Tagged: “Why Forgive?”
I am very frustrated with someone who has hurt me many times. I do want to forgive, but now I am wondering if you would recommend that I first deal with my frustration and anger before I start walking the path of forgiveness.
Let us distinguish between healthy and unhealthy anger. By healthy anger I mean the short-term feeling and expression of discontent over an injustice. We all get angry or sad or disrupted in some way when people are very unjust to us. Such healthy anger shows that we see ourselves as people who should be treated with respect. It is good first to allow yourself this period of experiencing healthy anger before you start the forgiveness process. In contrast, unhealthy anger is a deep feeling of resentment that does not easily go away. It disrupts one’s concentration and energy. You do not want to wait until the unhealthy anger fades because, quite frankly, if you were treated with great unfairness, then it is not likely to fade without going through the forgiveness process. In sum, first allow a period of healthy anger. Start forgiving to reduce or even eliminate unhealthy anger.
My motivation to forgive is to be free of anger. Is this a legitimate motive for forgiveness? I ask because, if forgiveness is a moral virtue, shouldn’t my motivation be for the good of the other person who hurt me?
You are correct that as a virtue, forgiveness needs to be for the other. Yet, it takes time to develop a motivation of goodwill toward someone who was cruel. There is nothing dishonorable about having, as one’s initial motivation, a desire for self-preservation. To use a physical analogy, if your knee is hurting, is it selfish to seek medical help? If our heart is broken, is it selfish to try to mend that broken heart? An initial focus on self that changes to a concern for the other is a typical pathway for growing in the virtue of forgiveness.
Dr. Robert Enright, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been studying the virtue of forgiveness for more than three decades. During that time, dozens of countries have been decimated by domestic infighting or by brutal war brought on by outside political entities. Millions of deaths have resulted.
Yet all the pain and suffering of those conflicts could have been avoided if forgiveness had been understood and employed as one of the options on the peace-keeping and peace-making table, according to Dr. Enright. And while no one can turn back the clock to erase our human frailties, he adds, future geo-political animosity can be curbed and peace achieved through forgiveness and forgiveness education.
“Forgiveness is the Rodney Dangerfield of therapy and politics in that too often it gets no respect,” says Dr. Enright. “This occurs, in my experience, because forgiveness is woefully misunderstood and then angrily dismissed. Such misunderstanding is tragic because it shuts down what may be the most powerful cure for the effects that emerge and remain after injustice rears its unwelcome head in relationships, families, communities, and nations.”
Dr. Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, is considered “the forgiveness trailblazer” (Time magazine – 1995) and “the father of forgiveness research” (Christian Science Monitor – 2002) He developed a 20-Step Process Model of Forgiveness (1993) and demonstrated its effectiveness in projects around the world. Seven years ago, he and psychiatrist Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons developed an empirically-based treatment manual, Forgiveness Therapy, that helped make forgiveness therapy a gold-standard therapeutic treatment like psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioral therapy.
After 35+ years of studying the moral virtue of forgiveness, he says he is convinced that forgiveness is the missing piece to the peace puzzle. He recently outlined his formula for peace in Ukraine and other world locations in three essays that were published this month in Psychology Today, the professional publication that has honored him with a dedicated column for his work:
Summary: A key issue for peace in Eastern Europe is to recognize not just political boundaries, but more importantly, the genuine personhood in people within and across those boundaries—a personhood that is so precious that it transcends nationalism. That can be accomplished through forgiveness education being deliberately incorporated into the schools and houses of worship throughout the region, a process Dr. Enright already has helped establish in more than 30 countries around the world. While forgiveness interventions have been shown in empirically-verified research to lower anger and enhance empathy, this process has yet to be tried in post war, post-accord societies, on a large scale with both children and adults, anywhere on the planet throughout all human history.
2. Why Do People Fear the Cure for the Disease of Resentment? (March 19, 2022)
Summary: Resentment is the deep anger that can be harbored within a person for decades with serious consequences for psychological and physical health. Research by Dr. Enright and others has shown that forgiveness is an empirically verified treatment that reduces that resentment, but which is often misunderstood and therefore rejected. Properly recognized and acknowledged, forgiveness should take its rightful place of front-and-center where there are severe injustices to be healed.
