Conversations About Forgiveness Facilitator Guide


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The Forgiveness Facilitator Guide provides information on the Campaign for Love & Forgiveness, guidelines for facilitating conversations, thought-provoking essays on forgiveness, discussion questions related to campaign films, and suggested activities.

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Conversations About Forgiveness Facilitator Guide

  2. 2. Table of Contents About this Guide About this Guide ..................................................... 2 This Facilitator Guide is designed to provide you with information, suggestions, and tools Introduction ............................................................. 3 for facilitating conversations about forgiveness Facilitator’s Role ...................................................... 4 in your community, organization, or school. To assist you in your role as facilitator, Conversation Format ............................................... 5 the guide provides three essays that explore forgiveness, suggested video clips (from the Agreements for Conversations public television programs The Power of About Forgiveness ............................................. 7 Forgiveness and Forgiveness: A Time to Love & The Importance of Listening ................................... 7 A Time to Hate), accompanying questions, and ideas for activities. A Participant Handbook Essay: Why Forgive? ............................................... 8 with essays and take-home exercises is available Conversation One: at What is the Nature of Forgiveness? ............... 13 start-conversations. We invite you to use or adapt any of the Conversation Two: material included here so that it works best for Why Forgive? ................................................... 15 you and your group. Essay: The Journey to Forgiveness ....................... 17 We hope that you find this guide useful, and we Conversation Three: thank you for your interest in facilitating these Learning to Forgive .......................................... 21 important conversations. Essay: Forgiving the Unforgivable......................... 23 The Fetzer Institute’s mission to foster aware- ness of the power of love and forgiveness in the Conversation Four: emerging global community, rests on its convic- Forgiving the Unforgivable .............................. 25 tion that efforts to address the world’s critical issues must go beyond political, social, and Letter-Writing Tips ................................................ 28 economic strategies to their psychological and Additional Resources ............................................ 30 spiritual roots. This also reflects founder John Fetzer’s belief that “Love is the core energy that Endnotes................................................................ 34 rules everything, love is the one ingredient that holds us all together.” Forgiveness, a means of removing emotional obstacles to the awarenessFACILITATOR GUIDE of love’s presence, is key to this work. © 2011 Fetzer Institute 2
  3. 3. Conversations About ForgivenessFacilitator GuideIntroductionConversations About Forgiveness grew out Ideally, each facilitator will host at least four Forgiveness will notof the Campaign for Love & Forgiveness, a conversations about forgiveness so that thecommunity engagement project of the Fetzer conversations can deepen over time. You may be possible untilInstitute ( that encouraged choose whether to lead the conversations in compassion is bornpeople to bring love and forgiveness into the suggested order, depending on the experi- in your heart.the heart of individual and community life. ences, needs, and desires of your group. WeThrough facilitated conversations, a robust suggest that the conversations take place over a ´ . —Thích Nhât Hanh inwebsite that offers activities, reflections, and a period of four to 12 weeks, and last at least two The Power of Forgivenessthoughtful curriculum, the campaign touched hours each. This guide for conversation facilita-thousands of people during its four-year run. tors offers video clip suggestions, discussion questions, activity ideas, and a suggested struc-The impact of the conversations was significant. ture for the conversations.More than 75% of conversation participantssurveyed reported they would be more likely to: Between conversations, participants will have the opportunity to practice and add to what• forgive themselves for mistakes they are learning via the essays, suggested• forgive others who are close to them activities, and journaling pages suggested in the• talk with friends or family about forgiveness Participant Handbook. or being more forgiving In keeping with the Fetzer Institute’s belief that• consider how forgiveness could be offered as a individual transformation can lead to societal response to a difficult situation change, we hope that as participants learn about different aspects of forgiveness and practiceThe resources at more forgiveness in their own lives, there will beare available for anyone to use. a ripple effect into communities. For example,The Conversations some communities have created a Garden of Forgiveness. Perhaps there is a difficult issue inThe goal of these conversations is to encourage your community where an intentional focus onparticipants to think and talk about forgive- forgiveness can play a role.ness, with the hope that this will bring aboutmeaningful change in attitudes and behavior.For example, we hope that participants mightchoose to start practicing “small forgivenesses,”or be inspired to write a letter to someone theywould like to forgive. Each conversation hasa specific focus and uses essays and a film clipfrom the PBS documentaries, The Power ofForgiveness or Forgiveness: A Time to Love & ATime to Hate, to spark reflection and dialogue.Both films received funding from the 3
  4. 4. Conversations About Forgiveness Facilitator Guide (continued)About the Films Facilitator’s Role participants explore any internal or external conflicts in a way that models respect for dif-The Power of Forgiveness uses As you bring your own style to these con- fering opinions and the possibility of “agreeingcharacter-driven stories to exam- versations, we are also relying on you to lead to disagree.” If a conflict threatens to derail the the conversations, and create a welcoming, safe,ine the role forgiveness can play group in a way that would not illustrate the and comfortable environment for alleviating anger and grief, as concepts being discussed, or if the conflict is You may want to recognize the courage it takeswell as the physical, mental, and taking up too much of the group’s time, you to share stories and feelings surrounding thespiritual benefits that come with could ask those involved to set aside some topic of forgiveness, and make participants time after the session for further explorationforgiveness. The film is produced aware that the subject matter may trigger or mediation, and make yourself availableby award-winning Journey Films powerful emotions in them. Ask the group to for private conversation on the matter as youwith major funding from the honor these emotions as