In our Pilgrim Center work around reconciliation between people who have hated each other, and allowed their rage to ride to the point of planning and carrying out the killing of other people, we have found the reality of forgiveness to be a profound instrument toward healing and change in the human spirit.
It was, in our experience of conducting healing retreats among people who had been perpetrators or victims in the Rwanda genocide of April through July of 1994, the key factor in changing the deep heart of those terribly wounded or wounding people, and that their lives took a dramatic change from fury to friendship, from destruction to sacrificial service in mending the actual havoc they had wrought. People with deep enmity and hurt between them came together in a whole, new, positive relationship as friends.
We witnessed this miracle of deep spiritual change many times. The impetus for that stunning change was clearly the forgiveness factor.
In the early years of our Center's work, 25 years ago, we learned of some others in America who had begun to take seriously the possibility that forgiveness could become a new positive instrument for social change.
Professor Robert Enright, teaching Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, was experimenting with forgiveness and its possibilities at first to the dismay and ridicule of colleagues in his profession. He apparently went on to help found the International Forgiveness Institute, Inc. He and Rick Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania are telling us that our President has "made a number of sensible recommendations to address violence and mass murders in the United States." While acknowledging "He has been criticized for not calling for stricter gun controls" but insist "his words went to the heart of this crisis of hatred and violence."
They quote the President as saying "We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts. We must shine light on the dark recesses of the internet, and stop mass murders before they start..."
Enright and Fitzgibbons go on "Below are our proposals for aspects of a comprehensive federal plan consistent with the President's ideas. They are based on our combined 70 years of experience in research, education, and clinical work in uncovering and initiating treatment protocols in schools and in mental health treatment for excessive anger..."
They offer "our book, Forgiveness Therapy: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope, published by the American Psychological Association, can be one such training tool for mental health professionals. Forgiveness has been empirically verified to reduce unhealthy anger."
Other books by Dr. Enright are Forgiveness is a Choice, The Forgiving Life, and 8 Keys to Forgiveness.
Our Pilgrim Center's book, Forgiveness: The Road to Reconciliation, could also be helpful. Published by iUniverse, it is available on Amazon.
Forgiveness is, of course, the way Jesus gave us to bring healing to our lives and relationships. We live in times that call us to be serious about these issues, and God's wonderful answers.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES