Tagged: “New Ideas”

TIME Magazine: Forgiveness is One of Mankind’s Most Important Innovations

Calling forgiveness one of mankind’s “most important innovations,” TIME magazine is doubling down on its 22-year infatuation with the moral virtue by declaring, Beset by a global plague, political turmoil, and social reckonings, it’s time for forgiveness to go viral.”

The internationally acclaimed news publication first introduced the science of forgiveness to its readers on March 28, 1999, in an essay titled “Should All Be Forgiven?” That widely-cited introductory overview of forgiveness—one of the first ever in a publication designed for the general public—helped usher in a plethora of forgiveness-related articles since then that reported on the superabundance of new research projects focused on forgiveness.

“In the past two years, scientists and sociologists have begun to extract forgiveness and the act of forgiving from the confines of the confessional, transforming it into the subject of quantifiable research,” the TIME article in 1999 sermonized. “In one case, they have even systemized it as a 20-part ‘intervention’ that they claim can be used to treat a number of anger-related ills in a totally secular context. In short, to forgive is no longer just divine.”

The “20-part intervention” in the TIME quote (above) is a reference to the Enright Process Model of Forgiveness that was just being developed at that time by Dr. Robert Enright, a University of Wisconsin-Madison clinical psychology professor and forgiveness researcher. Dr. Enright had founded the International Forgiveness Institute four years earlier.

For his leadership work with that early model and for his development of innovative forgiveness interventions, TIME magazine crowned Dr. Enright “the forgiveness trailblazer.” Shortly after receiving that recognition, The Los Angeles Times editorialized that Dr. Enright is “the guru of what many are calling a new science of forgiveness.” The Christian Science Monitor called him “the father of forgiveness research.”

Fast forward 22-years and you will discover an updated and enthusiastic TIME magazine essay with this headline: “After a Year That Pushed Us to the Brink, It’s Time for Forgiveness to Go Viral.” The dictionary definition of “going viral,” of course, is when an idea is of such significance that it spreads quickly and widely on the Internet. In this case, it also refers to the actual implementation of that idea which is described in the article much like a miracle cure:

“It is a powerful solution backed up by both cutting edge neuroscience and age-old wisdom. It leads to greater cooperation, eases conflict, increases personal happiness, lowers anxiety and is completely free. It’s called forgiveness.”

One of the studies cited in this latest article is a comparison of various forgiveness interventions. Among those available for testing, the study concludes, Dr. Enright’s interventions are the most effective. “Using theoretically grounded forgiveness interventions is a sound choice for helping clients to deal with past offenses and helping them achieve resolution in the form of forgiveness,” according to the study. “. . . the advantage for individual interventions was most clearly demonstrated for Enright-model interventions.” (Efficacy of psychotherapeutic interventions to promote forgiveness: a meta-analysis)

That recent TIME article also makes a direct comparison between the success of the forgiveness coalition and the “mindfulness and meditation” movement:

“Like forgiveness, mindfulness and meditation have been shown in many circumstances to reduce stress levels, mitigate heart disease, and lower blood pressure. Can we create the same level of cultural penetration for forgiveness? Our future may well depend on it. Beset by a global plague, political turmoil, and social reckonings, it’s time for forgiveness to go viral.”

The latest TIME article was authored by Andrew Serazin, President of the Templeton World Charity Foundation and Chair of the Forgiveness Forum, a series of global conversations on the mental and physical health benefits of forgiveness.


Editor’s Note: To illustrate the dramatic upward trajectory of the forgiveness movement, when Dr. Enright began exploring the social scientific study of forgiveness in 1985, there were no published empirical studies on person-to-person forgiveness. Today there are more than 3,000 published articles on that subject according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), many of them authored by Dr. Enright during his 35+ years of forgiveness research and intervention ingenuity.


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DOES PRACTICING THE VIRTUE OF FORGIVENESS MAKE YOU A MORE LOVING PERSON?

How many times have you heard or been asked the age-old question of: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” While that problematic conundrum may never be adequately answered, researchers are confident they are making inroads into solving a similar enigma: “Which is first required to engender the other, forgiveness or love?”

A just-published research study by world-renowned forgiveness trailblazer Dr. Robert Enright and three of his associates helped provide some answers to that larger question by examining three related questions:

  • Do forgiveness and love develop together?
  • Does love or forgiveness predict the other at a later time?
  • Does one’s spirituality moderate the relationship between forgiveness and love?

The study, The Development of Forgiveness and Other-focused Love, was published last month in the online version of the Journal of Psychology and Theology, a peer-reviewed academic journal. It explores the development of forgiveness and other-focused love and examines the role of spirituality in the relationship between forgiveness and love.