they arise (e.g., crying are able. You will have to use your judgment is okay and the group can respectfully holdFetzer Institute. in these situations. If someone is consistently space for someone’s tears without needing to disrupting the group, you may ask themMore information is available: do anything). You can also research additional privately to re-evaluate their reasons for resources and offer them to those who may wish ing the conversations. Maintaining safety and to more deeply explore personal issues outside order for the entire group is most important,Forgiveness: A Time to Love & the conversations. (Ideas include informa- of course, even as the constructive explorationA Time to Hate explores the timely, tion about conflict resolution programs and of conflict within the group can be beneficialnearly ubiquitous applications efforts, substance abuse treatment and recovery to everyone’s learning.and limitations of the concept and programs for families and friends of addicts, programs for those experiencing domestic or We include in this guide a suggested list ofpractice of forgiveness through other abuse, mental health resources, etc.) You shared agreements for you and your partici-a compelling range of stories. will likely find that by sharing your thoughts pants. They could be read at the beginningThe film is produced by Paul and experiences, you will be modeling the kind of each conversation, to set the tone and of sharing and conduct that will keep the con- create a framework for sharing, and they canDietrich and award-winning pro- versations respectful, purposeful, and enjoyable. be amended, expanded, or rewritten by yourducer Helen Whitney, with major group, as desired. And since participants willfunding from the Fetzer Institute. If extremely powerful emotions or conflict be doing a lot of listening, there’s also a page should arise among participants, addressingMore information is available: on the nature and value of focused listening. them in a way that honors both those and the group at large will be important. For example, you could take time to have 4 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Facilitator Guide
  5. 5. Conversation Format as forgiveness. The facilitator acts as a group voice at times like this, and you canAs facilitator, you’ll be responsible for making exemplify honest sharing by mentioning anysure that the conversations start and end on feelings that you may have in this momenttime, and follow the format and agenda that about leading the conversations. You mightyou’ve decided on (allowing for changes and also say something brief about why younew directions that may arise as the conversa- chose to facilitate these conversations, andtions progress). Below is a suggested flow for a what you hope to achieve.two-hour conversation. If you and your partici-pants wish to focus your conversations about 5. Invite participants to briefly introduceforgiveness on a specific topic or issue that may themselves. It’s best to keep this concise,be challenging your community, you might with participants stating their names, whereadapt this flow to your own agenda. You also they live (or work, or go to school, etc.,have the opportunity to make the conversations depending on the group’s identity), and aand the suggested activities suit the particular sentence about how they are feeling in themakeup of your group and tailor them with moment about being part of the conversa- Forgiving isregard to culture, age, ethnicity, etc. tion. You can say that there will be more time later for discussion. This kind of not having to1. Prepare. Review this guide and familiarize “lightning check-in” at the beginning of understand. yourself with the concepts. Read the essays and view the clips ahead of time. each conversation allows people to momen- Understanding tarily release whatever thought or feeling2. Arrive early on the day of the conversation. might distract them from being present may come later, Make sure that the room is ready for partici- to the group. An example: “My name is in fragments, an pants (enough chairs, arranged in a circle Lily and I live in Springfield. I’m stressed insight here and or around a table for conversation, proper because I had to rush to get here and I’m ventilation and temperature, water, flip kind of nervous about being here because a glimpse there… charts, paper, writing utensils, working I don’t know what to expect.” —Lewis B. Smedes video/audio equipment, nametags, signs, 6. Announce the format. Give everyone a etc.). It’s important that you feel as relaxed sense of the conversation’s flow and ending as possible in your role, so give yourself time. Remind them where bathrooms are as much time as you need to prepare. and if there are snacks available, and You might take a few moments to center encourage them to take care of themselves yourself before people arrive, and set an during the conversation (stretch if they intention or hold a vision for how you need to, get a drink of water, etc.). You wish to guide the conversation. may wish to build in a break midway.3. Begin the conversation on time. This sets 7. Distribute and review handbooks. At the a precedent and honors those present. first conversation, you might choose to give4. Officially welcome the group and the participants their handbooks, and join introduce yourself. At the first conversation, them in reading aloud the introductions to it’s important to acknowledge the courage the campaign and conversations. You can and goodwill of those who have chosen to also review the format of the handbooks participate. You can also read the mood/ and note the suggested home practices. body language of the group, and acknowl- 8. Read aloud with participants the suggested edge any nervousness or anxiety that people shared agreements in the handbooks or may feel about joining the conversations create your own. This establishes an identity and sharing about something as personal and code of conduct for the group, 5
  6. 6. Conversations About Forgiveness Facilitator Guide (continued) and allows everyone to feel responsible for 11. Lead activities for the conversation. Each honoring it. We have provided a suggested conversation includes a clip from The Power list, which you and your participants can of Forgiveness or Forgiveness: A Time to Love amend and/or expand for your particular & A Time to Hate.This guide includes sug- needs, or use as a reference in creating your gested discussion questions for each clip. own list. It’s a good idea to read the shared Depending on the size of your group, the agreements for at least the first two con- entire time might be taken up by viewing versations. After the agreements are read the clip and having a discussion around the aloud by all who wish to read, you can ask focused questions. You likely also have your whether anyone has a question or need for own ideas for group activities, depending on clarification, and address any of those needs. your conversation format and the group’s make-up. Have a few alternative exercises 9. Center the group. This helps people “land” in mind for anyone who may need them in the room, and invites calm and focus. (e.g., if someone feels uncomfortable