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Conversations About Forgiveness Guide


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The Forgiveness Participant Handbooks include essays on forgiveness, and suggested home practices.

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Conversations About Forgiveness Guide

  2. 2. Table of Contents Introduction Introduction.............................................................. 2 Conversations About Forgiveness grew out of the Campaign for Love & Forgiveness, a Introducing.the.Conversations................................. 3 community engagement project of the Fetzer Participant’s.Role..................................................... 3 Institute ( that encouraged people to bring love and forgiveness into Agreements.for.Conversations.. the heart of individual and community life. . About.Forgiveness.............................................. 4 Through facilitated conversations and a robust website offering activities, reflections, and a core The.Importance.of.Listening.................................... 4 curriculum, the campaign touched thousands Essay:.Why.Forgive?................................................ 5 of people during its four-year run. Suggested.Home.Practices.................................... 10 The impact of the conversations was significant. More than 75% of conversation participants 13 surveyed reported they would be more likely to: Suggested.Home.Practices.................................... 17 • forgive themselves for mistakes Essay:.Forgiving.the.Unforgivable......................... 20 • forgive others who are close to them Suggested.Home.Practices.................................... 22. • talk with friends or family about forgiveness or being more forgiving Letter-Writing.Tips................................................. 24 • consider how forgiveness could be offered as Additional.Resources............................................. 25 a response to a difficult situation Endnotes................................................................ 30 We invite you to use this handbook and other resources available at loveandforgive to bring more forgiveness and love into your life. The Fetzer Institute’s mission to foster aware- ness of the power of love and forgiveness in thePARTICIPANT HANDBOOK emerging global community, rests on its convic- tion that efforts to address the world’s critical issues must go beyond political, social, and economic strategies to their psychological and spiritual roots. This also reflects founder John Fetzer’s belief that “Love is the core energy that rules everything, love is the one ingredient that holds us all together.” Forgiveness, a means of removing emotional obstacles to the awareness of love’s presence, is key to this work. ©.2011.Fetzer.Institute 2
  3. 3. Conversations About ForgivenessParticipant HandbookIntroducing the Conversations Rather than a favorThis handbook supports conversations about we do for someoneforgiveness. Three essays serve as backgroundfor the conversations, helping to explain why else, forgiveness is,and how to practice forgiveness. Each conver- first and foremost,sation uses the essays and a film clip from the a favor we do forPBS documentaries, The Power of Forgiveness orForgiveness: A Time to Love and A Time to Hate, ourselves. The coreto spark reflection and dialogue. Both films power of forgivenessreceived funding from the Fetzer Institute. is that it returnsParticipant’s Role to us the power toYour willingness to join these conversations be happy.indicates that you have an interest in exploring —.Robin.Casarjianthe power of forgiveness in your own life. Thishandbook includes a suggested list of sharedagreements for your group, to keep the conver-sations safe, respectful, and orderly. We hopethat you will feel comfortable sharing yourexperiences of forgiveness in a way that honorsyour own need for privacy and discretion,while at the same time offering insights andsharing experiences and stories that will giveyou opportunities to delve deeper into thetopic and inspire others.You may find during the course of these con-versations that you touch upon issues in yourlife that could benefit from outside counseling.Your facilitator may have referrals or suggestionsfor following up on those issues.Also in this handbook are “practices” that youcan try at home, to keep the conversations alivefor you between meetings and to see what kindof impact they can have on your life in general.In looking at the suggested home practices, youmight try picking the ones that most appealto you and at least one that feels challenging.It is likely that those around you will feel theeffects of your involvement in this work, evenif you do not discuss it with them, and that itwill awaken you to the power of forgiveness totransform your 3
  4. 4. Conversations About Forgiveness Participant Handbook (continued) Agreements for Conversations The Importance of Listening About Forgiveness Shared agreements among group members As a group, you might take a few minutes to help 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 genuinely may amend or customize this list, or you might tuned in to someone who needed to be heard. choose instead to brainstorm your own setSimply put, there of agreements. In addition to listening to individuals, it’s im- portant to listen to what is emerging from theis nothing, nothing 1. We agree that any personal information discussion. The group will not only be sharingin the world, that shared in this group is confidential. ideas, insights, and stories, but they will also becan take the place 2. We intend to balance sharing and listening, giving form to an intangible essence: forgive- ness. Short periods of silent reflection, especiallyof one person inten- allowing everyone to participate, and we’ll following periods of intense discussion, give this pass whenever we wish.tionally listening or essence a place in the conversation. 3. We will allow others to speak without inter-speaking to another. ruption and refrain from giving unsolicited A discussion about good listening skills—.Jacob.Needleman. might include: feedback, advice, or commentary. • Listening with an open mind and heart. 4. We commit to using “I” statements as often as possible when we share. • Allowing others to speak without interruption even when we feel impatient to speak. 5. We will assume good intentions on every- one’s part, agree that we may disagree at • Accepting that the speaker’s feelings are valid. times, and learn together about respecting No matter what we think, we will refrain differences. from “correcting” the speaker‘s feelings. 6. If an exercise makes us uncomfortable, we • Listening with no agenda other than being can skip it or ask the facilitator about an attentive to someone who needs to speak. alternative. • Imagining that we are speaking and listening 7. We strive to begin and end our conversations to ourselves. on time. • Listening without trying to solve or fix a 8. We will listen with focus and attention. problem unless feedback or advice is sought. (Add other agreements unique to your group.) (Add other skills suggested by your group.) 4 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Participant Guide