As part of the study, participants from a large Christian university filled out measures of compassionate love, forgiveness, and dedication to God at Time 1 (T1) and measures of love and forgiveness after 4 weeks at Time 2 (T2). While love at T1 did not predict forgiveness at T1 or T2, forgiveness at T1 positively predicted love at T2, indicating that forgiveness temporally preceded love.

“Because the aim of the study was to see the natural unfolding of forgiveness and love over time, there was no treatment or intervention between T1 and T2,” according to study researcher Jican J. Kim, an Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the M.A. in Applied Psychology program at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA. “The results, however, suggest that we may be able to help people grow in other-focused love by helping them to forgive. That’s a really dramatic revelation.”

Dr. Enright emphasized those findings by explaining that the study shows a possibility that as one grows in the virtue of forgiveness (toward a specific offender), the person might experience growth in love toward others in general, thus becoming a more loving person (through the act of forgiveness toward a particular offender).

“In theory, this idea seems to have merit because a forgiving person must be able to love the most unlovable person–one’s offender,” Dr. Enright added. “That kind of love, what we call agape love, might make loving others in general comparably easy.”

The evidence from this study, together with findings from other recent empirical studies, have only begun to examine the development and relationship between forgiveness and love—a relatively new focus for forgiveness researchers. Further research needs to be done to document in what ways one’s practice of forgiveness results in greater love toward others.

The two researchers agree, however that it is time to extend forgiveness interventions with adults to not only focus on psychological healing of the unjustly treated but also to investigate how forgiveness can promulgate the development of other-focused love.


“The fact that forgiveness can increase love at a later time tells me that love and forgiveness grow together and the practice of forgiveness is a concrete
expression of love that matures over time.”

Dr. Jichan J. Kim


Read the full report: The Development of Forgiveness and Other-focused Love

Research Report Authors:

  • Jiahe Wang Xu is a graduate student in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interest is in forgiveness and the development of agape love.
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  • Jichan J. Kim (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison) an Associate Professor of Psychology and the Director of the M.A. in Applied Psychology program at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA. His research focuses on interpersonal, self-, and divine forgiveness.
    .
  • Naomi Olmstead (M.A. Psychology, Liberty University) is a secondary educator at Lanakila Baptist School, Ewa Beach (island of O’ahu), Hawaii.
    .
  • Robert D. Enright holds the Aristotelian Professorship in Forgiveness Science within the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a founding board member of the International Forgiveness Institute in Madison, Wisconsin.

 

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Sometimes It Takes 36 Years to Get Your Point Across: The Case for Forgiveness Therapy in Correctional Institutions

In 1985 I began to explore the social scientific study of forgiveness.  At the time there were no published empirical studies on person-to-person forgiveness.  For my very first attempt at a grant (36 years ago),  I wanted to see if we could help men in a correctional institution to heal from past trauma due to severe injustices against them prior to their crime and imprisonment. The approach was to offer forgiveness therapy for those who experienced severe abuse when they were children, as a way of reducing the resentment that can be displaced, sometimes violently, onto unsuspecting others.

For that first grant attempt over three decades ago, I was interviewed by a world famous experimental psychologist who was part of this granting agency.  This world famous person listened to my idea and then proclaimed, “This is an absolutely excellent idea.  I am going to rate your protocol as #1 in this competition.”  About a month later, much to my surprise, I received a rejection letter from the granting agency.  I made a phone call to the world-famous experimental psychologist and asked about the contradiction between his saying how excellent the work is and then I received a rejection notice.

New Study: “Approximately 90% of the men in the maximum security correctional institution have had very serious injustices against them in childhood, such as ongoing sexual abuse and abandonment.”

He angrily and intensively said to me, “Dr. Enright, you embarrassed me!  I went into the meeting with very high-powered  people, praised your work, and the entire committee was outraged.  They said to me, ‘Give Enright money to help prisoners forgive??  No.  In fact, those prisoners should be seeking forgiveness from all of us for the crimes they committed! Rejected!'”

I then went in different directions (other than corrections) with the randomized clinical trials of Forgiveness Therapy (now considered an acceptable form of psychotherapy by the American Psychological Association) until 5 years ago when professionals in corrections began to contact me saying that our Forgiveness Therapy approach might work well with incarcerated people and they asked me if I thought that was a good idea. Well……yes, I said.

We continued to be rejected as we submitted at least three more grant requests, all of which were rejected.  So, we decided to move ahead with no funding.

