Tagged: “The Forgiving Life”

Keeping Anne Gallagher’s Memory and Work Alive

On this date eight years ago, and with a heavy heart, I posted the obituary below on a peace hero of Northern Ireland, Anne Gallagher. 
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In that tribute, I vowed to keep Anne’s life-giving work alive and this post is one small indication of that promise. I am pleased to report that our forgiveness education work in Northern Ireland has continued. We are entering our 20th year of such service to the educators in that land. This all started through Anne’s tireless efforts and passion for peace in her homeland.
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Anne, I hope you are pleased with what we have done on the path which you started to walk so long ago.
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Robert


In Memoriam: Anne Gallagher, Seeds of Hope

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of a true patriot for peace, Anne Gallagher of Dublin, Ireland (August 7, 2013).

ANNE GALLAGHER (1953-2013)

Anne started the peace organization, Seeds of Hope, in Ireland as a way to counter the after-effects of The Troubles. Even though the peace accord was signed in 1998, hearts were still embittered by the struggles that began to erupt in early 1972 with Bloody Sunday. Some of Anne’s friends and relations took up combat and were part of paramilitary organizations in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Anne, in contrast, sought dialogue as a way to peace.

Anne was instrumental in the International Forgiveness Institute’s transition to forgiveness education in Belfast. She tirelessly set up meetings with us at various schools such as Ligoniel, St. Vincent de Paul, and Mercy Primary School. Because of Anne’s endorsement of us, doors flew open and within about one month of trying, we were accepted into schools within the inter-face areas of the city (where contentious groups live segregated lives but in close proximity to one another)..

I recall vividly in 2003 sitting with three ex-combatants who wanted to know more about forgiveness education. They were unsure if it was a good idea. Anne set up the meeting. You see, we needed their permission to go into a particular school because some of the ex-combatants informally controlled their neighborhoods. One of them, battle-tested, said to me, “My son is in that school. Forgiveness will make him weak.” I swallowed hard and asked, “Do you want your son to grow up and live as you have?” He bowed his head and with love in his heart for his son said, “No.” It was then that he gave us permission to enter the school.

Anne was always close to danger like this. She did not care, even though some of her brothers were scared for her. Yet, she had a spark in her eyes and a conviction deep within that peace must be sought even if it meant putting oneself on the line at times.

Anne Gallagher represents peace in Ireland. We at the IFI will do our best to keep alive her vision for Seeds of Hope in each human heart. Peace be with you now, Anne.

Robert

Author’s Note: Read about the Northern Ireland Troubles, about Bloody Sunday, and about learning to forgive in the “Seeds of Hope Ex-Prisoners Think Tank Report” co-authored by Anne Gallagher (whose four brothers became involved in the Northern Ireland conflict and served long prison sentences, one being shot dead upon his release.)
— Anne Gallagher photo by Brian Moody


 

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I am a mental health professional.  Some people want a quicker fix than what your Process Model offers.  Can you recommend a brief therapy instead?

Because forgiveness is a moral virtue, it is not possible to artificially push it into a traditional psychological set of techniques that might lead to quick forgiveness.  If the injustice is serious against your client and the hurt deep within that client, then time and practice definitely are recommended. It will be worth the effort because we find that traditional psychological techniques are not a substitute for a true struggle to grow in this heroic moral virtue.  A meta-analysis by Aktar and Barlow show statistically that longer periods of time in forgiving (12 and even more sessions) are more effective than short-term therapy of 4-6 sessions.  Here is a reference to that meta-analysis:

Akhtar, S., & Barlow, J. (2018). Forgiveness therapy for the promotion of mental well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 19(1), 107-122.

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I am trying to forgive a family relative.  My immediate family members keep saying negative things about the person.  When I explain to my immediate family members that I am trying to forgive the person, then they intensify their negative judgements against this person.  How can I forgive under this circumstance?

Your forgiving is being made more challenging because of the constant negative statements from people whom you love.  Yet, please keep in mind that their choice not to forgive is not your choice.  Their views need not stay as your view.  Yes, you will have to struggle against those negative statements, but here is my suggestion: Every time you hear a negative statement about your relative, say to yourself—-to yourself silently—something positive about the person.  Say privately to yourself, “I choose to forgive the person.”  These exercises, repeated over time, should help you to forgive even if your family members continue with the negative statements.

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What if positive feelings toward the one who offended me do not emerge?  What then?  Do I give it more time?

Please remember that forgiveness is a process and we do not necessarily reach the highest levels of this process.  If you do not develop positive feelings toward the person, but the strongly negative emotions shrink to manageable levels, then you definitely are on the pathway of forgiving.  Yes, you can continue the process of forgiving with this person, but please know that you are doing well in your forgiving by reducing resentment.

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Giving a gift to the one who hurt me sounds way too difficult. What do you suggest?

Giving a gift to the other in forgiveness occurs in our Process Model later in the process.  You need first to try to think of the one who hurt you in broader ways than just defining that person by the unjust actions.  From there you can practice bearing the pain or standing in the pain so that you do not displace that pain onto the one who hurt you or onto others.  Once you begin to feel stronger as you bear the pain, then you can consider giving a gift to the other.  This might be a smile or a returned email or even a kind word about the person to others. I recommend giving a gift because this is what the moral virtue of forgiveness is on a deep level: being good to the one who was not good to you.

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