  5. 5. Essay:Why Forgive?The concept of forgiveness should come Drawing from those who’ve studied it, we’ll usenaturally to us. Why? Because we are unique the following definition as a starting point forand fallible human beings. Because we make understanding and practicing forgiveness:mistakes. We see the world differently. Our Forgiveness is a conscious, willful choice to turnpreferences, foibles, personalities, and needs away from the pain, hurt, resentment, anddiffer. Our religions, cultures, and world wish for revenge that arises from a betrayal,views differ. offense, injustice, or deep hurt. ForgivenessThese differences, combined with the daily involves a willingness to see the transgressionfrustrations, hurts, and injustices we witness and transgressor in a larger context, and toand experience throughout our lives, can cause replace negative feelings with compassionus pain and even inflict deep wounds in our and tolerance.hearts and psyches. For those wounds, forgive- Robert Enright, PhD, professor of educationalness can be a powerful, self-administered salve. psychology at the University of Wisconsin,In fact, research has revealed that forgiveness Madison, points out that by forgiving “we arecan contribute to our health, happiness, and acknowledging that the offense was unfair andpeace of mind. will always continue to be unfair. Second, weFor some of us, forgiveness isn’t something we have a moral right to anger; it is fair to clingthink much about. For others, it is a central life to our view that people do not have a right Forgiveness is bothpractice. For many, it is misunderstood. When to hurt us. We have a right to respect. Third,you think of forgiveness, what is the first thing forgiveness requires giving up something to a decision and athat arises? A thought? A feeling? A memory? which we have a right—namely our anger or real change in emo-What does forgiveness mean to you? Whatever resentment.”1 tional think of when you think of forgiveness,it is a starting point for coming to a common Forgiveness is an opportunity for transforma- That change in tion, both individually and collectively. Itunderstanding of this timeless and powerful not only helps relieve mental and emotional emotion is related topractice. That is where we will begin. anguish, but it offers the possibility for change, better physical andIf forgiveness is a hard concept for you to grasp, for redemption, for restoration—for hope and mental aren’t alone. It’s not an easy practice or even love to blossom from pain and suffering. It —.Everett.Worthingtonprocess, especially if you’re just starting out. can stop a cycle of hurt and create opportunityThe first time forgiveness crosses your mind or where there seemed to be none. Most of all, itlips is just one moment in a process to untangle has the potential to heal and open our heartsyourself from the pain and repercussions of to love again and more fully, strengtheningexperiencing a hurt, transgression, or injustice. and building our capacity for compassion and understanding.You may be afraid that forgiving an offense willdiminish the affront itself. It won’t. Forgiveness For each person, there is a unique historyis not forgetting. It is not accepting or justify- and set of reasons why we choose to forgive oring the offense. It is not pardoning, excusing, not to forgive. If you’ve experienced someonecondoning, or even reconciling. And you don’t forgiving you, you likely have an idea whynecessarily have to understand the offender or this practice is important. If you’ve forgiventhe offense to forgive. someone who hurt you and you have felt the tension within you begin to ease, you may understand the significance of forgiveness. But there is 5
  6. 6. Essay: Why Forgive? (continued)Why People Forgive Until fairly recently there was little research to substantiate the tangible benefits of,.the.reasons.that. In the past decade, however, interest in the.people.forgive.fall.into.the.following.eight.categories: topic has exploded both inside and outside academia. Researchers are exploring the role1. of forgiveness in our health, well-being, and relationships, and in healing intergroup con-2..Forgiveness.changes.destructive.thoughts. flict. Through their research, they are finding into.quieter,.more.healthy.thoughts. effective ways to bring this practice into many aspects of our lives.3., Good evidence associates forgiveness with emotional, mental, and physical well-being.4. Research has shown that forgiveness can reduce act.better.with.others..Perhaps.your.anger. depression and anger, increases hopefulness and self-confidence, and helps improve the health of your.relationship.with.children..Forgiving. marriages and families.3 Forgiveness education has also shown promise in preventing crime by reducing vengeful responses that can lead to5. Forgiveness.can.improve.your.relationship. criminal acts.4 In addition, researchers are testing the use of6. forgiveness training in reducing and healing intergroup conflict such as that experienced by Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland or Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda. In a study conducted by Fred Luskin, PhD, co-director of the Stanford-Northern Ireland HOPE Project, and Reverend Byron Bland, associate director of7. the Stanford Center on International Conflict and Negotiation, which brought together8. Forgiveness, Protestants and Catholics from Northern,.is.a. Ireland for group forgiveness training, par- ticipants who had family members murdered reported less hurt, anger, stress, and depression,.while. after the training, as well as improvement in protecting.yourself.from.harm,.is.a.morally.. physical vitality and general well-being.5 And South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) showed the power of for- giveness to transform a country, help its people heal from their injustices and wounds, and look together toward a brighter future.6 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Participant Guide
