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A Good Deed that Heals
by susie ruth
ittle Earl and his parents were the “wrongdoer.”
having a terrible time. Diag- Robert Enright, an
nosed as hyperactive and defiant education psycholo-
at school and at home, the 7-year-old gist at the University of
couldn’t seem to control his anger. Wisconsin-Madison,
international Forgiveness Day: August 2
One tumultuous week, it got so bad and known as the
he was hospitalized for the weekend. father of forgiveness
global Forgiveness Day: August 27,
Six months later, Earl was much research, has ob-
learn more at
happier; he had found a new way to served that those who
practice forgiveness
usually maintain their lum there introducing school children
“Forgiveness is a gift
emotional health. For people who to the idea of forgiveness. “We simply
are able to let go of the hurt, he says, lay the foundation that there’s such
you give yourself.”
“Much of the giving comes back to us a thing as forgiveness,” he notes. His
in a form a spiritual person might call U.S. pilot city is Milwaukee, which
~ Victor Parachin in “How to Forgive: 10
peace … in a diminishment of anxi- reports has property
Guidelines” at ety and depression and an increase of
crime rates exceeding the national
hope and self-esteem.” average and a murder rate higher than
Enright established the Interna- Belfast’s.
tional Forgiveness Institute in 1994 “I think forgiveness absolutely
deal with his feelings and was off the to share research on the power of for- has to be learned,” advises Enright.
Ritalin and Prozac he’d been given for giveness. This summer, he’s in Belfast, He emphasizes that forgiveness is not
hyperactivity. His parents’ relationship Northern Ireland, assessing the cumu- weakness; it is not forgetting, excus-
with each other also had improved. lative effects of his ongoing curricu- ing, condoning or reconciling oneself
He began to do better in school. to a wrong done. Neither does it
The whole family had found a
“Forgiveness is more than
preclude justice.
“third way” to deal with their anger. “Our work in forgiveness educa-
Rather than denying or venting it, they
a moral imperative, more
tion is based on the conviction that
had learned how to forgive. It’s an
than a theological dictum.
forgiveness can reduce anger,” Enright
answer being explored more widely explains, “and that a decrease in
today. “Why is forgiveness so power-
it is the only means,
anger leads to less depression and
ful a force?” asks Harry Aponte, in the anxiety and to stronger academic
Journal of Family Therapy. “Because it
given our humanness and
achievement and more peaceful so-
is a direct product of love.”
imperfections, to overcome
cial behavior.”
Forgiveness, the antidote to tak-
ing offense, isn’t easy; self-sacrifice is
hate and condemnation and
Robert Enright’s books include the
involved. But it carries a lighter price
proceed with the business
seminal Forgiveness is a Choice and
tag than nursing a feud or holding a his book for children, Rising Above
grudge. Not forgiving gives another
of growing and loving.”
the Storm Clouds: What It’s Like to
person power over us. Forgiveness Forgive.
sets us free of imprisoning bitterness,
~ Paul Coleman, psychologist
anger, revenge and resentment and
in Wappingers Falls, New York Primary source: The Christian Science
allows us to find a new way to think of Monitor
Pr i n t e d o n re c y c l e d Pa P e r t o Pr o t e c t t h e en v i r o n m e n t
August 2009 33
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