about Ideas include: a minute of silence with sharing something personal out loud, theyRather than a favor relaxed or closed eyes (not everyone is could write about the topic instead), and comfortable closing their eyes amongwe do for someone strangers), a brief meditation on breath and give participants permission to skip or alterelse, forgiveness is, body awareness, an invitation to silently any exercises that make them uncomfort- able. You may have to pair with someonefirst and foremost, pray or set an intention, or your own during some of the activities, even as you preferred centering technique. Participantsa favor we do for could also meditate on forgiveness itself— will also be conducting them and keepingourselves. The core where they experience it in the body, how an eye on the time.power of forgiveness it feels, what images or thoughts come to 12. End activities and move to a moment of mind, etc. You could also invite them to silence. This allows everyone to brieflyis that it returns think about a time when they were forgiven “digest” the conversation and identifyto us the power to and how it felt to be forgiven. Afterwards their feelings in the moment. Again, verbalbe happy. you could verbally end the centering, or instructions and/or a soft chime could mark ring a soft chime to bring everyone’s atten- the start of this closing meditation.— Robin Casarjian tion back to the group. Another idea is to 13. Close the conversation with the group. set the tone with a quotation (perhaps from these materials) on the subject of forgive- You and the participants can offer brief ness. You might offer participants the statements about how you feel at the end chance to bring in a quotation of their own of the conversation, and/or what you might for this purpose. take home from the experience. Encourage participants to use their handbooks as a way 10. About the essays. This guide includes to keep the conversation alive and expand three essays: Why Forgive?, The Journey to upon their learning, and invite them to Forgiveness, and Forgiving the Unforgivable. read the next essay in preparation for the These provide background and context upcoming session. Remind everyone of the for the conversations, and include an next conversation date, and stay a few extra overview of relevant research. The first minutes to respond to any questions/com- essay is suggested in conjunction with ments that participants may have. Conversations One and Two, the second with Conversation Three, and the third with Conversation Four. The essays can be read out loud or at home between meetings. 6 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Facilitator Guide
  7. 7. Agreements for Conversations The Importance of ListeningAbout ForgivenessShared agreements among group members As a group, you might take a few minutes tohelp to keep conversations orderly, respectful, discuss the value of listening, and share experi-and conducive to honest sharing. Your group ences where you really felt heard or genuinelymay amend or customize this list, or you might tuned in to someone who needed to be heard.choose instead to brainstorm your own setof agreements. In addition to listening to individuals, it’s Simply put, there important to listen to what is emerging fromYou can vote on your shared agreements at the the discussion. The group will not only be is nothing, nothingfirst conversation, and refer to them as needed sharing ideas, insights, and stories, but they in the world, thatthroughout the remaining conversations. We will also be giving form to an intangible can take the placeinvite you to also consider the power of listen- essence: forgiveness. Short periods of silenting with focused attention as a way to support reflection, especially following periods of of one person inten-all participants in the conversations. intense discussion, give this essence a place tionally listening or in the conversation.1. We agree that any personal information speaking to another. shared in this group is confidential. A discussion about good listening skills — Jacob Needleman might include:2. We intend to balance sharing and listening, allowing everyone to participate, and we’ll • Listening with an open mind and heart. pass whenever we wish. • Allowing others to speak without interruption3. We will allow others to speak without inter- even when we feel impatient to speak. ruption and refrain from giving unsolicited • Accepting that the speaker’s feelings are valid. feedback, advice, or commentary. No matter what we think, we will refrain4. We commit to using “I” statements as often from “correcting” the speaker’s feelings. as possible when we share. • Listening with no agenda other than being5. We will assume good intentions on every- attentive to someone who needs to speak. one’s part, agree that we may disagree at • Imagining that we are speaking and listening times, and learn together about respecting to ourselves. differences. • Listening without trying to solve or fix a6. If an exercise makes us uncomfortable, we problem unless feedback or advice is sought. can skip it or ask the facilitator about an alternative. (Add other skills suggested by the group.)7. We strive to begin and end our conversations on time.8. We will listen with focus and attention.(Add other agreements unique to your group.) 7
  8. 8. Essay: Why Forgive? This essay may be used for Conversations One Drawing from those who’ve studied it, we’ll use and Two and can be read individually or out the following definition as a starting point for loud as a group. understanding and practicing forgiveness: The concept of forgiveness should come Forgiveness is a conscious, willful choice to turn naturally to us. Why? Because we are unique away from the pain, hurt, resentment, and and fallible human beings. Because we make wish for revenge that arises from a betrayal, mistakes. We see the world differently. Our offense, injustice, or deep hurt. Forgiveness preferences, foibles, personalities, and needs involves a willingness to see the transgression differ. Our religions, cultures, and world and transgressor in a larger context, and to views differ. replace negative feelings with compassion and tolerance. These differences, combined with the daily frustrations, hurts, and injustices we witness Robert Enright, PhD, professor of educational and experience throughout our lives, can cause psychology at the University of Wisconsin, us pain and even inflict deep wounds in our Madison, points out that by forgiving “we are hearts and psyches. For those wounds, forgive- acknowledging that the offense was unfair and ness can be a powerful, self-administered salve. will always continue to be unfair. Second, weForgiveness is In fact, research has revealed that forgiveness have a moral right to anger; it is fair to cling can contribute to our health, happiness, and to our view that people do not have a rightboth a decision peace of mind. to hurt us. We have a right to respect. Third,and a real change For some of us, forgiveness isn’t something we forgiveness requires giving up something toin emotional think much about. For others, it is a central life which we have a right—namely our anger or resentment.”1experience. That