  7. 7. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chair of the TRC, As long as we remain imperfect beings, there Forgiveness is not abelieves that “…to forgive is indeed the best will be a need to forgive ourselves and others. Ifform of self-interest since anger, resentment, forgiveness seems like a faraway concept—too single magnanimousand revenge are corrosive of that summum hard to contemplate—take heart in the exam- gesture in response tobonum, that greatest good, communal harmony ples of forgiveness all around us, like the Amish an isolated offence;that enhances the humanity and personhood of community in Pennsylvania who responded toall in the community.”6 the shooting of ten Amish schoolgirls by forgiv- it is part of a con-To forgive is also deeply rooted in many of ing the man responsible. Or Heidi Coffee, who, tinuum of human when she lost her husband to a car accident,the world’s religious teachings, beliefs, and invited the man allegedly responsible to her engagements inpractices. For many, religious beliefs provide husband Gavin’s memorial service. According healing brokena roadmap and a resource for forgiveness—atouchstone that helps to deal with what other- to Heidi, Gavin often invoked the saying, relationships. “Holding a grudge is like taking poison andwise might be too overwhelming. —.Marina.Cantacuzino waiting for someone to die.”10According to authors Michael McCullough and The practice of forgiveness holds hope forEverett Worthington, PhD, executive direc- transforming not only our individual healthtor for A Campaign for Forgiveness Research, and well-being, but also the health of our rela-“The concept of forgiveness has dual natures: tionships, schools, workplaces, communities,a common one and a transcendent one. In the and beyond. While researchers continue tocommon, material world, forgiveness is just explore why and how forgiveness works in ourone more social-psychological phenomenon… lives, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, having wit-But forgiveness has another nature as well. It is nessed the power of South Africa’s Truth andspiritual, transcendent, timeless.”7 Reconciliation process, believes simply “thereIn a study by the University of Michigan is no future without forgiveness.”Institute for Social Research, nearly 60 percentof Americans reported they had forgiven them-selves for past mistakes, while almost 75 percentsaid they felt God had forgiven them.8 “I thinkall of us, at one time or another, when we’vemade the same mistakes over and over again,have felt that we must be a disappointment inGod’s eyes. Yet there’s a remarkably high levelof confidence across the country that Godforgives us, compared to a much lower level offorgiveness for oneself and others,” explainedLoren Toussaint, psychologist and author of thestudy.9 Religion and spirituality offer a way tosee life’s experiences in a larger context. Rituals,traditions, and sacred practices help us navigatethe forgiveness process with a greater purposeand, for many, are a divine guide. A Time to Love and a Time to 7
  8. 8. Essay: Why Forgive? (continued) Different Beliefs “ In.the.act.of.forgiveness.we.are.declaring.our. About Forgiveness “‘forging. the.other’s.indebtedness’.(mechilá)..If.the. offender.has.done.teshuva.[a.process.requiring.,. express.remorse,.make.restitution,.and.take.],.,.the. [Matthew.18:22], offended.person.should.offer.mechilá;.that. this.not.just.once,,.but. is,.the.offended.person.should.forgo.the.debt.,.without.limit—provided,. it.seems.Jesus.says, of.the.offender,.relinquish.his.or.her.claim. the silos the.wrong.they.have.committed.yet.again.” 12.;.of a disconnected . —Archbishop..Desmond.Tutu.humanity.—.Bonnie.Wesorick… “…selichá.. cycle.of.old.choices.and.responses.that.brings.. more.pain.and.suffering.and.recognize.the. empathy.for.the.troubledness.of.the.other.. Selichá,.too, embracing.of.the.offender; from.a.compassionate.heart..Today.we.face. ing.the.conclusion.that.the.offender,.too,.is. many.problems, human,.frail, to.think.on.a.deeper.human.level.where.we..…. understand.and.respect.the.humanness.of. everyone..Though.we.might.regard.someone.‘atonement’. (kappará).or.‘purification’.(tahorá),” 13. form.of.forgiveness, . —His.Holiness,.The.Dalai.Lama by.God.” 11. . —Rabbi.David.Blumenthal 8 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Participant Guide
  9. 9. “ To.receive.forgiveness.from.God. “ The giant pine tree there.are.three.requirements: understand.the.negativities.that.are.. grows from a tiny 1..Recognizing.the.offense.itself.and.its. aware.of.the.futility.and.irrationality.of. sprout. The journey admission.before.God. of a thousand miles. starts from beneath the.offense.,.and.then. your feet. —Lao.Tzu. 3..Asking.for.forgiveness.from.God. I,. sincerity, Sincerity.protects.a.person.from.repeating. process.of.unraveling.begins..Forgiveness.,;.in. addition,.God.will.change.his.punishment. for.the.offense.into.a.reward.” 14. —.M..Amir.Ali,.PhD,.founder,.Institute.of... . .Islamic.Information.and.Education. that.remains.” 15 . —Swami.Nikhilananda,.director,.. . 9
  10. 10. Consider this: Suggested Home PracticesWhy Forgive?,.write,.draw.a. picture, . •. . •,,,.unjust,. . and/ . • . • . • . • . • 2.,.hurt,,.mind,.and.spirit?,—,,,,,, 5..The.essay.makes.note.of.some.religions’.views.about.forgiveness..How.does.your..religion,.spiritual. practice,.or.personal.philosophy.approach.forgiveness?“forgiving”.person?.Describe.that.person’s. personality,.behavior, you.admire?, 7... tart.a.conversation.with.friends,.co-workers,.family.members, S ness..Use.the.“Conversation.Starters” 10 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Participant Guide
  11. 11. Journaling/Drawing/Scrapbook Page It’s not a quick fix. We can’t give some- one a forgiveness pill and then they smile and hug each other. — . The Power of Forgiveness Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it. — 11
  12. 12. Consider this: Conversation Starters Use the following “Conversation Starters” to initiate conversations with friends, co-workers, family members, or others about love and forgiveness. Feel free to adapt these and add your own. What does forgiveness mean to you? What different kinds of love (e.g., love of animals, nature, family) do you have in your life?Forgiving isnot having tounderstand. What effect has forgivingUnderstanding someone had on you?may come later,in fragments, an What effect has NOT forgivinginsight here and someone had on you?a glimpse there…—.Lewis.B..Smedes What makes it hard for you to forgive? Describe a loving thing someone did for you recently at work, at home, or in public. What do you think is the connection between love and forgiveness? What is a loving thing that you did recently for someone you know? Someone you don’t know? 12 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Participant Guide
  13. 13. Essay:The Journey to ForgivenessImagine meeting a man for coffee to help you who didn’t keep a confidence, a spouse whoprepare for a presentation. You find out that as did something hurtful, or a stranger who spoketeenagers you both hung out at the same ham- harshly.burger stand. Then, as you look into his eyes, One of the seemingly most difficult placesit dawns on you—he and his friends beat you to start is with yourself. We are often hardestunconscious 25 years ago—because you are gay. on ourselves, and that can spill out into howWhat would you do? Could you forgive him? we approach most aspects of our lives and our relationships. According to Luskin,In this case, Matthew Boger did. Boger, floor “forgiveness of self emerges when we under-manager for the Museum of Tolerance in Los stand that even with our own actions we do notAngeles, inadvertently came face-to-face with have total control. Everybody makes mistakes.his attacker, former skinhead Tim Zaal, a volun- We all make bad decisions and act from poorteer at the museum, who had since turned his information…. Being human allows us to offerlife around. After their first dramatic meeting, forgiveness to ourselves, never forgetting thatthe two didn’t speak for awhile. Then, Boger we have resources at our disposal to improvesaid, he realized that forgiveness provided the ourselves and help others.”18only way to move forward. Zaal apologized and,over time, the two developed a friendship. They Researchers have established a variety of effec- A typical saying,now speak to groups about their experience, tive approaches and specific steps to achieveboth hoping to help end hatred and invoke forgiveness. The bottom line: it begins with and repeated many timestolerance.16 requires a willingness to change. It is important in Amish culture,Admittedly this is a dramatic example of to find the unique approach that best fits you. is “Forgive, forget, The good news is that studies have shown thatforgiveness. Not all of us would forgive such a there is more than one road to forgiveness. and move on.”painful act. As a result of Boger’s gesture, how- —.Donald.Kraybill,..ever, the two men provide a moving example of Making a Decision to Forgive . author.of.Amish Gracethe transformative power of forgiveness. 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 to Changing Your Emotionsforgive, and reap the benefits of better physical Everett Worthington encourages forgivenessand 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- unforgiveness—anger, bitterness, resentment—cal muscles.”17 with emotions of forgiveness, such as empathy and compassion.Where can you start to incorporate forgivenessin your life? Perhaps you might forgive a 13
  14. 14. Essay: The Journey to Forgiveness (continued) Worthington himself used the process he devel- This doesn’t mean that forgiveness supplants oped and studied to forgive an overwhelming justice or condones what was done. Seeking personal tragedy—his mother’s murder. In reconciliation and justice are separate choices his book Five Steps to Forgiveness, he explains, you can make at any point along the way. “…trauma seems to cause the emotional When it comes to reacting to devastating events centers of the brain to become extremely active, in our lives, it’s important to be gentle with and it changes emotional experience strongly. ourselves. Dark feelings may arise in response Imagining a traumatic scene and pairing it with to hurt or betrayal, which is perfectly normal. the emotion of compassion most likely repro- Holding on to or feeding these feelings is what grammed my emotions of rage and fear.”20 causes us to remain stuck in a pattern of painWe must develop There are common elements to the various and anger. Forgiveness is one of the first steps toand maintain the approaches to forgiveness that researchers have our healing as we try to move on with our lives developed. Clearly, we must acknowledge the after a painful or traumatic event.capacity to forgive. transgression, the hurt, anger, and other emo- It’s also important to understand that recover-He who is devoid tions that arise in response to it. Denying or ing from the pain you experienced takes time.of the power to ignoring any part of our experience inhibits Neither emotional recovery nor forgiveness can our ability to move beyond the pain of theforgive is devoid of event itself. be rushed. Sometimes we feel the need to take the high road and put on a strong front, onlythe power to love. Depending on the magnitude of the transgres- to find later that the hurt is still there; we justThere is some good sion, forgiveness frequently requires finding built a moat around it. Instead, the fortifi-in the worst of us people to support you. Our culture, particularly cation we constructed keeps the hurt inside popular media, often feeds and glorifies the and, ironically, prevents us from being ableand some evil in notion of revenge. Family and friends may be to receive support.the best of us. When overly protective, suffer from hurt and anger If talking about what happened is too difficult,we discover this, for what was done to you, and seek revenge journaling may help. According to studies by on your behalf. Finding people who can listenwe are less prone to without judgment and help you consider psychologist James W. Pennebaker and his col- leagues, writing about difficulties in our liveshate our enemies. forgiveness as an option is important to correlates with improved health and mood,—.Martin.Luther.King,.Jr. the process. even raising immunity.22 Journaling might Worthington points out that “people who hurt provide a way to get another perspective on or offend us often do so because they’re condi- emotions and events. tioned by their past.”21 Looking at the offender Whatever road you choose to travel, forgiveness as a whole person, with a history that led them is possible. Find a road map that fits you, and to behave the way they did and immediate begin. It may be one of the greatest gifts you circumstances that may have fueled their behav- give yourself. And the results of your efforts ior, allows a seed of empathy to be planted. may surprise you. When we can see others’ vulnerability, pain, 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 person’s behavior, and recognizing that their primary motivation was likely not to cause you pain, but rather reflects their own issues and needs, can be helpful. 14 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Participant Guide
  15. 15. Steps to Forgiveness from 5.,.practice.a. Leading Researchers soothe.your.body’s.flight.or.fight.response.. The.following.provides.a.glimpse.into.the.for- 6..Give.up.expecting.things.from.other.people,.,., listed.below,.for.complete.details. you..Recognize.the.“unenforceable.rules”. Nine Steps to Forgiveness people.must.behave..Remind.yourself.that. (From.Fred.Luskin’s.“”..,.love,.peace,.and. See.also.Forgive for Good: A Proven 7. Prescription for Health and Happiness.) to.get.your.positive.goals.met.than.through. mentally.replaying.your.hurt, The weak can never,.tell.a.trusted. forgive. Forgiveness couple.of.people.about.your.experience.. 8. is an attribute of 2. best.revenge..Instead..of.focusing.on.your. the strong. wounded.feelings, —.Mahatma.Gandhi you,,.beauty,.and. 3. Forgiveness.does.not.necessarily.mean.,. personal.power.. 9.“peace.and.understanding. that.come.from.blaming.that.which.has.hurt. you.less, sonally,.and.changing.your.grievance.story.” 4. coming.from.the.hurt.feelings,.thoughts,..,. minutes—or.10.years—ago..Forgiveness. 15
  16. 16. Essay:The Journey to Forgiveness (continued)Guideposts for Forgiving Phase 3: Working on forgiveness.’t.(From.Robert.Enright’s.Forgiveness Is a Choice: Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger Restoring Hope,.pp..78,.79.) I: Uncovering your anger.To.forgive, Phase 4: Discovery and from emotional prison.someone.else’ Unforgiveness,.bitterness,.resentment,.and. 2: Deciding to forgive. Pyramid Model of REACH ForgivenessFrom.Everett.Worthington’s..Five Steps to Forgiveness:The Art and Scienceof Forgiveness,.p..38 Hold on to Forgiveness Commit Publicly to Forgive Altruistic Gift of Forgiveness Empathize Recall the Hurt16 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Participant Guide
  17. 17. Consider this:Suggested Home Practices1. We usually think of people who2. have hurt us as .forgive..Write.or.record.a.short.description.of.the.situation.from.your.perspective..Now.. evil people. We . see them in black person’s.perspective..How.are.the.two.stories.different? .situation.from.the.other.person’s.perspective? . capes, intent on inflicting pain.3. In most cases, though, people4.“small. .forgivenesses”, are simply caught, up in the situation.’ —.Everett.Worthington,,,.. .,.scents,.. .— .,,.you.may.., .forgive.yourself.or.others? 17
  18. 18. Consider this…Cost /Benefit WorksheetThe Costs and Benefits of If I don’t forgive the person:• I.feel. ____________________________________ when.I.think.of.the.person.and.the.situation.• .• I.think.about.the.person.and.the.situation:. h.all.the.time...h often...h sometimes...h never.• Yes...h No•’ Yes...h No• Yes...h No• Yes...h No• Yes...h NoPotential Benefits: If I forgive the person, I will:• h Yes...h No• Yes...h No•’’t.take.future.situations.personally.... h Yes...h No• . . h Yes...h No• Yes...h No• Feel.a.physical.sense.of.relief....h Yes...h No• Find.peace....h Yes...h No• Yes...h No18 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Participant Guide
  19. 19. Consider this…Steps to Forgiveness WorksheetMy Steps to Forgiveness is man’s deepest need and highest achievement. — 19
  20. 20. Essay: Forgiving the Unforgivable Sometimes the enormity and brutality of an the Holocaust, atrocities of Cambodia, offense overwhelm us, and we deem such acts Rwanda, 9/11, rape, murder, or even the Enron unforgivable. Events such as the Holocaust, debacle be forgiven? Should they? What would 9/11, or the Rwandan massacres spill out forgiveness accomplish in such situations? and touch many lives beyond those directly In No Future Without Forgiveness, Archbishop… almost never affected. The pain and repercussions of even Desmond Tutu writes about “ubuntu”—an the most personal transgressions often cannotdo we hear public be contained. Perhaps it is because we are so African worldview of interconnectedness—andleaders declaring interconnected that we consider the merit in its role in the development of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).their belief that for- forgiving the “unforgivable.” “A person with ubuntu,” Tutu writes, “…has agiveness can bring In Simon Wiesenthal’s now-classic book proper self-assurance that comes from know-people together, The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits ing that he or she belongs in a greater whole of Forgiveness, he shares his experience as a and is diminished when others are humiliatedheal their wounds, prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp when a or diminished, when others are tortured orand alleviate the dying SS soldier, guilty of a horrific war crime, oppressed, or treated as if they were less than asked Wiesenthal for forgiveness. Wiesenthal who they are.”25bitterness and asks religious leaders, scholars, and otherresentment caused distinguished thinkers to mentally put them- South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission provided a forum for people’sby wrongdoing. selves in his place and answer the question, experiences of the horrors and injustices of “What would I have done?”23—.Robert.D..Enright.. apartheid to be heard and, ostensibly, for. and.Joanna.North The question of whether to forgive atrocities, the seeds of national unity and reconcilia- institutionalized injustice, murder, and other tion to be planted. In that forum some spoke horrific acts triggers strong emotions, con- eloquently—in words and actions—of forgive- troversy, deep discussions, and collective soul ness. Offers of forgiveness have arisen, too, searching. The carefully thought out and com- from where some of the most hideous reflec- plex responses to Wiesenthal’s question explore tions of human failings have been played out. whether and/or when it’s appropriate to offer Sometimes these gestures are met with awe forgiveness, whether it can be offered on others’ and sometimes with anger and disbelief. behalf, and whether atrocities of the magnitude One such story is that of Beth Savage, who of the Holocaust should be forgiven at all. survived a deadly grenade attack by the Azanian Are there actions that are unforgivable under People’s Liberation Army (APLA), the armed any circumstances? If not, are there any limits wing of one of South Africa’s liberation move- to forgiveness? If so, is there redemption from ments, the Pan Africanist Congress. Badly the darkest part of our souls? injured in 1992, she endured months in inten- sive care and a difficult recovery. Four years In his response to Wiesenthal’s challenge, later her father died from what she believes was Hans Habe, writer, reporter, and news editor, a broken heart. Still, she said the experience wrote, “One of the worst crimes of the Nazist had enriched her life. And when asked how she (sic) regime was that it made it so hard for us to felt about amnesty for a member of the APLA, forgive. It led us into the labyrinth of our souls. Savage said, “It’s not important to me, but… We must find a way out of the labyrinth—not what I would really, really like is…to meet that for the murderers’ sake, but for our own.”24 man that threw that grenade in an attitude of What, if anything, does forgiving horrific, forgiveness and hope that he could forgive me murderous acts or injustices offer us? Can such too for whatever reason.”26 blights on our humanity as slavery, apartheid, 20 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Participant Guide
  21. 21. Many may find that story hard to believe. How For Immaculée Ilibagiza, a Tutsicould she ask the perpetrator to forgive her? survivor of the Rwandan genocide,Why does she think she needs to be forgiven? forgiveness grew from a deep faith.It is easy to stand in judgment. Especially when Her father, mother, and two brothersit comes to others’ travesties. And when we are were killed by Hutus while she andinjured, or someone we love is injured, we are seven other women hid, crammed inoften blinded by our pain and outrage. Part a tiny bathroom in the home of anof our judgment may be a wish to separate Episcopal priest. For three months sheourselves from those who are capable of horrific survived in that bathroom, hearingtransgressions. That is human. Yet how many of murderous Hutu gangs threateningus are immune to our shadow side? In the heat to kill her. While on the floor of theof the moment, do we know what we would bathroom, she fought feelings of hatreddo? Living in an unsafe, unjust, or violent envi- and prayed for forgiveness.ronment, do we know what we would do? According to Ilibagiza, “The people who’d hurt Forgiveness is aboutForgiveness requires us to traverse mental, my family had hurt themselves even more andemotional, ethical, and, for many, spiritual they deserved my pity. There was no doubt that healing sufferingterritory. It cannot stand apart from the need they had to be punished for their crimes against for ourselves andfor justice, grieving, emotional healing, and, in humanity and against God … But I prayed others. Until wesome cases, reconciliation and restitution. And for compassion as well. I asked God for theit does not and should not trivialize, condone, forgiveness that would end the cycle of hatred develop compassionor absolve the wrongdoing. Whether it can help —hatred that was always dangerously close within ourselves andheal the pain, anger, hatred, and destruction left to the surface.”28 Even while fleeing machete-in its wake is, however, an important question wielding Hutus after leaving the priest’s home, a concern about theto ponder. Ilibagiza prayed for God to forgive her stalkers. welfare of others, weThe experience of South Africa’s TRC, many And when, after his capture, she came face to cannot truly forgive. face with the man who killed her mother andbelieve, did help begin the process of healing. —.His.Holiness,.. brother and would likely have killed her, she . The.Dalai.Lama“We have survived the ordeal and we are real- offered forgiveness.29izing that we can indeed transcend the conflictsof the past, we can hold hands as we realize Forgiving horrific acts does not require religiousour common humanity…” Tutu wrote. “The faith, nor is it just for the saints among us. Forgenerosity of spirit will be full to overflowing some, however, it has been too trivialized in awhen it meets a like generosity. Forgiveness culture that popularizes and commodifies evenwill follow confession and healing will hap- the most personal and sacred. For some it seemspen, and so contribute to national unity and to demean the victim and downplay the crime.reconciliation.”27 South Africa’s example allowed What role could forgiveness play in stoppinga peaceful transition to a democratic state while present day horrors such as Darfur? State-acknowledging and providing a forum for its sponsored torture or terrorism? Entrenchedcitizens to express their pain, hurt, and forgive- conflicts such as those between Palestiniansness for the injustices of the past. While not all and Israelis? Indians and Pakistanis? How couldagree with Tutu or the success of the TRC in forgiveness help people affected, either directlyachieving reconciliation, he held and still holds or indirectly, by acts of terror or injustice?a vision of hope and healing. Forgiveness for the unforgivable? It’s a question that deserves 21
  22. 22. Consider this… Suggested Home PracticesThose who have 1. must beready to make what 2. Talk.with.a.friend,.family.member, they can. must be ready 3. make restitution 4.’ reparation. sack.of.potatoes.that.they.feel.they.are.carrying.around; I have stolen your,.or.collect.images.and.paste.them.on.a.,’, I can’t really contrite when Isay, “Please forgive 5..Jean.Vanier,.founder.of.L’Arche.Communities,.which.bring.people.with.developmental.disabilities.,.once.said:me,” if at the sametime I still keep . .I discovered something which I had never confronted before, that there were immense forces of dark- ness and hatred within my own heart. At particular moments of fatigue or stress, I saw forces of hateyour pen. If I am rising up inside me, and the capacity to hurt someone who was weak and was provoking me! That,truly repentant, I think, was what caused me the most pain: to discover who I really am, and to realize that maybe I didthen I will demon- not want to know who I really was! I did not want to admit all the garbage inside me. And then I hadstrate this genuine to decide whether I would just continue to pretend that I was okay and throw myself into hyperactiv-repentance by re- ity, projects where I could forget all the garbage and prove to others how good I was. Elitism is the sickness of us all. We all want to be on the winning team. That is the heart of apartheid and everyturning your pen. form of racism. The important thing is to become conscious of those forces in us and to work at beingThen reconciliation, liberated from them and to discover that the worst enemy is inside our own hearts, not outside!.which is always Does this quote affect your idea of forgiveness? Why? How?costly, will happen.—Archbishop.Desmond.Tutu. 22 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Participant Guide
