Evidence That It Works
Researchers compared several studies using Dr. Enright’s “process model of forgiveness,” which is similar to the steps outlined above. All the studies took place in a clinical setting including individual and group therapy. Therapies that used these methods were shown to be effective in increasing forgiveness and in decreasing negative psychological states such as anxiety and anger, compared to control groups. These were often long-term therapies, ranging from 6 to 60 weekly sessions, aimed at helping individuals cope with serious offenses.
Other studies indicate that practicing forgiveness can strengthen relationships and reduce toxic feelings of stress and anger and boost happiness and optimism. At the organizational level, forgiveness improves employee productivity and retention and also increases morale and trust among workers.
Why Does It Matter?
We have all suffered hurts and betrayals—many at the hands of our colleagues, which can impact how we feel about the culture of our school and the work we do with students and others. Choosing to forgive is a way to release the distress that arises again and again from the memory of these incidents, and can help shape a more connected school culture. But it’s important to remember that forgiveness is often a long and difficult process.
This exercise outlines several steps that are essential to the process of forgiveness, breaking it down into manageable components. These steps were created by Robert Enright, Ph.D., one of the world’s leading forgiveness researchers. Although the exact process of forgiveness may look different for different people, most anyone can still draw upon Dr. Enright’s basic principles. In certain cases, it may help to consult a trained clinician, especially if you are working through a traumatic event.