longer angry. Forgiveness is an active virtue of trying to be good to those who were not good to the forgiver. A calm inner world is not necessarily that.
I have heard some say that “forgiveness is a decision.” By that they mean a person decides to be good to the one who was unfair. Is this what forgiving another person is?
Actually, no, forgiveness is not only a decision to be good to the one who was unfair. Forgiveness is a moral virtue and as Aristotle tells us, all moral virtues are more complex than only the cognitive process of making a decision. All moral virtues also include the motivation to do good, the feelings of goodness, and behaviors that express that goodness. To call forgiveness only a decision is to engage in the logical fallacy of reductionism, making forgiveness less than what it actually is.
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.
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.