practice. For many, it is misunderstood. When you think of forgiveness, what is the first thing Forgiveness is an opportunity for transforma-change in emotion that arises? A thought? A feeling? A memory? tion, both individually and collectively. Itis related to better What does forgiveness mean to you? Whatever not only helps relieve mental and emotionalphysical and you think of when you think of forgiveness, anguish, but it offers the possibility for change, it is a starting point for coming to a common for redemption, for restoration—for hope andmental health. understanding of this timeless and powerful even love to blossom from pain and suffering. It— Everett Worthington practice. That is where we will begin. can stop a cycle of hurt and create opportunity where there seemed to be none. Most of all, it If forgiveness is a hard concept for you to grasp, has the potential to heal and open our hearts you aren’t alone. It’s not an easy practice or to love again and more fully, strengthening process, especially if you’re just starting out. and building our capacity for compassion and The first time forgiveness crosses your mind or understanding. lips is just one moment in a process to untangle yourself from the pain and repercussions of For each person, there is a unique history experiencing a hurt, transgression, or injustice. and set of reasons why we choose to forgive or not to forgive. If you’ve experienced someone You may be afraid that forgiving an offense will forgiving you, you likely have an idea why diminish the affront itself. It won’t. Forgiveness this practice is important. If you’ve forgiven is not forgetting. It is not accepting or justify- someone who hurt you and you have felt the ing the offense. It is not pardoning, excusing, tension within you begin to ease, you may condoning, or even reconciling. And you don’t understand the significance of forgiveness. necessarily have to understand the offender or But there is more. the offense to forgive. 8 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Facilitator Guide
  9. 9. Until fairly recently there was little research to Why People Forgive Love is the onlysubstantiate the tangible benefits of forgiveness.In the past decade, however, interest in the According to Robert Enright, the reasons that force capabletopic has exploded both inside and outside people forgive fall into the following eight of transforming categories:academia. Researchers are exploring the role an enemy intoof forgiveness in our health, well-being, andrelationships, and in healing intergroup con- 1. You forgive to quiet your angry feelings. friend.”flict. Through their research, they are finding 2. Forgiveness changes destructive thoughts — Martin Luther King, Jr.effective ways to bring this practice into many into quieter, more healthy thoughts.aspects of our lives. 3. As you forgive, you want to act more civillyGood evidence associates forgiveness withemotional, mental, and physical well-being. toward the one who hurt you.Research has shown that forgiveness can reduce 4. Forgiveness of one person helps you inter-depression and anger, increases hopefulness and act better with others. Perhaps your angerself-confidence, and helps improve the health of with your supervisor has spilled over tomarriages and families.3 Forgiveness educationhas also shown promise in preventing crime by your relationship with children. Forgivingreducing vengeful responses that can lead to your boss would be a gift to your children.criminal acts.4 5. Forgiveness can improve your relationshipIn addition, researchers are testing the use of with the one who hurt you.forgiveness training in reducing and healingintergroup conflict such as that experienced by 6. Your forgiveness actually can help the oneProtestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland who hurt you to see his or her unfairnessor Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda. In a study and take steps to stop it. Your forgivingconducted by Fred Luskin, PhD, co-director of can enhance the character of the one whothe Stanford-Northern Ireland HOPE Project, hurt you.and Reverend Byron Bland, associate director ofthe Stanford Center on International Conflict 7. You forgive because God asks you to do so.and Negotiation, which brought together You forgive as an act of love toward God.Protestants and Catholics from NorthernIreland for group forgiveness training, par- 8. Forgiveness, as an act of kindness andticipants who had family members murdered love toward the one who hurt you, is areported less hurt, anger, stress, and depression moral good regardless of how the otherafter the training, as well as improvement in is responding to you. Loving others, whilephysical vitality and general well-being.5 And protecting yourself from harm, is a morallySouth Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation good thing to do.2Commission (TRC) showed the power of for-giveness to transform a country, help its peopleheal from their injustices and wounds, and looktogether toward a brighter 9
  10. 10. Essay: Why Forgive? (continued) Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chair of the TRC, In a study by the University of Michigan believes that “…to forgive is indeed the best Institute for Social Research, nearly 60 percent form of self-interest since anger, resentment, of Americans reported they had forgiven them- and revenge are corrosive of that summum selves for past mistakes, while almost 75 percent bonum, that greatest good, communal harmony said they felt God had forgiven them.8 “I think that enhances the humanity and personhood of all of us, at one time or another, when we’ve all in the community.”6 made the same mistakes over and over again, have felt that we must be a disappointment in To forgive is also deeply rooted in many of God’s eyes. Yet there’s a remarkably high level the world’s religious teachings, beliefs, and of confidence across the country that God practices. For many, religious beliefs provide forgives us, compared to a much lower level of a roadmap and a resource for forgiveness— forgiveness for oneself and others,” explained a touchstone that helps to deal with what Loren Toussaint, psychologist and author of the otherwise might be too overwhelming. study.9 Religion and spirituality offer a way to see life’s experiences in a larger context. Rituals,Forgiveness According to authors Michael McCullough and Everett Worthington, PhD, executive direc- traditions, and sacred practices help us navigatebreaks the silos tor for A Campaign for Forgiveness Research, the forgiveness process with a greater purposeof a disconnected “The concept of forgiveness has dual natures: and, for many, are a divine guide. a common one and a transcendent one. In thehumanity. common, material world, forgiveness is just As long as we remain imperfect beings, there will be a need to forgive ourselves and others. If— Bonnie Wesorick one more social-psychological phenomenon… forgiveness seems like a faraway concept—too But forgiveness has another nature as well. hard to contemplate—take heart in the exam- It is spiritual, transcendent, timeless.”7 ples of forgiveness all around us, like the Amish community in Pennsylvania who responded to the shooting of ten Amish schoolgirls by forgiv- ing the man responsible. Or Heidi Coffee, who, when she lost her husband to a car accident, invited the man allegedly responsible to her husband Gavin’s memorial service. According to Heidi, Gavin often invoked the saying, “Holding a grudge is like taking poison and waiting for someone to die.”10 The practice of forgiveness holds hope for transforming not only our individual health and well-being, but also the health of our rela- tionships, schools, workplaces, communities, and beyond. While researchers continue to explore why and how forgiveness works in our lives, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, having wit- nessed the power of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation process, believes simply “thereLiesbeth Gerritsen in Forgiveness: A Time to Love & A Time to Hate is no future without forgiveness.” 10 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Facilitator Guide
