Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement


Faith Groups

Forgiveness

By Jerry Morris, University of Detroit Mercy, Detroit, MI

Learning to Give Teacher Consultant

“…forgive us our trespasses….”

Imagine the following headlines:

“Episcopal Church asks American Indians for Forgiveness”

“Japan Apologizes for Forced Prostitution in Korea”

“Black South Africans Forgive Apartheid”

“President Bush Apologizes to Japanese Americans for Internment”

“Congress Apologizes to Native Americans for Slaughter at Wounded Knee”

“Pope John Paul (II) Seeks Forgiveness for Holocaust”

“ Clinton Apologizes to Rwanda for U.S. Inaction”

“Abbas Sorry for Support of Hussein.”

Are these headlines accurate? Did they actually happen? Were they necessary? What good did they do? Now look at the world around you and write your own headlines that involve an apology or forgiveness.

This is one way an educator could begin a lesson on the role of forgiveness in promoting a peaceful world, in expanding the meaning of philanthropy to include forgiveness,(1) and advancing the common good for a civil society.(2) This article explains why such a lesson is important and suggests learning activities to that end. The reasons to practice forgiveness are to achieve personal and civic efficacy, and the advancement of a civil society.

If we think of this planet metaphorically as “mother earth” and listen carefully, we would hear her anguish and disappointment. If we looked closely we would see her tears. War, poverty, injustice, violence, prejudice, and illness --- her heart is breaking. Would she tell world leaders and citizens alike to apologize, admit wrongdoing, make amends and forgive? Wouldn't such actions promote healing, understanding, reconciliation and peace?

Forgiveness means releasing “…the mind and heart from past hurts … from resentments to which we have a right … in order to move our own lives forward.” (3) The act of forgiveness is an act of healing. It lightens our load so we can move forward. If we hold on to resentment or hurt or grudges or grievances we will “…remain a victim of the experience.” (4) If we forgive others “…we are free of them.” (5) To remain angry is like taking poison in order to punish someone else(6) To remain angry is to remain the victim and a victim is vulnerable and powerless. From a civic perspective, we want students to do the good works of informed citizens and that requires a sense of political and personal efficacy, not victimization and powerlessness

Alexis de Tocqueville described America as a civil society and her people as having certain “habits of the heart” (mores, manners and traditions) upon which democracy was based.(7) These “habits of the heart” included the institution of religion, a free press and voluntary associations that promoted self interest. The importance of forgiveness to religion is clear. Christianity values forgiveness, as does Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Taoism. Is there a faith tradition that does not value forgiveness? Is there a faith tradition that does not practice some version of the “golden rule?” Forgiveness is integral to the institution of religion, and religion is part of the fabric of American civil society, but the reason for students to understand and practice forgiveness is not the advocacy of religion. Forgiveness is important because it goes to the heart of a civil society where we seek common ground and American democracy requires a civil society. Forgiveness is important in a civil society because a civil society requires us to seek common ground and the peaceful resolution of conflict through negotiations. The interactive process of negotiation is fundamental to resolving our differences and requires “…two or more parties seek to understand each other's interests and create options that reduce or remove a conflict between them…to work together to reach an agreement that all, or most, parties are willing to accept.” (8) In a democracy such negotiations, understanding and conflict resolution drive lawmaking, adjudication, and elections among other core processes. Forgiveness is a conscious decision to act. It enables us to listen deeply, to listen with compassion (empathy) to others who hurt us without condoning or forgetting. It can be an important first step to reconciliation with an adversary.(9) Without forgiveness how could we “restore communication” and enter into genuine and fruitful negotiations? Without forgiveness, how can we move forward to reconciliation? Without forgiveness, justice would remain retributive rather than restorative. (10)

Related to this idea of communication and negotiations to promote a civil society is how we treat one another in the process. A level of “civility” will certainly help promote a climate where people can find common ground, to compromise, or at least to peacefully agree to disagree. The dictionary defines civility as “politeness, kindness, consideration, and courtesy.” (11) George H.W. Bush accepted the 1988 Republican Party nomination for President calling for a “…kinder, gentler nation.” (12) A genuine understanding and practice of forgiveness would certainly help achieve a nation that is civil, kind, considerate and gentle.