  23. 23. Consider this…Forgiveness Quotations By hanging on to things that are We usually think of people who have unpleasant, we create more anguish for hurt us as evil people. We see them in ourselves. When you forgive someone, black capes, intent on inflicting pain. In you free yourself from an oppressive most cases, though, people are simply load of negativity. Forgiveness allows caught up in the situation. you to create peace in your life. —Everett Worthington — The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness If you judge people, you have no time is an attribute of the strong. —Mahatma Gandhi to love them. —Mother Teresa The forgiveness of sins makes a person It is never too early or too late to forgive. whole. —Xhosa hymn —Gerald Jampolsky Forgiveness breaks the silos of a One forgives to the degree that one loves. disconnected humanity. —Bonnie Wesorick —Francois de La Rochefoucauld Forgiveness is not a single magnani- You forgive by challenging the rigid mous gesture in response to an isolated rules you have for other people’s offence; it is part of a continuum of behavior and by focusing your attention human engagements in healing broken on the good things in your life as relationships. —Marina Cantacuzino opposed to the bad. —Fred 23
  24. 24. Letter-Writing TipsWe encourage you to take a pause from e-mails, • E-mail has made it easy to jot down a fewvoice mails, and phone calls to write a note to words, spell check, and hit “Send.” But whensomeone you care about. Express your thanks hand writing a special note, use a scratchfor a kindness, share how you miss them, pad and draft your letter first. Check spellingor recall a memory or story. A handwritten and grammar. Save your good stationery or a note, no matter the length, may handmade card until you have a clean draft deepen, renew, or mend relation- to copy. ships…and maybe even make • Choose beautiful paper to write on and someone’s day! A letter written a pen you enjoy writing with. Embellish from the heart can be a thought- with ribbons, snaps, brads, glitter, or hole ful practice capable of making punches—the possibilities are endless. a difference to friends, family, Coordinate your postage stamp with your even your community. envelope color or the theme of your letter. When writing your letter, If you can draw, sketch, or doodle, add consider these tips from Lilia something from yourself. Fallgatter, author of The Most • Enhance your letters and notes by includingImportant Letter You Will Ever Write, and the a favorite poem, a beautiful prayer, songpeople at Paper Source: lyrics, personal mementos, or keepsakes.• Before you even pick up a pen, create Consider sharing a photo your recipient surroundings that will evoke the inspiration might have forgotten about or never seen, a to write. ticket stub from the play you saw together (special original material can be photocopied,• Make a deliberate effort to clear and quiet rather than sending the original), or a leaf you your mind, and focus on the person to whom picked up while walking together. Line your you are writing. envelope with giftwrap from the present you• Create a list of words or phrases that describe are thanking them for. the person to whom you are writing. • Encourage a response by sending a• Create a list of memories or significant pre-stamped card. occasions and events you have shared with • Don’t let any of the above frighten you— this person. the most important thing of all is to• Using the lists you’ve created, write the first just do it. draft of the letter. Review and edit the first draft; then re-write the letter with the changes you made.• Write from the heart, tell a story, remind them of your history together, a favorite time. Share one thing about that person that you admire—everyone loves a compliment.• Hand write your letters. Your penmanship, no matter how eccentric, is a piece of you. Hand writing your letters and notes gives the recipient something special.24 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Participant Guide
  25. 25. If you want to forgive or ask for forgiveness, • What you have learned from what happenedputting your thoughts in writing can be a good and how that might affect your futureplace to start. It will give you the opportunity relationship with this personto thoughtfully consider what you want to say, When offering forgiveness, consider letting thewhy, and how to say it. And the recipient will person know:have time to absorb the contents of your letterbefore responding. • Your reason for offering forgivenessWhen asking for forgiveness, some things you • Your feelings toward the person, as opposedmight want to put in writing are: to the action he or she took• What your intention was (most people don’t • What, if anything, you would like the person set out deliberately to hurt others) to do to make restitution• How you are feeling about what happened • What you hope will happen (or not happen) in your future relationship with this person• Why you want to be forgiven• What, if anything, you are willing to do to apologize and/or make 25
  26. 26. Additional ResourcesWe are grateful for the many organizations and Let’s Talk About It: resources that promote love and forgiveness. Love and ForgivenessWe invite you to explore the list below and to your own to the pages that follow. This program from the American Library Association examines contemporary life andLove and Forgiveness Resources culture through literature, offering selectionsConversation Cards from our culture’s most outstanding works. sure to check out the full list of themes and corresponding resources, including these threeEach of the 52 cards provides a quote to that were developed with the Fetzer Institute in ponder, questions to discuss, and a suggested support of conversations about love, compassion, action for incorporating more love and forgiveness. and forgiveness in your life. The deck can be used for personal inspira- • Love and Forgiveness in the Light of Death tion; to spark conversations among • Love and Forgiveness in the Presence of family, friends, or colleagues; for book the Enemy discussion or support groups; and/or to • Love, Forgiveness, and Wisdom challenge you to be more loving, forgiving, and compassionate. Love and Forgiveness Conversation Guides Free from the link above while supplies last. Facilitators These guides are designed to help groupShare Tips via Podcast facilitators and individuals explore the of love and forgiveness. Each resource includesTwo seasoned conversation facilitators share suggested questions, essays, video clips, hometips on how to lead conversations on love and practices, and resources for further exploration.forgiveness, including how to manage groupdynamics, creating a safe space for sharing,using the conversation cards mentioned above,and how young people respond to theconversations.Forgiveness Experts via separate podcasts, forgiveness experts shareresearch, experience, and thoughts on the powerof forgiveness. The podcasts feature FredericLuskin, PhD, author of Forgive for Good anddirector of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects,and Everett Worthington, Jr., PhD, author ofFive Steps to Forgiveness: The Art and Science ofForgiving. Dr. Worthington is a licensed clinicalpsychologist and professor of psychology atVirginia Commonwealth University.26 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Participant Guide
  27. 27. MediaForgiveness:A Time to Love & A Time to documentary explores the timely, nearlyubiquitous applications and limations of theconcept and practice of forgiveness througha compelling range of stories from personal Helen.Whitney,.Producer,. A Time to Love &betrayal to national reconciliation after A Time to Hategenocide. Produced by Paul Dietrich andaward-winning producer, director, and writerHelen Whitney, with major funding providedby the Fetzer Institute.The Mystery of Lovewww.themysteryoflove.orgA documentary exploring love in marriage,family, community, science, forgiveness, thesearch for the divine, friendship, even war.Actor, playwright, and author Anna DeavereSmith hosts this two-hour special produced bythe Independent Production Fund, with majorfunding provided by the Fetzer Institute.The Power of Forgiveness The Mystery of LoveThis documentary examines the power offorgiveness in alleviating anger and grief causedby the most dramatic transgressions imaginableand those that are more commonplace. Amongits subjects the film features families of victimsfrom the tragedy of 9/11 and forgiveness educa-tion in Northern Ireland, where forgiveness hasbeen a way of life for generations. Produced byJourney Films, with major funding provided bythe Fetzer Institute.Krista Tippett on Being (previously Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett)www.onbeing.orgOn Being is a new kind of conversation aboutreligion, spirituality, and large questions ofmeaning in every aspect of life. Hosted byKrista Tippett on public radio, this weeklyshow is also available by podcast. 27
  28. 28. Additional Resources (continued)Websites Forgive for Good www.learningtoforgive.comCenter for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education The site of Dr. Fred Luskin, director of Stanford’ Forgiveness Projects, provides information and resources on the benefits of forgiveness.This center, housed at Stanford University,undertakes rigorous scientific study of the Greater Good Science Centerneural, mental, and social bases of compassion www.greatergood.berkeley.eduand altruistic behavior. It draws from a wide Based at the University of California, Berkeley,spectrum of disciplines, especially neuroscience, the center studies the psychology, sociology, andpsychology, economics, and contemplative neuroscience of well-being and teaches skillstraditions. that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassion-Center for Investigating Healthy Minds ate society. This site highlights scientific research on compassion and altruism.Located at the University of Wisconsin– The Institute for Research on Madison, the center conducts rigorous Unlimited Loveinterdisciplinary research on healthy qualities www.unlimitedloveinstitute.orgof mind such as kindness, compassion, forgive- The Institute focuses on the science and spiritu-ness, and mindfulness. The CIHM engages in ality of the unselfish love that shapes the lives ofresearch and outreach with the goal of cul- people who find energy and joy in the compas-tivating healthy qualities of the mind at the sionate service of others. Information about theindividual, community, and global levels. institute’s activities, publications, and funding isFetzer Institute available on this Self-Compassion: A Healthier Way of The Fetzer Institute engages with people and Relating to Yourselfprojects around the world to help bring the www.self-compassion.orgpower of love and forgiveness to the center of This site, developed by Dr. Kristin Neff,individual and community life. Find project associate professor of human developmentinformation, resources, videos, news, and and culture at the University of Texas, Austin,upcoming events on this site. provides information and resources on self- compassion, including exercises, meditations, and research. Spirituality & Practice This site shares ways to practice spirituality in everyday life and includes book, audio, and film reviews; ideas and links for 37 essential practices; and e-courses for spiritual growth and self-improvement. offers resources from multiple faiths and belief systems..28 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT FORGIVENESS: Participant Guide
  29. 29. Charter for Compassion In.2008, Karen.Armstrong.A result of 2008 TED Prize recipient Karen won.the.2008.Armstrong’s “wish to change the world,” the TED.Prize.for.her.Charter was unveiled in November 2009 andhas evolved into a multi-faceted project with around the world. Supported by the a.Charter.for.Fetzer Institute, the work of the Charter, in Compassion..Thousands.of.people.contrib-both public and private life, is to find creative,realistic and, above all, practical ways of making Golden Rule a dynamic and positive force change in our troubled, polarized world.’s latest book—Twelve Steps to a Life—offers an impassioned andpractical guide supporting her request that each Karachi,,.in.schools,.of us work diligently to cultivate and expand houses.of.worship,.city.governments,.and.our capacity for compassion. Resources online among.individuals.everywhere,.include a community for the Charter, TEDTalks on compassion, Twelve Steps reading guidelines, and curricula. 29