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.
When someone treats me unkindly, I just strive for justice by forthrightly asking for fairness. I try to get the person to change. This is sufficient, without even bringing in forgiveness, isn’t it?
Why not do both? Why not forgive first, which probably will lower your anger, and then ask for fairness? The asking may turn out to be more civil if you ask when not angry. In other words, think in “both-and” ways rather than “either-or” ways.
I know that to forgive, I must confront my anger toward the person who hurt me, but to be honest with you, I fear my anger, I fear that I could get out of control because the person who hurt me was very cruel, over and over again, I do not like fearing myself. Please help me to overcome this.
First you should realize something very positive: You are aware that you are very angry. Some people deny the extent of their anger, which does not help in cleansing oneself of it. After all, how can you reduce the anger if you are minimizing it? If you have a deep cut on your arm and you are afraid of infection, what do you do? If your fear freezes you to such an extent that you cannot clean the wound and apply an anti-biotic, then that fear is preventing healing. It is similar with injustices and anger. Fear of the anger is the problem more so than the anger is the problem.
Please keep in mind that you do have available to you a kind of cleansing agent, a kind of anti-biotic against toxic anger, and it is forgiveness. As you practice forgiveness, you will see that the anger diminishes. Even if it returns, you have forgiveness to help you once again. As you become better at forgiving, you will fear your negative emotions less because you now have at your disposal a powerful antidote to them. Enjoy the cleansing power of forgiveness.
OK, everyone, it is time to reflect on those good old school days of yore, those care-free days when everyone thought we did not have a care in the world. Yet, sometimes we carry burdens from those days and we do so in the silence of our own hearts. When was the last time that you, as an adult, had a discussion about your days in elementary, middle, or high school? When was the last time you had such a discussion with an emphasis on the emotional wounds you received back then? I am guessing that such discussion-times have been quite rare.
I wonder how many of you reading this still have some unresolved issues from the good-old-days. It is in school, within the peer group, at recess, on the sports team that our current sense of self is shaped, at least to a degree. Sometimes we are influenced by those days to a greater extent than we realize.
So, it is time for a little quiz. Please think about your days in school and see if you can identify one person who was unjust to you, so unjust that when you think about the person now, it hurts. This person is a candidate for your forgiveness. I have an important question for you: How has this person inadvertently influenced your own view of yourself? How has this person’s actions made you feel less than who you really are? Do you see that it is time to change that?
My challenge to you today is to take steps to forgive the person for those behaviors long ago that have influenced you up to this very moment. It is time to take a better look at what happened, to forgive, and then to ask the question after you forgive: Who am I now as I admit to the injustice, admit to it negatively influencing how I have seen myself all these years, and who am I now as I stand in forgiveness?
Perhaps the good old days will seem a little brighter once you forgive. You will have lifted a silent burden.
An internationally-acclaimed organization that provides research-based tools for professional educators is touting the most recent International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) curriculum guide by creating an entire “best practices” forgiveness component for educators on its website.
Forgiveness for Elementary School is a collection of four practices that provide students with tools to help them understand and begin a journey toward forgiveness. Published on the Greater Good in Education (GGIE) website, the module is dedicated to helping teachers implement learning techniques that focus on forgiveness, mindfulness, and character education.
Those techniques are presented in the new IFI Curriculum Guide The Courage to Forgive: Educating Elementary School Children About Forgiveness. The guide was written by Dr. Suzanne Freedman, forgiveness researcher and Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Northern Iowa, and Dr. Robert Enright, IFI founder and Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The Courage to Forgive is a social-emotional learning (SEL)/character education teaching guide that features 16 lessons, each approximately 45 minutes in length. It includes a comprehensive 15-page introduction that explains what forgiveness is (and is not) as well as why forgiveness is such a crucial subject for grade school students. The guide becomes the 15th volume in the IFI’s library of curriculum guides (for students in pre-kindergarten through high school) and the 19th educational training program offered by the IFI.
“Although the new curriculum was written specifically with 4th and 5th grade students in mind, it can be used with younger students as well as those in middle school,” according to Dr. Freedman. “We designed it so that the instructional activities can be modified as necessary for different age groups–even adults.”
The GGIE website component includes these four modules which are based on The Courage to Forgive curriculum:
1. Creating Space for Forgiveness by Letting Go of Anger
In this module, students discuss the negative consequences that anger can have, identify the benefits of letting go of anger after expressing it, and brainstorm ideas for how to cope with anger.
2. Introduction to Forgiveness
Students develop a working definition for what forgiveness is and what it is not, and consider its relationship to justice, revenge, the role of apology, and reconciliation.
3. Understanding Inherent Worth: A Path towards Forgiveness
As a class, students read the book Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester to begin a discussion on inherent worth, then think critically about how inherent worth and forgiveness are related. Links to a virtual reading of the book are included.
4. Learning from Courageous Forgivers
Students read The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and reflect on the value of being a forgiving person, as exemplified by the story. Again, links to a virtual reading are provided.
“Forgiveness education focuses on recognizing and validating students’ anger, as well as teaching students to express emotions in a healthy way, understand the perspective and humanity of others, and practice empathy and compassion toward others,” Dr. Freedman added. “It is almost impossible to go through life without experiencing hurt, and knowing how to forgive gives students the opportunity to choose love and kindness over anger and hatred.”
Greater Good in Education is produced by the University of California-Berkeley’s award-winning Greater Good Science Center (GGSC). The Greater Good Education Program presents education professionals with practical, scientific insights that help them better understand the roots of kind, helpful–or “prosocial”–behavior and emotional well-being, and how they can build those skills in themselves, their colleagues, and their students.
The 65-page The Courage to Forgive curriculum guide is available in downloadable electronic format on the IFI website for $30. GGIE readers are able to purchase the electronic version at a discounted price of just $15.