How can we engage students in thinking about the meaning of forgiveness? What follows is a collection of activities and/or assignments that could be used to answer this question.

Essential Questions to Prompt a Conversation
What is forgiveness?
What shapes our view of forgiveness?
Should we forgive?
Who should be forgiven?
What keeps us from asking for and giving forgiveness?
Is there anything that cannot be forgiven?
Does one have to qualify for forgiveness?
Should an apology or repentance or payment be required in order to be forgiven for some wrongdoing?
Does asking for and receiving forgiveness release one from legal consequences?
Should forgiveness (asking and giving) be a private or public act?
Does asking forgiveness result in feeling a loss of power or create self-doubts?
Should a political leader ask for forgiveness?
Should a political leader forgive his enemies?
To ask for forgiveness or to forgive is an act of humility; should a sovereign state show humility?
Would forgiveness lead to a safer, more peaceful world?
Would forgiveness lead to a personal, inner peace?
What would the world be like if there was no forgiveness?

Anger/Hate Leads To….

Give each student a 10” deflated balloon. Ask them to make a list of all the people who have hurt them in some way and with whom they are angry. For each person on his or her list blow a breath of air into the balloon. The more anger they feel, the more air they blow into the balloon. Pinch off the balloon opening after each breath. What can we learn from the balloons? What will happen to us if we don't let go of the anger?

Profiles in Forgiveness

Form students into teams to research the following individuals and how they lived the principle of forgiveness. Have the students assume these personalities in a role-play to draft an International Convention on Forgiveness. Submit a draft a treaty or resolution to an elected United States official or to the United Nations.

Kim Phac, Terry Waite, Simon Weston, Nelson Mandella, Reginald Denny, Colin and Wendy Parry; and Linda and Peter Biehl.(13)

Faith, Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Peaceful Settlement of Disputes

Form student teams to research the position on forgiveness from the following faith traditions – Islam, Christianity (Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Greek Orthodox), and Judaism. Using a Jig Saw cooperative group strategy, discuss their findings.(14) Discuss whether it is possible to use the different faith positions on forgiveness to propose a peaceful settlement in the Middle East. Draft a proposal and submit it to the President of the United States.

Form student teams to research the position on forgiveness from the following faith traditions – Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. (15) Using a Jig Saw cooperative group strategy, discuss their findings. Discuss whether it is possible to use the different faith positions on forgiveness to propose a peaceful settlement in the Kashmir dispute. Draft a proposal and submit it to the President of the United States.

Agree-Disagree

Create a forced-choice by asking, “Do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements: “Forgive and forget.”

“I'd rather ask for forgiveness than permission.”
“To error is human, to forgive divine.”
“Love means never having to say you're sorry.”
“It's a dog eat dog world.”

Ask as separate questions and follow with a Socratic discussion with the whole class.

Agree-Undecided-Disagree

A variation of the above format is to have the students choose one of the following responses: agree, undecided, disagree. Have students assemble by their response in different parts of the room. The agree and disagree groups discuss their thinking and shape an explanation. The undecided group shapes questions to ask of the other two groups. The purpose of these questions is to help the undecided take a stand either agreeing or disagreeing. Following these group meetings (10 minutes), Agree and disagree groups take turns explaining themselves and asking clarifying questions of each other. The undecided group then asks their questions of the other two groups. Finally, everyone has an opportunity to change groups and explain their positions.

The Politics of Forgiveness

Is an apology the same as asking for forgiveness? Should a public official make an apology? What are the pros and cons? Prompt a discussion with the following quotes:

“I would like to apologize for our nation and for our military for the small number of soldiers who committed illegal or unauthorized acts here at Abu Ghraib.”

