The 6th-largest newspaper in the US and the country’s most popular weekly supermarket magazine have highlighted the importance of forgiveness in the past few days. The Washington Post and Woman’s World recently ran articles offering advice on how to forgive from forgiveness experts including Dr. Robert Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute.
This full-length article is featured in the Jan. 27 issue of The Washington Post (a 146-year-old daily newspaper with average weekday circulation of nearly half a million). The article highlights the benefits of forgiveness education work being done by Dr. Enright, one of his research associates Dr. Suzanne Freedman (University of Northern Iowa), and Dr. Frederic Luskin (director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project).
“. . .people who forgive are less anxious and angry and have lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels and a better quality of sleep,” the article states, citing the published literature. “Studies also show that children who learn how to forgive are better adjusted socially and have higher levels of self-esteem than those who don’t. They even perform better academically.”
Much of the article focuses on Dr. Enright’s forgiveness education work in Northern Ireland, where both public and private schools have been teaching his forgiveness curriculum for the past 21 years. One school, Mount St. Michael’s Primary School, a Catholic school in Randalstown, 23 miles from Belfast, recently paired up with a Protestant school in the same town to offer forgiveness education to a joint class of 7-to-9-year-olds.
“We really need this over here,” St. Michael’s Principal Philip Lavery said. “We teach children how to read and write, but we have to spend more time teaching them how to live, how to be members of a society.”
At Stranmillis University College in Belfast, forgiveness education is a required subject for all students in its teacher training program, where they learn the protocol developed by Dr. Enright and his team at the University of Wisconsin. In a country that has been torn for decades by religious violence, the article concludes, it is only through forgiveness and unselfish love that “we can leave the past behind us.”
Read the full article in The Washington Post.
This article appears in the January 26 issue of Woman’s World magazine (circulation 1.6 million). Subtitled “Sometimes it’s harder to forgive yourself than to forgive others,” the article presents “easy ways to silence the self-blame and welcome self-love.”
The article is based on interviews with three mental health specialists the publication calls its Expert Panel:
- Robert Enright, Ph.D., educational psychologist and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison;
- Everett Worthington, Ph.D., Commonwealth Professor Emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth University; and,
- Kathryn J. Norlock, Ph.D., author of The Moral Psychology of Forgiveness and an ethics professor at Trent University in Ontario, Canada.
The first (and, arguably, the most important) bit of advice offered in the Woman’s World article is:
Remember You’re Worthy – The very first step to self-forgiveness is simply knowing you deserve it, says expert Robert Enright, PhD. “This doesn’t mean letting yourself off the hook without reflecting on what’s happened; rather, it’s reminding yourself that you’re worthy when you’ve started believing the lie that you’re not.” Just reminding yourself that you deserve this nurturing will begin to transform guilt into self-compassion.
Read the full article in Woman’s World.
Anger at first when you are treated unjustly is reasonable because you are seeing that you are a person who deserves respect. Yet, where do you draw the line? When is this early anger sufficient? Do you want to keep the anger for a month? A year? How about 30 years? Also, what about the intensity of the anger. Do you want to be fuming inside for those 30 years? Do you think you will feel empowered if you live this way or could it wear you down?
Yes. It is not complete forgiveness in that you forgive, the other accepts that, and then you happily reconcile. Yet, you can say a kind word about the person to others or donate some money to a charity in that person’s name. This is gift-giving in an indirect sense and mercy in the form of gift-giving is part of forgiveness.
I have believed that one does not forgive unless the other person apologizes. You say differently. Can you give me at least 3 reasons why it is ok to forgive someone who does not apologize or even refuses to do so?
Yes, I can give you three reasons as follows: 1) There is no other moral virtue on the planet that has a rule connected to it that someone else must engage in a certain behavior or say certain words before you can engage in that virtue. For example, you can be patient whenever you wish. Also, you can be fair to others no matter the circumstances. Why now is forgiveness the only moral virtue that must not emerge until the other person utters those three words: “I am sorry?”; 2) Your waiting until the other apologizes gives that person tremendous power over you. You could be stuck with harmful resentment or even hatred if the other refuses to let you forgive and be free of this toxic anger; 3) Your free will as a person is hampered if you must await permission from the other (with the words, “I am sorry”) before you can forgive. Here is a fourth reason: Suppose the person passes away before saying the three words. You now are stuck with the resentment with no possibility of releasing that potentially harmful emotion for the rest of your life.
Is it healthy to let the other person (whom you are forgiving) know that you are forgiving, or is it better to keep this to yourself?
When you tell the one who offended you that you are forgiving, please make sure that this person knows what forgiveness is and is not. In other words, if the person thinks that forgiveness is just “letting it go,” then this person might try to take advantage of you. If the person knows that forgiving is an act of mercy and it occurs along with a quest for justice, then it is good to let the person know you have forgiven.