Our point of Forgiveness Therapy in correctional institutions is this:  Forgiveness Therapy first screens those in corrections to see if they have suffered abuse while growing up.  Our scientific examination of this, now published in the Tier-1 journal, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, shows that approximately 90% of the men in the maximum security correctional institution have had very serious injustices against them in childhood, such as ongoing sexual abuse and abandonment.  In other words, the unjust treatment toward them as children has left them with a deep resentment that can then be displaced onto others in society.  If we can find a way of reducing and even eliminating that resentment, then the person may be more amenable to traditional rehabilitation.  Forgiving the abusers is the way to do this.

To forgive is to strive to be good to those who are not good to the forgiver.  The one who forgives is practicing the moral virtue of forgiveness without excusing the behavior, or forgetting what happened (so it does not happen again), necessarily reconciling with the abuser, or abandoning the quest for justice.

For a year-and-a-half, a corrections psychologist within a maximum-security correctional institution engaged in a randomized experimental and control group clinical trial in which the professional worked with two groups of men, who were screened for abuse against them during childhood and currently have clinical levels of anger, anxiety, and depression and low empathy toward other people in general.  The research program took 6 full months for two experimental groups.

Study Results: Forgiveness Therapy can be a new, empirically-based protocol for correctional institutions which might precede and augment traditional approaches already in place.

The results show strong statistical effects for the Forgiveness Therapy in that those in the experimental group, after they forgave their abusers from childhood, went to normal or near normal levels of anger, anxiety, and depression and their empathy for people in general rose significantly relative to the control group that had traditional rehabilitation strategies.  These results were maintained 6 months after the treatment ended for the first experimental group.  These results are unprecedented in the published literature within a maximum security correctional institution.  It is extremely difficult to improve empathy in this context.  We found the strongest psychological effects for any rehabilitation approach ever published. Here is a reference to that Tier-1 publication:

Yu, L., Gambaro, M., Song, J., Teslik, M., Song, M., Komoski, M.C., Wollner, B., & Enright, R.D. (2021). Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy.

We now are receiving inquires about this approach from scholars in Brazil, Israel, and Pakistan.

So, I have gone from being a total embarrassment to a granting agency 36 years ago to someone whom correction officials and researchers want to contact because of a vital idea.  Viewpoints can change over a 36 year period.  Sometimes we just have to be patient with true ideas that are life-giving until some in the world are ready to receive those ideas.

Robert

Read more about Dr. Enright’s prison work:

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May I follow-up on my question about forgiving one’s mother if she is deceased? You mention that part of forgiving is to try, within reason, to give a gift to the one who acted unfairly. How can one give a gift to a deceased person?

You can give an indirect gift to one who is deceased. For example, you can donate to a charity in the person’s name. You can share a kind word about the person to other family members, knowing that the deceased person was more than the injustices against you. If you are a person of faith, you can say a prayer for the person. So, it is possible to practice giving a gift even to those who no longer are with us.

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New Manual for Mental Health Professionals Recommends Use of Enright Forgiveness Therapy

A hot-off-the-press instructional manual recommends that mental health professionals adopt and employ the Enright Process Model of Forgiveness when counseling individuals who profess Pentecostal and Charismatic Christian beliefs. Those two movements together make up about 27% of all Christians and more than 584 million people worldwide, according to the Pew Research Center.

The new book, Counseling and Psychotherapy with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians, was written by Geoffrey Sutton, a licensed psychologist and prolific author who has experience providing services to Christians from many traditions. Born in London, England, Sutton is a Professor of Psychology (Emeritus) at Evangel University in Springfield, MO, who has 14 books available on amazon.com.

“Clinicians would be advised to learn a specific approach such as the Enright Model. . .” Sutton recommends in his book. “Both of the major forgiveness intervention programs (Enright and REACH) are supported by scientific evidence of effectiveness.”

Sutton’s endorsement of the Enright Model of Forgiveness is actually a complete turnaround from his earlier positions on Christian counseling. For example, Sutton wrote a paper for the Christian Association for Psychological Studies that said a “well -articulated, comprehensive, and integrated approach to Christian counseling does not exist today.” That was at the organization’s 2015 annual meeting.

In his latest book, Sutton begins by providing an overview of religion, spirituality, and Christianity before focusing on the Pentecostal-Charismatic Christian movement that he traces back to the early 1900s. He then provides six chapters on patient assessment, counseling techniques, and interventions with special emphasis on the forgiveness interventions he now embraces because he believes they are adequately supported by empirical evidence.

“For committed Christians, spiritual identity is a substantial component of the self,” Sutton writes. “The purpose of this book is to help mental health professionals increase their cultural competence to better serve Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians who are congregants in the world’s fastest-growing religious movement.”  

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VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR RESEARCH PROJECT

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