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller

“To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology. It was inconsistent with the values of our nation. It was inconsistent with the teachings of the military to the men and women of the armed forces. An it was certainly fundamentally un-American.”

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

“Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you…. and for that failure I would ask…for your understanding and forgiveness.”

Richard Clarke, former counter terrorism expert

Making Amends

This is a private activity. This activity comes from steps 8 and 9 of the Alcoholics Anonymous Recovery Program.(16) Make four columns with the following headings: Persons I have harmed. Am I willing to make amends? Can I make direct amends without causing injury to them or others? How will I make amends? Complete the chart and then write a personal reflection about the value of forgiveness. Next have students apply the four phases of Forgiveness Process Model to one of their grievances. (17) Next have students apply “Steps to Forgiveness” to one of their grievances.(18) Next have students apply “Steps to Seeking Forgiveness” to one of their grievances. (19)

Policy and Forgiveness

Put the words “I apologize” and “I was wrong” and “I'm going to try to make it right” and “I know my transgression, and my sin is ever before me” and “I'm sorry” and “Will you forgive me” on the board. Do these phrases convey different meanings?

Put the following words on the board and ask students to take a stand on whether they should be government policy: reconciliation, amnesty, reparations, commute, pardon, clemency, parole, debt forgiveness, loan cancellation, and bankruptcy. (All are types of forgiveness.)

12 Angry Men

There are many opportunities in life to become angry with another person because of “a look” or a thoughtless act, or an unkind word, or a “stupid” idea. This anger can shut down communication and prevent us from working together. One place where this would be particularly destructive is the jury room. Have the class watch the movie 12 Angry Men and record the times when a look, an act, a word or an idea could have created a problem. Did others respond to this “transgression” with forgiveness or anger? Where did anger take them? What would a forgiving response have looked like or sounded like?

Poetry of Forgiveness

Read and discuss: “Enemies” by Wendell Berry (20)
Read and discuss: “A Citizen's Response to the National Security Strategy of the United States of America” by Wendell Berry (21)
Have the students write their own poem of forgiveness.

Conclusion

A civil society requires a great deal of us in our personal lives and in our public lives as citizens. Forgiveness can help us communicate in the on-going conversation to define the common good. Forgiveness can play an important role in interpersonal conflict resolution and as a factor in the peaceful resolution of conflict on the domestic or international stage that leads to reconciliation.

End Notes
  1. Fundamental to a civil society is the right to free association, the development of the independent or nonprofit sector, and the spirit of philanthropy. Philanthropy is the voluntary giving of one's time, talent or treasure for the sake of another or for the common good. We can give more, however, than our time, talent or treasure. We can give (and ask for) forgiveness. For more on philanthropy see Robert Payton, Philanthropy – Voluntary Action for the Common Good (New York: American Council on Education/Macmillan Publishing Company, 1988) and Learning To Give . www.learningtogive.org .
  2. Brian O'Connell, Civil Society The Underpinnings of American Democracy. (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1999)
  3. Patricia Herchuk Sheehy, “Letting Go and Letting God,” Mercy
    (Fall 1999): 9.
  4. Ibid,
  5. Ibid,
  6. Harrison, Jim. The Road Home. (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1998)
  7. Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy in America , 1835 Available from http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/home.html
  8. Stacie Nicole Smith, “Teaching for Civic Participation with Negotiation Role Plays,” Social Education 68, no. 3 (April 2004):197
  9. Hanh, Thich Nhat. Creating True Peace (New York: Free Press, 2003):92.
  10. Op. Cit., 93.
  11. Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, 2d ed. 1979
  12. George Bush Acceptance Speech, Republican National Convention. 8/18/1988.
    http://www.4president.org/speeches/
    georgebush1988convention.htm
  13. See Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance (Mill Valley, CA.)
    http://www.forgivenessday.org Click “Heroes of Forgiveness.”
  14. For more on Jig Saw cooperative learning see College of Sciences, San Diego State University. Active Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom. Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T., and Smith, K.A. 1998.
    http://www.jigsaw.org/overview.htm ; and Studies in Moral Development and Education. At University of Illinois at Chicago. http://tigger.uic.edu/~lnucci/MoralEd/. Select “featured articles.”
  15. Read “ Time for Forgiveness ” at The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (Lund, Sweden),
    http://www.transnational.org/Resource_Index_Reconcil.htm
    A good resource is: Initiatives of Change (Washington, D.C.),
    http://www.us.initiativesofchange.org
  16. Alcoholics Anonymous. (New York, N.Y.)
    www.alcoholics-anonymous.org/default/en_about_aa_sub.cfm
    ?subpageid=17&pageid=24
  17. International Forgiveness Institute (Madison, Wisconsin)
    http://www.forgiveness-institute.org
    Select “what is forgiveness” and then “process model.” To order the complete Enright Forgiveness Inventory, select “forgiveness inventory.”
  18. “Steps to Forgiveness” is available at Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance at
    http://www.forgivenessday.org
  19. Wendell Berry, Entries (Washington, D.C: Counterpoint, 1997)

