With the start of the semester one month away, we are gearing up for a great semester! For the next few weeks we will be running blog entries about some of the topics we will be addressing in classes this fall. For the first entry in this series, visiting Professor Daniel Green, Ph.D. addresses the topic of “Forgiveness:”
“As a Christian Psychologist, a Psychologist who is a Christian, the topic of forgiveness fascinates me in several ways. First, forgiveness is very personal. I have distinct memories of having done wrong and having been offered forgiveness. I so appreciated the relief, the release of the guilt. I have experienced facing myself in the mirror and acknowledging the wrong I had done and taking the forgiveness offered to me and applying it to myself. A burden was lifted, shame released, and I was able to go in a new direction.
Second, I am grateful for the eternal forgiveness offered to me, by grace, by our Lord. As far as the east is from the west, beyond my comprehension, my guilt has been removed from me. I am not under condemnation and, although I remain challenged in this fallen world, death does not have victory. I am clean through Jesus. The implications of this truth for my identity daily living, and relationships are numerous.
Third, Psychological research during the last 30 years has demonstrated both that forgiveness can be taught, learned, and applied with significant benefits to those who offer forgiveness as well as those who are offered forgiveness. Forgiveness research began in the 1980’s as Robert Enright, Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin) began to ask questions developed from his Christian faith and his experience with forgiveness. Soon after this, Everett Worthington, Ph.D. (Virginia Commonwealth University) began to study forgiveness within his work with marriages. As a Christian, Worthington also brought the scientific technology of research to the study of forgiveness. During the 1990s, others joined this field of study and there are now thousands of published scientific studies on this topic. Enright’s Forgiveness Therapy is recognized by the American Psychological Association as an evidenced-based treatment. The research is solid and ongoing.
This research has shown that people who forgive are less resentful, happier, more content, report greater empathy for others, and show many physical health benefits. Families, people groups, and cultures have been changed when forgiveness has been applied to the problems of broken love, withdrawn love, wrongdoings, and thus the unacceptable.
How is forgiveness defined? The various psychological definitions include the following:
–Undeserved gift offered by the forgiver
–A change in motivation with a reduction in guarding, protection, avoidance, and an increase in experience of freedom with thoughts of or contact with the offender,
–Emotional release of resentments, hate, and other aversive emotions,
–Desiring good for the offender.
Forgiveness is not making an excuse, pretending the wrongdoing did not occur or was not significant, nor is forgiveness ignoring justice. Forgiveness recognizes the wrongdoing and the unacceptable nature of the broken or withdrawn love. Forgiveness does not undo what has happened, rather, it is realistic with the reality of the wrong. Forgiveness forgives the person who did the wrong. Forgiveness does not minimize the wrong that has been done but rather applies love to the one who did the wrong. Forgiveness is the only viable remedy for resolving the unacceptable.
Dan Green, Ph.D. will be teaching a class on Forgiveness and Reconciliation here at Urbana Theological Seminary this fall. His class will be offered in modular format over the course of three weekends. He has taught classes on Forgiveness at several other institutions, including The Evangelical Theological Seminary of Prague, Trinity International University, Wisconsin Center for Christian Studies. Dr. Green is a licensed Psychologist, and has served as the clinical director for New Life Resources, Inc, which is located in WI. To register, go to http://www.urbanaseminary.org/courses/fall/ If you have any questions, contact Dr. Melody Green at email@example.com