  11. 11. Different Beliefs “ In the act of forgiveness we are declaring our About Forgiveness faith in the future of a relationship and in the capacity of the wrongdoer to make a new“ The most basic kind of forgivness is ‘forging the other’s indebtedness’ (mechilá). If the beginning on a course that will be different offender has done teshuva [a process requiring from the one that has caused the wrong. the offender to acknowledge their offence, We are saying here is a chance to make a Forgiveness is not a new beginning. It is an act of faith that the express remorse, make restitution, and take single magnanimous steps to prevent repeating the behavior], wrongdoer can change. According to Jesus [Matthew 18:22], we should be ready to do gesture in response and is sincere in his or her repentance, the offended person should offer mechilá; that this not just once, not just seven times, but to an isolated is, the offended person should forgo the debt seventy times seven, without limit—provided, offence; it is part of the offender, relinquish his or her claim it seems Jesus says, your brother or sister who of a continuum of has wronged you is ready to come and confess against the offender. This is not a reconcilia- human engagements tion of heart or an embracing of the offender; the wrong they have committed yet again.” 12 in healing broken it is simply reaching the conclusion that the —Archbishop Desmond Tutu relationships. offender no longer owes me anything for whatever it was that he or she did… — Marina Cantacuzino “ Why is compassion so important? Someone The second kind of forgiveness is…selichá. must take the initiative to move beyond the It is an act of the heart. It is reaching a deeper cycle of old choices and responses that brings understanding of the sinner. It is achieving an more pain and suffering and recognize the empathy for the troubledness of the other. opportunity for a healing response to life itself. Selichá, too, is not a reconciliation or an This is also true of the forgiveness that results embracing of the offender; it is simply reach- from a compassionate heart. Today we face ing the conclusion that the offender, too, is many problems, and the time has come for us human, frail, and deserving of sympathy. It is to think on a deeper human level where we closer to an act of mercy… understand and respect the humanness of everyone. Though we might regard someone The third kind of forgiveness is ‘atonement’ (kappará) or ‘purification’ (tahorá). This is a as an enemy, this enemy is also a human being total wiping away of all sinfulness. It is an who is trapped by his or her own demons and existential cleansing. Kappara is the ultimate who has a right to happiness.” 13 form of forgiveness, but it is only granted —His Holiness, The Dalai Lama by God.” 11 —Rabbi David Blumenthal 11
  12. 12. Essay: Why Forgive? (continued) “ To receive forgiveness from God “ The first step towards forgiveness is to there are three requirements: understand the negativities that are created by non-forgiveness and become aware of the 1. Recognizing the offense itself and its futility and irrationality of nursing grudges. admission before God. We need to understand the law of karmaThe giant pine tree 2. Making a commitment not to repeat and know that the non-forgiveness is against the offense. God, and then sincerely decide to forgive.grows from a tiny Merely understanding the need to forgive issprout. The journey 3. Asking for forgiveness from God. not enough. It is crucial to take a decision toof a thousand miles f the above three conditions are met in I forgive, because it is only then that the wholestarts from beneath sincerity, forgiveness from God is assured. process of unraveling begins. Forgivenessyour feet. Sincerity protects a person from repeating is not an action or emotion, it is something the same offense. If a person is sincere much deeper. It is the state of my being. When—Lao Tzu he will be helped by God not to repeat; in forgiveness happens there is no need to say addition, God will change his punishment anything. It is a state where there is no hatred for the offense into a reward.” 14 or sense of revenge that remains.” 15 — M. Amir Ali, PhD, founder, Institute of —Swami Nikhilananda, director, Islamic Information and Education Chinmaya Miss 12 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Facilitator Guide
  13. 13. Conversation One:What Is the Nature of Forgiveness?Since this is likely the first time that your group The Power of Forgivenessis meeting, you may want to “take the pulse” of “The Amish and Forgiveness” Clipthe participants by doing the following activ-ity. Place individual poster-size flip chart sheets This three-minute clip revisits the Octoberaround the room. Write one of the following 2006 shooting at Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania,statements (or use your own) on each sheet. and explores why the Amish were able toDraw a horizontal line in the middle of each offer forgiveness to the killer’s family. Donaldchart with “agree” on one side and “disagree” Kraybill, PhD, senior fellow, The Young Centeron the other. As people arrive in the room, for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, explains thatgive them stickers or markers and ask them to the Amish are rooted in the forgiveness calledplace a sticker or mark an “x” at the place on for in the Lord’s Prayer and in accepting thethe line that represents their view. (This will will of God.give everyone a quick visual overview of the“pulse” in the room.) Discussion Questions A typical saying, • How do you feel after seeing the video clip? repeated many timesStatements: What is your reaction? in Amish culture,• There is someone I need to forgive. • Kraybill says that Amish children see their is “Forgive, forget,• Not forgiving someone is adding stress parents forgiving or extending forgiveness and that is how they learn about forgiveness. and move on.” to my life. How did you learn about forgiveness? What — Donald Kraybill,• I have been hurt, betrayed, and/or let down. do you think the children in our community author of Amish Grace• I am carrying a burden of pain because learn about forgiveness? What changes would I haven’t forgiven someone. you want to make?