Enemies

If you are not to become a monster,
you must care what they think.
If you care what they think,

how will you not hate them,
and so become a monster
of the opposite kind? From where then

is love to come---love for your enemy
that is the way of liberty?
From forgiveness. Forgive, they go

free of you, and you of them;
they are to you as sunlight
on a green branch. You must not

think of them again, except
as monsters like yourself,
pitiable because unforgiving.

Orion online (Great Barrington, MA)
http://www.oriononline.org/pages/om/03-2om/Berry.html

References

Beyond Intractability.org
http://www.beyondintractability.org/m/apology_forgiveness.jsp

The Big Book Bunch. http://www.sober.org/ForgEric.html
http://www.sober.org/ForgIndx.html

Catherine Blount Foundation. http://www.catherineblountfdn.org

Catholic Answers http://www.catholic.com/library/Forgiveness_of_sins.asp

Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. http://www.philanthropy.org

Choosing Forgiveness. http://www.choosingforgiveness.org

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.
http://www.carm.org/islam/hadith_forgiveness.htm

Christus Rex et Redemptor Mundi.
http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/art10.html

Cooperative Communication Skills.
http://www.coopcomm.org/forgiveness_welcome.htm

Crosscurrents http://ww w .aril.org

Exploring Christianity. http://www.christianity.co.nz/forgive3.htm

Forgive for Good. Stanford Northern Ireland Hope Project http://www.learningtoforgive.com

Forgiveness for Addiction Treatment Project, School of Psychology, University of Leeds, Leeds, England http://www.psyc.leeds. ac.uk/research/hlth/farp/ [No longer available]

"Forgiveness in Conflict Resolution," a Project of the Woodstock Theological Center http://www.georgetown.edu/centers/
woodstock/programs/forgive.htm

The Forgiveness Web. http://www.forgivenessweb.com

Global Policy Forum. Debate on Debt Forgiveness.
http://www.globalpolicy.org/socecon/develop/debt/index.htm

Hinduism. http://www.hinduism.co.za/forgiven.htm

Institute of Islamic Information Education http://www.iiie.net
Search: “forgiveness.”

The Islamic Page. http://www.islamworld.net/pos7.html

Lamb, Sharon. Individual and Civic Notions of Forgiveness . University of Illinois
at Chicago. http://tigger.uic.edu/~lnucci/MoralEd/articles/lamb.html

Long Night's Journey Into Day http://www.newsreel.org/guides/longnight.htm
http://www.irisfilms.org/longnight

The Lutheran http://www.thelutheran.org/9811/page10.html

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet. Family Forgiveness http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5277.html

Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. http://www.religioustolerance.org

Peace Makers International, Inc. http://www.peacemakers.net/peace/eight.htm

Peacemakers Trust. http://www.peacemakers.ca/links.html

Poverty and Race Research Action Council http://www.prrac.org

Shriver, Jr., Donald W. An Ethic for Enemies: Forgiveness in Politics , Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission http://www.doj.gov.za/trc

Woodstock Report , March 1996, No. 45 Woodstock Theological Center
http://www.georgetown.edu/centers/
woodstock/programs/forgive.htm


Headlines
Fact or Fiction

  1. “Episcopal Church asks American Indians for Forgiveness”
  2. “Japan Apologizes for Forced Prostitution in Korea”
  3. “Black South Africans Forgive Apartheid”
  4. “President Bush Apologizes to Japanese Americans for Internment”
  5. “Congress Apologizes to Native Americans for Slaughter at Wounded Knee”
  6. “Pope John Paul (II) Seeks Forgiveness for Holocaust”
  7. “Clinton Apologizes to Rwanda for U.S. Inaction”
  8. “Abbas Sorry for Support of Hussein.”

Philanthropy

Voluntary giving of ones time, talent and treasure for the common good

Voluntary giving of one's time, talent, treasure and forgiveness for the common good


Why Forgiveness?

  1. A civil society and being able to find common ground requires compromise and negotiation
  2. Promotes healing, understanding, reconciliation and peace.
  3. Promotes empowerment and personal-civic efficacy

    What happens to me if I hold onto:

    hate, grievance, revenge, anger, grudge, blame
    I remain the victim
    A victim feels powerless & vulnerable
  4. Part of all faith traditions
    A “Habit of the Heart”
Where there is forgiveness, there is God

Sikhism

The most beautiful thing a person can do is to forgive a wrong

Judaism

Never is hate diminished by hatred; it is only diminished by love…This is an eternal law.

Buddhism

Recompense injury with kindness

Taoism

Forgive your servant seventy times a day

Islam

“Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Christianity


Is Forgiveness a Universal Value?

“So whatever thou wish that one would do to you, do so to them….”

Christianity

Eightfold path of right views

Buddhism

No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself

Islam

“Do not unto others what you do not wish that others do unto you”

Judaism
Rabbi Hillel

“As one sows, so shall one reap”

Hinduism


Essential Questions to Prompt a Conversation

  • What is forgiveness?
  • What shapes our view of forgiveness?
  • Should we forgive?
  • Who should be forgiven?
  • What keeps us from asking for and giving forgiveness?
  • Is there anything that cannot be forgiven?
  • Does one have to qualify for forgiveness?
  • Should an apology or repentance or payment be required in order to be forgiven for some wrongdoing?
  • Does asking for and receiving forgiveness release one from legal consequences?
  • Should forgiveness (asking and giving) be a private or public act?
  • Does asking forgiveness result in feeling a loss of power or create self-doubts?
  • Should a political leader ask for forgiveness?
  • Should a political leader forgive his enemies?
  • To ask for forgiveness or to forgive is an act of humility; should a sovereign state show humility?
  • Would forgiveness lead to a safer, more peaceful world?
  • Would forgiveness lead to a personal, inner peace?
  • What would the world be like if there was no forgiveness?

Anger/Hate Leads To….

Make a list of all the people who have hurt you in some way and with whom you are angry.

  • For each person on your list blow a breath of air into the balloon.
  • Pinch the balloon between breaths so no air escapes.
  • What can we learn from the balloons?
  • What will happen to us if we don't let go of the anger?

