Evidence That It Works
A study found that a forgiveness intervention increased adolescent students’ hope and willingness to forgive, and decreased their anxiety and depression. The intervention consisted of approximately 23 hours of education, which were broken down into five main sections. The second of these sections focused on understanding forgiveness as an option that one can make when ready to release anger. It also focused on understanding the relationship between forgiveness and revenge, and forgiveness and justice.
In a second study, 4th grade students showed an increase in forgiveness and hope, and a decrease in anger after participating in a forgiveness education program.
Why Does It Matter?
The increase in school shootings, bullying, violence, and discrimination experienced by children and adolescents underlines the need for education that helps students cope with trauma and deep hurt, both of which can result in anger, anxiety, and depression.
Education on forgiveness is particularly important given that angry and hurt children who cannot understand their feelings often inflict anger upon others, or deny it until it erupts. Teaching children what forgiveness is and is not as well as how to forgive—including that forgiveness is a choice, does not mean condoning the behavior, and does not require them to remain friends with the person— can help create more positive and safe learning environments. Furthermore, research finds that when forgiveness occurs among friends, forgiveness is related to greater well-being for children.