• I need to be forgiven for something I did • According to Kraybill, one element that or said. enables the Amish to forgive is the strength of their community, which, he says, helps them• Justice is more important to me than “absorb” hatred and deal with anger, because forgiveness. they don’t need to defend themselves indi-After you have reviewed the shared agreements vidually. How do you think our communityand other logistical issues and centered the might learn to absorb hatred and anger? Howgroup, you may wish to invite comments on the might that help us as individuals?responses. If time permits, you may choose to • What can you learn from the Amish approachdo one of the suggested activities to further to forgiveness? What aspects might you wantexplore the topic. to include in your own life?Video Clips andDiscussion QuestionsSelect and screen one of the following clips.Then lead a discussion using the questionsprovided for the clip or create your own.Depending on your group’s size, you can carryon this discussion with the full group or in pairsor trios of participants, with one member ofeach team reporting highlights of their discus-sion to the entire 13
  14. 14. Conversation One: What Is the Nature of Forgiveness? (continued) Forgiveness: • What is your experience with forgiveness A Time to Love & A Time to Hate within your family or with someone close to you? “Intimate Woundings” Clip • Have you experienced a major loss, upheaval, This 16-minute clip tells the story of Dan Glick or estrangement within your family or a close and his former wife Liesbeth friendship? How did forgiveness or the lack of Gerritsen, a seemingly ideal couple it affect you? with two small children, whose family is torn apart by Liesbeth’s Group Activities decision to leave the family to The following are additional suggested activities start a new life thousands of miles to use as you see fit. away. Earning forgiveness from her husband, son, and daughter Heart Versus Mind is complicated, but not nearly as Begin by asking the group to demonstrate, by difficult as forgiving herself. show of hands, to say how many people think the Amish let their hearts prevail in thinking Discussion Questions about forgiveness. Then how many let their • How do you feel after seeing this clip? minds prevail. Ask the group to talk about what What is your reaction? they think the difference between acting from the heart and acting from the mind. InviteThe search for • Koyla says he doesn’t know if his mother them to consider how they approach forgive- has forgiven herself and, perhaps, that’s whyforgiveness is the she’s seeking forgiveness from her chidren. ness in their own for a healing What do you think? How important is Hand a sheet of paper to each person and askof an ache of the self-forgiveness to the overall process of everyone to make two columns: one titled forgiveness? What’s your experience withhuman heart. self-forgiveness? “Heart” and the other “Mind.” Now invite them to think about a situation where they—Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete • Zoe says that she needs to be careful how need to forgive or be forgiven. (They do not in Forgiveness: A Time to need to share this situation.) Suggest that with she goes about the process of forgiving her Love & A Time to Hate mother because it’s one of the most “damag- that issue in mind, they fill in each column ing things that’s ever happened to me.” What with what their heart says and what their mind would it take for you to forgive someone for says they should do. As a large group, invite an offense you considered to be this damaging? participants to talk about how they approach (After discussing this question, mention to forgiveness and what it would be like to let participants that the next essay provides steps either the heart or mind prevail. to forgiveness, as recommended by a number Close the conversation by going around the of forgiveness experts.) room and asking each participant to share • Dan says that one of the important moments something they learned or want to learn more in this experience was when he looked at his about, allowing people to pass. role in the split and took on some of the blame Encourage participants to review their himself. What do you think of his accepting Participant Handbook, and remind them of some of the blame? Why do you think this was the date of the next conversation. important for him? 14 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Facilitator Guide
  15. 15. Conversation Two:Why Forgive?After welcoming participants, invite them Discussion Questionsto share any insights, thoughts, or meaning- • How do you feel after seeing the clip?ful experiences about forgiveness that have What is your reaction?occurred since the last conversation. To refreshtheir memories, or if participants had not read • Think about a time when you forgave some-the first essay last time, you may wish to begin one or were forgiven. What were the benefitsby discussing the essay, “Why Forgive.” Explain to you?that the focus of the conversation will be based • Think about someone you want to forgive oron your selection of the clips. Play the video who you want to forgive you. How does notclip you’ve selected and follow up with discus- forgiving affect you?sion. If time permits, you may choose to do thesuggested activity to further explore the topic. • In her research, Lawler Row has identified If we let go of characteristics of “forgiving people.” SheVideo Clips and says that they are “a little less aware of the pain in theDiscussion Questions being affected.” What do you think makes memory, we canSelect and screen one of the following clips. it possible for people to reduce the impact have the memory, of injustice or injury?Then lead a discussion using the questions but it doesn’tprovided for the clip or create your own. • Lawler Row says in the film ,“I don’t thinkDepending on your group’s size, you can the severity [of the offense] determines the control us.carry on this discussion with the full group health effects. It’s really how the person is — Alexandra Asseily inor in pairs or trios of participants, with one able to incorporate the experience into their The Power of Forgivenessmember of each team reporting highlights lives.” What do you think she means byof their discussion to the entire group. this statement?The Power of Forgiveness • Worthington says that forgiveness can work hand in hand with justice. What would be a“Forgiveness and Biology” way that this could happen? Choose a situa-This seven-minute clip begins with Everett tion in your community as an example.Worthington, PhD, lecturing about how thebrain’s pleasure center is active during thoughts Forgiveness:of revenge, and then moves to Kathleen Lawler A Time to Love & A Time to HateRow, PhD, professor emerita at the University “The Language of Anger” Clipof Tennessee, who has been researching the In this 23-minute clip, author Terri Jentz tellsbenefits of forgiveness and the traits associated her personal story of being savagely attackedwith “forgiving personalities.” The clip ends while camping as a college student, her searchwith Worthington talking about the relation- for her attacker and justice, and, ultimately,ship between forgiveness and justice. her journey from denial and depression to “righteous anger” and a sense of a purposeful 15