 


Profiles in Forgiveness

  • Form students into teams to research the following individuals and how they lived the principle of forgiveness.
  • Have the students assume these personalities in a role-play to draft an International Convention on Forgiveness.
  • Submit a draft a treaty or resolution to an elected United States official or to the United Nations.
Kim Phac Viet Nam, 1972
Terry Waite Lebanon, 1987-91
Simon Weston Falkland, 1982
Nelson Mandella South Africa
Reginald Denny Los Angeles Riots
Colin and Wendy Parry Northern Ireland, 1993
Linda and Peter Biehl South Africa, 1993
Elizabeth Eckford &
Hazel Bryan Massery
Little Rock, Ark., 1957

 


Faith, Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Peaceful Settlement of Disputes

Middle East

Form student teams to research the position on forgiveness from the following faith traditions – Islam, Christianity (Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Greek Orthodox), and Judaism.

Discuss whether it is possible to use the different faith positions on forgiveness to propose a peaceful settlement in the Middle East.

Draft a proposal and submit it to the President of the United States.

Kashmir

Form student teams to research the position on forgiveness from the following faith traditions – Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism.

Discuss whether it is possible to use the different faith positions on forgiveness to propose a peaceful settlement in the Kashmir dispute.

Draft a proposal and submit it to the President of the United States.


Agree-Disagree

Do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements:

“Forgive and forget.”

“I'd rather ask for forgiveness than permission.”

“To error is human, to forgive divine.”

“Love means never having to say you're sorry.”

“It's a dog-eat-dog world.”

Ask as separate questions and follow with a Socratic discussion with the whole class.

Agree Undecided Disagree

 


The Politics of Forgiveness

Is an apology the same as asking for forgiveness?
Should a public official make an apology?
What are the pros and cons?
Prompt a discussion with the following quotes:

“I would like to apologize for our nation and for our military for the small number of soldiers who committed illegal or unauthorized acts here at Abu Ghraib.”

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller

“To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology. It was inconsistent with the values of our nation. It was inconsistent with the teachings of the military to the men and women of the armed forces. An it was certainly fundamentally un-American.”

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

“Your government failed you. Those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you…. and for that failure I would ask…for your understanding and forgiveness.”

Richard Clarke, former counter terrorism expert


Making Amends

 

Persons I have harmed

Am I Willing to Make Amends?

Can I Make Direct Amends Without Causing Injury to Them or Others?

How Will I Make

Amends?

       

 

Forgiveness Process Model

Uncovering

Decision

Work

Outcome / Deepening

 

“Steps to Forgiveness”

____>____>____>____>____>____>

____>____>____>____>____>____>

____>____>____>____>____>____>

“Steps to Seeking Forgiveness”

___ ___ ___>___ ___ ___>___ ___ ___>


Policy and Forgiveness

Put the following on the board.
What do they mean?

“I apologize”

“I was wrong”

“I'm going to try to make it right”

“I know my transgression, and my sin is ever before me”

“I'm sorry”

“Will you forgive me”

Should the government make policy about:

  • reconciliation
  • amnesty
  • reparations
  • commute
  • sentences
  • pardon
  • clemency
  • parole
  • debt forgiveness
  • loan cancellation
  • bankruptcy

12 Angry Men (ASIN: B000056HEC)
Watch the movie 12 Angry Men

  • Record the times when a look, an act, a word or an idea could have created a problem.
  • How did others react?
  • Did others respond with forgiveness or anger?
  • Where did anger take them?
  • What would a forgiving response have looked like or sounded like?

Poetry of Forgiveness
Read and discuss: “Enemies” by Wendell Berry

If you are not to become a monster,
you must care what they think.
If you care what they think,

how will you not hate them,
and so become a monster
of the opposite kind? From where then

is love to come---love for your enemy
that is the way of liberty?
From forgiveness. Forgive, they go

free of you, and you of them;
they are to you as sunlight
on a green branch. You must not

think of them again, except
as monsters like yourself,
pitiable because unforgiving.

Read and discuss:
“A Citizen's Response to the National Security Strategy of the United States of America” by Wendell Berry

http://www.oriononline.org/pages/om/03-2om/Berry.html

Have the students write their own poem of forgiveness.