3. Understanding the Role of Forgiveness in Political Conflict (March 20, 2022)
Summary: Forgiveness education never begins during the heat of a political/military conflict but it must be included, instead of being ignored, as a crucial post-conflict building block. Reconstruction following war must focus on rehabilitating the heart, not just the infrastructure. By helping individuals reduce their anger and hatred, they will be more likely to be more open to traditional rehabilitation measures and can be set free from unhealthy resentment that will tamper any ongoing peace efforts. Importantly, people need to be drawn to forgiveness, not forced into it—as emphasized by the title of Dr. Enright’s first self-help book Forgiveness Is a Choice.
“Peace out there in the world is possible only when we have peace inside of us,” Dr. Enright concludes. “Mahatma Gandhi has said that if true peace is ever to be achieved in this world, if we are to make war against war, then we must begin with the children. It is time for forgiveness education to go viral and become ubiquitous.”
To read the complete version of each of Dr. Enright’s posts in Psychology Today, click on its title above.
Tony Hicks was a 14-year-old eighth grade gang member who tried to rob a pizza delivery driver in 1995. That driver, 20-year-old San Diego State University (California) student Tariq Khamisa refused to hand over the pizza so Hicks, at the urging of older gang members, pointed a 9mm handgun at Khamisa and fired—killing him instantly.
Hicks spent the next 24 years in prison for his crime but is now a free man thanks largely to the forgiveness of Khamisa’s father, Azim Khamisa, who says he saw victims on both ends of the gun. In a remarkable story of restorative justice, compassion, and forgiveness, Azim and his daughter Tasreen spoke on behalf of Hicks during his 2018 parole hearing that resulted in his release.
That amazing testimony came about after Azim Khamisa reached out in an act of extraordinary grace and forgiveness to console Hicks’ guardian and grandfather, Ples Felix. When the two men visited a penitent Hicks in prison—a meeting during which Khamisa hugged and forgave Hicks—all three agreed to work together to promote the goals of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation (TKF) that Azim founded shortly after his son’s death.
The mission of the Foundation is to create safer schools and communities by “educating and inspiring children in the restorative principles of accountability, compassion, forgiveness, and peacemaking.” Its Core Values include Integrity, Compassionate Confrontation, and Forgiveness.
“At TKF, we see forgiveness as a process, starting with the acknowledgement that we have been harmed,” says Khamisa. “Through this pain, we tap into the power of forgiveness, the release of resentment. Ultimately, we reach out with love and compassion to the offender.”
TKF services and programs include:
- Peacemaker Assembly – Powerful, interactive school presentations about the consequences of violence and the importance of accountability;
- Restorative Workshops – A 10-session educational series that teaches children how they can manage emotions while practicing compassion and forgiveness;
- Peace Educator Mentoring – One-on-one student mentoring for a school’s most vulnerable students;
- Training Institute – Parent workshops, peace clubs, and others .
According to the TKF website, the organization has delivered more than 500 school presentations, has partnered with more than 300 schools, and is annually reaching more than 10,000 students. Its mentoring program has served more than 2,500 students resulting in a 72% decrease in truancy and a 67% decrease in school disciplinary problems where the program has been implemented.
“Forgiveness brings more balance, peace, compassion and harmony into your life.
As you move beyond the negative experiences of your past you will begin to open up and
create more room to receive more love, joy, happiness, contentment and peace.”
Forgiveness is an important part of all TKF services, according to Tasreen Khamisa who is now the executive director of TKF. She says that while she has forgiven her little brother’s killer, forgiveness did not come either quickly or easily for her.
Although Tasreen’s father, Azim, met and forgave Tony Hicks in 1999, Tasreen was not ready to do so until 2015 — 20 years after her brother’s slaying—when she agreed to meet Hicks at Centinela State Prison (near San Diego). Since that initial meeting, she says, she has forgiven Hicks and has come to see him as a brother.
“I was not there when my father was. And I think that’s OK. Forgiveness is a personal journey,” Tasreen said of her 20-year journey that ended with forgiveness. “I will always love Tariq but I can simultaneously love Tony.”
While Azim Khamisa continues his work with TKF, he has written a book Azim’s Bardo – A Father’s Journey from Murder to Forgiveness. (Editor’s Note: “Bardo” is a Tibetan Buddhist concept Azim came upon shortly after the murder. It is a gap between the end of one life state and the onset of another.) Khamisa has also developed an educational audiovisual program called “Forgiveness – The Crown Jewel of Personal Freedom” in which he writes:
“The forgiveness choice I made in the aftermath of my son’s tragic death has healed me, my family and loved ones. As a result of this work – I enjoy an abundance of personal freedom and am able to contain much joy and compassion in my life. My stress level has almost disappeared. I am confident that this work – followed diligently – can create the same results for you. My best wishes to each of you – who have chosen to courageously embark on this journey and I offer my sincere prayers that the Universe grants you the blessing of forgiveness as it did me!”