  16. 16. Conversation Two: Why Forgive? (continued) Discussion Questions Group Activity • How do you feel after seeing this clip? Qualities of a Forgiving Person What is your reaction? If time permits, engage the group in the • Terri Jentz described how, after the attack, following activity. she experienced years of feeling paralyzed Ask each participant to talk with the person because she “defaulted” to a forgiveness beside him or her (you may have to partner mode based on religious training. But, she with someone) about someone who they said, it was “an easy forgiveness [and]…was think is a “forgiving person.” They should tremendously detrimental, because it left meWe must develop with this legacy of powerlessness.” What do describe the qualities or personality characteris- tics that person has. Tell participants this isand maintain the you think she means by an “easy forgiveness”? an opportunity to practice focused listening.capacity to forgive. How did granting an “easy forgiveness” affect Each person gets two minutes to speak, Jentz’ feelings about the attack? How was thisHe who is devoid realization important to her? uninterrupted. When the first speaker’s time is up (as indi-cated by timer or facilitator),of the power to • In talking about the community of Redmond, the partners pause in silence, and the firstforgive is devoid of Jentz said, “I felt a profound feeling of for- speaker becomes the listener for two minutes,the power to love. giveness of this community because there was repeating the exercise. so much struggling, just as I had struggledThere is some good to come to terms with what had happened.” Invite participants to share some of the qualities that they described, and encourage discussionin the worst of us How do you think learning about community about how to cultivate those qualities.and some evil in members’ struggles in the aftermath of this event helped Terri? Why do you think she Close the conversation by going around thethe best of us. When was willing to forgive Redmond community room and asking each participant to sharewe discover this, members who had, in some ways, protected something they learned or want to learn more about. (Allow people to pass.)we are less prone to the man accused of the attack?hate our enemies. • Upon realizing the pattern of violence her Encourage participants to read the next essay, attacker had exhibited, Jentz says, “I believe and remind them of the date of the next— Martin Luther King, Jr. that people commit evil deeds sometimes conversation. for the sheer joy of doing it, because they like to do it. And I have to say, then, how can you forgive an act like that?…It’s, indeed, unforgivable.” Are there deeds that are unforgivable? What makes them so? Does the background of the perpetrator or the circumstance of the transgression matter? 16 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Facilitator Guide
  17. 17. Essay:The Journey to ForgivenessThis essay may be used for Conversation Three. Where can you start to incorporate forgive- ness in your life? Perhaps you might forgive aImagine meeting a man for coffee to help you friend who didn’t keep a confidence, a spouseprepare for a presentation. You find out that as who did something hurtful, or a stranger whoteenagers you both hung out at the same ham- spoke harshly.burger stand. Then, as you look into his eyes,it dawns on you—he and his friends beat you One of the seemingly most difficult placesunconscious 25 years ago—because you are gay. to start is with yourself. We are often hardest Forgiveness of self on ourselves, and that can spill out into how emerges when weWhat would you do? Could you forgive him? we approach most aspects of our lives and understand thatIn this case, Matthew Boger did. Boger, our relationships. According to Luskin,floor manager for the Museum of Tolerance “forgiveness of self emerges when we under- even with our ownin Los Angeles, inadvertently came face-to-face stand that even with our own actions we do not actions we do notwith his attacker, former skinhead Tim Zaal, have total control. Everybody makes mistakes. have total control.a volunteer at the museum, who had since We all make bad decisions and act from poorturned his life around. After their first dramatic information…. Being human allows us to offer Everybody makesmeeting, the two didn’t speak for awhile. Then, forgiveness to ourselves, never forgetting that mistakes.Boger said, he realized that forgiveness provided we have resources at our disposal to improve —Fred Luskinthe only way to move forward. Zaal apologized ourselves and help others.”18and, over time, the two developed a friendship. Researchers have established a variety of effec-They now speak to groups about their experi- tive approaches and specific steps to achieveence, both hoping to help end hatred and forgiveness. The bottom line: it begins with andinvoke tolerance.16 requires a willingness to change. It is importantAdmittedly this is a dramatic example of to find the unique approach that best fits you.forgiveness. Not all of us would forgive such a The good news is that studies have shown thatpainful act. As a result of Boger’s gesture, how- there is more than one road to forgiveness.ever, the two men provide a moving exampleof the transformative power of forgiveness. Making a Decision to Forgive Luskin frames it as a choice, a decision toForgiveness is more difficult for some of us reclaim and reframe your story, moving fromthan others. Psychologists who have studied the role of victim to the story’s hero—a personpeople’s tendency to forgive note that there are who, despite suffering, chooses to forgive. Youpersonality traits—such as being empathic and may come to this choice, as Matthew Bogeremotionally engaged with others—that predis- did, because it seems the best option, or to endpose some people to forgiveness. Our genetic your own suffering, or for some other reasonmakeup, our upbringing, and our personal- altogether. Whatever the reason, it marks theity, all contribute to our proclivity to forgive. start of your journey.Regardless of our starting point, however, weeach can learn the steps to forgiveness or how Changing Your Emotionsto forgive, and reap the benefits of better Everett Worthington encourages forgivenessphysical and emotional health and well-being. by getting in touch with emotions andFred Luskin suggests you start by forgiving gaining empathy for the person who hurt you.small things. “Practicing forgiveness,” he writes, “Forgiveness occurs,” he notes, “by emotional“allows us to develop forgiveness muscles in the replacement,”19 substituting the emotions ofsame way that going to the gym develops physi-cal muscles.” 17
