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.
As a follow-up, do I have to engage in what you call “deep forgiving” to say that I actually forgive?
Actually, no, you do not have to engage in what I called “deep forgiving” (in my answer to your most recent question) for you to be forgiving. We can forgive to lesser and greater degrees. If you wish the other well, but you still have anger and are not ready to give a gift of some kind to the other person, you still are forgiving. There is room to keep growing in the moral virtue of forgiveness and so more practice may prove to be worthwhile for you.
Reconciliation is not a necessary condition to forgive. Yet, if you do not reconcile, whether you have truly forgiven includes such issues as these: Do you wish the other person well? Do you see the worth and human dignity of the person? Do you have a softened heart toward the person? Are you willing to offer an unconditional gift of some kind to the other (doing so as an end in and of itself rather than for a reward)? All of these issues are part of deep forgiving.
I don’t get it. Why does the forgiveness process involve the victim trying to see the woundedness in the one who acted wrongly? So what if that person was treated badly by others. How does that take away my inner torment?
The point of seeing the woundedness in the other, if those wounds exist, is to slowly start to engender some empathy and compassion in you for that person. In other words, the point is to see a person who is more than the injustices against you. Your seeing the other’s wounds can be a first step in your softening your heart toward that person.
I recently heard a speech in which the speaker equated forgiving with seeing the humanity in the one who offended. The one who was victimized sent a letter to the offender stating that the offending person owes the victim nothing. The speaker said that the letter was sent to set the self free. While these aspects of forgiving (seeing the other as more than the offense and writing the letter for one’s own sake) are both laudable and part of forgiveness, they do not, in themselves, constitute what forgiving is in its essence.
Had the speaker said something such as the following to the audience, it would be reasonable because the speaker would be instructing the audience that this is not the sum total of forgiveness: “I have worked at seeing the offending person as much more than his actions against me. I sent a letter to him to set myself free. These are part of forgiveness, perhaps the best I can do for now, but there is much more to what forgiveness is than this.” Otherwise, the messenger is engaging in the logical fallacy of reductionism, or reducing what forgiveness is to less than what it actually is.
Such a clarification is important for this reason: Because forgiveness is a moral virtue, it is about goodness directed deliberately toward the other person for that offending person’s sake. A letter sent for one’s own benefit is quite different from sending it to aid the one who offended. Again, the motive of self-healing is good, but there is more. The benefits toward the self are consequences of forgiving; these benefits for the self are not what forgiveness is in its essence.
Forgiveness is a response of mercy toward the one who offends. It also includes the cultivation of compassion toward that person, the bearing of pain for the other, and the giving of a gift because that is what mercy does. Forgiveness, then, is centered not only on insight about the other person but also on a deliberate gift-giving toward that person. This does not mean that all who forgive reach this fuller level of forgiving, but it does mean that this is the goal.
When people are asked to speak to an audience, this implicitly sets up the expectation that the speaker has a certain wisdom about the topic so that the audience will get as clear an understanding of the topic as possible. When the speaker then engages, without realizing it, in the logical fallacy of reductionism, this does not advance deep knowledge of that topic.
The take-away message of this blog post is this: When you hear a scheduled talk by someone who is considered an authority on the subject of forgiveness, be very careful not to conclude that what the speaker is saying must be the truth and nothing but the truth because the person was asked to speak. Sometimes, there is reductionism or patently false information given on the complex topic of forgiveness. Let the listener beware.