Khamisa has also ushered in an extensive “Resources” section on the TKF website that includes links to several of Dr. Robert Enright’s articles promoted through the Great Good Science Center including his step-by-step strategy called “Introducing Kids to Forgiveness” and “How We Think About Forgiveness at Different Ages.”
Newly free from prison, a man who killed at age 14 atones for his past and looks to his future – The San Diego Union-Tribune
Why We Need Forgiveness Education – Psychology Today
Forgiveness Education as a Path to Peace – Corrymeela Magazine (Northern Ireland)
A research study published last month, utilizing Dr. Robert Enright’s forgiveness intervention model, showed that students in college nursing programs would benefit from a forgiveness intervention in the areas of self-care and forgiveness facilitation.
The nursing students, randomly assigned to either an experimental group or a no-contact control group, used Dr. Enright’s book 8 Keys to Forgiveness as the project’s treatment manual. After studying one chapter a week for 8 weeks, the students in the experimental group showed greater improvement in forgiveness compared to those in the control group from the pretest to the posttest which was maintained at the four-week follow-up. In addition, those in the experimental group showed statistically significant decreases in anxiety, depression, and fatigue from pre-testing to both post-testing and follow-up testing periods.
The study was conducted by a team of 8 researchers from the Liberty University School of Nursing (Lynchburg, VA) under the direction of Jichan J. Kim, Associate Professor of Psychology at Liberty. Dr. Kim has been the lead investigator on more than a dozen forgiveness-related studies over the past several years.
This latest study, The Efficacy of a Forgiveness Bibliotherapy: A Randomized Controlled Trial with Nursing Students, was published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing (JHN) on Jan. 10, 2022. JHN is a peer-reviewed quarterly journal with a focus on advancing the science and practice of holistic nursing and healthcare.
“The need for forgiveness education for nursing students has risen dramatically as responsibilities have broadened for nursing professionals,” according to Dr. Kim. “Our study positively demonstrated that the use of bibliotherapy can be a cost-effective way to promote the virtue of forgiveness for nursing students who are likely to be in need of exercising self-care and would have opportunities to facilitate forgiveness for their patients.”
Bibliotherapy, Dr. Kim explained, is a therapeutic approach that uses literature (in this case Dr. Enright’s 8 Keys to Forgiveness) to support good mental health. This study, he added, demonstrated not only the effects of forgiveness, as numerous studies have done in the past, but also the feasibility of using a forgiveness bibliotherapy that can be easily adopted into the existing nursing curriculum.
That same approach has been used by Dr. Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) and the man Time magazine calls “the forgiveness trailblazer,” in a slightly different format over the past two years. Dr. Enright has worked with Dr. Chontay Taylor Glenn, PhD, RN, PMHNP-BC, to enroll a total of eight University of Michigan-Flint nursing students in the IFI’s Forgiveness Therapy training course.
Dr. Glenn is Assistant Professor & Project Director of the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Residency Program at UM-Flint. In addition to incorporating the IFI’s forgiveness training into the curricula for her nursing students, she also developed a program through which nine Flint-area community counselors completed the Forgiveness Therapy online continuing education course. Dr. Kim provided three hour-long training sessions by Zoom as part of that collaborative effort between Dr. Glenn, Dr. Enright, and himself.
The newly trained counselors in Flint are also undertaking an expanded role in their community, according to Dr. Glenn–providing forgiveness education classes and case coordination to Flint-area adolescents who have experienced adverse childhood experiences. The project is funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, MI.
About Dr. Kim
Jichan J. Kim is an Associate Professor of Psychology and the Director of the M.A. in Applied Psychology program at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA. His research interests include the effects of interpersonal and intrapersonal forgiveness as well as the integration of psychology and Christianity.
Dr. Kim has degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (M.S. & Ph.D.), Harvard University (Ed.M.), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div. & M.A.), and City College of New York (B.A.). He also has extensive ministry experience in New York City, Boston, and Madison (WI), serving various age groups in Korean immigrant congregations.
- Nursing Students Research Report Abstract
- Bibliotherapy Defined
- Overview of the IFI’s Forgiveness Therapy Course