  18. 18. Essay: The Journey to Forgiveness (continued) unforgiveness—anger, bitterness, resentment— person’s behavior, and recognizing that their with emotions of forgiveness, such as empathy primary motivation was likely not to cause you and compassion. pain, but rather reflects their own issues and needs, can be helpful. Worthington himself used the process he devel- oped and studied to forgive an overwhelming This doesn’t mean that forgiveness supplants personal tragedy—his mother’s murder. In justice or condones what was done. Seeking his book Five Steps to Forgiveness, he explains, reconciliation and justice are separate choices “…trauma seems to cause the emotional you can make at any point along the way. centers of the brain to become extremely active, When it comes to reacting to devastating and it changes emotional experience strongly. events in our lives, it’s important to be gentle Imagining a traumatic scene and pairing it with with ourselves. Dark feelings may arise in the emotion of compassion most likely repro- response to hurt or betrayal, which is perfectly grammed my emotions of rage and fear.”20 normal. Holding on to or feeding these feelings There are common elements to the various is what causes us to remain stuck in a pattern approaches to forgiveness that researchers of pain and anger. Forgiveness is one of the first have developed. Clearly, we must acknowledge steps to our healing as we try to move on withIt’s not a quick fix. the transgression, the hurt, anger, and other our lives after a painful or traumatic event. emotions that arise in response to it. DenyingWe can’t give some- or ignoring any part of our experience inhibits It’s also important to understand that recover- ing from the pain you experienced takes a forgiveness our ability to move beyond the pain of the Neither emotional recovery nor forgiveness canpill and then they event itself. be rushed. Sometimes we feel the need to takesmile and hug Depending on the magnitude of the transgres- the high road and put on a strong front, only sion, forgiveness frequently requires finding to find later that the hurt is still there; we justeach other. people to support you. Our culture, particularly built a moat around it. Instead, the fortifi-— Robert Enright in popular media, often feeds and glorifies the cation we constructed keeps the hurt inside The Power of Forgiveness notion of revenge. Family and friends may be and, ironically, prevents us from being able overly protective, suffer from hurt and anger to receive support. for what was done to you, and seek revenge If talking about what happened is too difficult, on your behalf. Finding people who can listen journaling may help. According to studies by without judgment and help you consider psychologist James W. Pennebaker and his col- forgiveness as an option is important to leagues, writing about difficulties in our lives the process. correlates with improved health and mood, Worthington points out that “people who hurt even raising immunity.22 Journaling might or offend us often do so because they’re condi- provide a way to get another perspective on tioned by their past.”21 Looking at the offender emotions and events. as a whole person, with a history that led them Whatever road you choose to travel, forgiveness to behave the way they did and immediate is possible. Find a road map that fits you, and circumstances that may have fueled their behav- begin. It may be one of the greatest gifts you ior, allows a seed of empathy to be planted. give yourself. And the results of your efforts When we can see others’ vulnerability, pain, may surprise you. and difficulties, it’s easier to build a context for their actions and, perhaps, see that all of us are capable and guilty of hurting others in some way at some time. Trying not to judge the other 18 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Facilitator Guide
  19. 19. Steps to Forgiveness from 5. At the moment you feel upset, practice a Leading Researchers simple stress management technique to soothe your body’s flight or fight response. The following provides a glimpse into the for- giveness processes put forth by experts in the 6. Give up expecting things from other people, field. We encourage you to consult their books, or your life, that they do not choose to give listed below, for complete details. you. Recognize the “unenforceable rules” you have for your health or how you or other Nine Steps to Forgiveness people must behave. Remind yourself that All people are (From Fred Luskin’s “Learning to Forgive” you can hope for health, love, peace, and website: capable of being prosperity and work hard to get them. See also Forgive for Good: A Proven perpetrators or 7. Put your energy into looking for another way Prescription for Health and Happiness.) victims—and to get your positive goals met than through 1. Know exactly how you feel about what hap- the experience that has hurt you. Instead of sometimes both. pened and be able to articulate what about mentally replaying your hurt, seek out new — Father Michael Lapsley the situation is not OK. Then, tell a trusted ways to get what you want. couple of people about your experience. 8. Remember that a life well lived is your 2. Make a commitment to yourself to do what best revenge. Instead of focusing on your you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is wounded feelings, and thereby giving the for you and not for anyone else. person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty, and 3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean kindness around you. Forgiveness is about reconciliation with the person that hurt you, personal power. or condoning of their action. What you are after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be 9. Amend your grievance story to remind you defined as the “peace and understanding of the heroic choice to forgive. that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less per- sonally, and changing your grievance story.” 4. Get the right perspective on what is happen- ing. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts, and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes—or 10 years—ago. Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt 19
  20. 20. Essay: The Journey to Forgiveness (continued) Guideposts for Forgiving Phase 3: Working on forgiveness. Simply making a decision to forgive isn’t (From Robert Enright’s Forgiveness Is a Choice: enough. People need to take concrete A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger actions to make their forgiveness real. This and Restoring Hope, pp. 78, 79.) phase culminates with the giving of a moral gift to the one who hurt you. Phase I: Uncovering your anger. To forgive, you must be willing to examine Phase 4: Discovery and release how much anger you have as a result of from emotional prison. someone else’s unfairness toward you. Unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, and anger are like the four walls of a prison cell. Phase 2: Deciding to forgive. Forgiveness is the key that opens the door Forgiveness requires a decision and and lets you out of that cell. a commitment. The Pyramid Model of REACH Forgiveness From Everett Worthington’s Five Steps to Forgiveness: The Art and Science of Forgiveness, p. 38 Hold on to ForgivenessThe weak can neverforgive. Forgiveness Commit Publiclyis an attribute of to Forgivethe strong.— Mahatma Gandhi Altruistic Gift of Forgiveness Empathize Recall the Hurt 20 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Facilitator Guide