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Weekly wellbeing links

The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes

(Portia, The Merchant of Venice, and namesake of my younger daughter)

Forgiving, like apologizing, can be twice blessed. So please forgive me for somewhat stumbling through this week’s topic and we’ll all feel better.

I approached my research into forgiveness with a light heart, assuming it would be a happy topic of healing and a fairly teachable virtue to work on with your children. Forgiveness is, after all, one of the ten keys to well-being identified by Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Centre. Berkeley’s definition states that forgiveness “brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger.”

However, it quickly became obvious that forgiveness can be deep, complex and very personal, like the first few paragraphs of this story about forgiveness expert Everett L. Worthington Jr.: “The Forgiveness Boost.”

Forgiveness can easily be intertwined with religion, and I don’t have the background to help explore that avenue. Forgiveness is divisive, in that some argue it’s essential for psychological, physical and emotional well-being, while others argue that it’s entirely personal and that great strength can come from not forgiving.

Let’s start with the lighter side of forgiving. This short but comprehensive article breaks down the elements of forgiveness, identifies the health risks of not forgiving (“increased risks for cardiovascular, immune system and other problems, including depression, anxiety, anger, and PTSD disorders”) and offers some links to further reading and listening on the topic.

Why Kids Need to Learn How to Forgive” is one of a number of worthwhile articles about teaching forgiveness. The article shares research on how “when kids are wronged and don’t forgive, they remain ‘stuck’ in the traumatic situation when they felt victimized.” This article examines how forgiveness can make kids happier.

Eight Essentials to Forgiveness” is a “how to” that you could use as a guide for any age. The link between the social-emotional skill of forgiveness to those of empathy, morals and gratitude has been reinforced by Harvard’s Making Caring Common in this parent guide: Raising Caring Children.

Feel free to stop here. I’ll forgive you. However, if you’re curious to know more about the complexities of forgiveness, please read on.

There’s tension between forgiving and what might be seen as excusing, condoning or minimizing the affront. Professor, author and researcher Loren Toussaint argues these are misconceptions and states that “unforgiveness is the harbinger of worse mental and physical health, and economic, social and spiritual problems.” In Toussaint’s article, co-written with Everett L. Worthington Jr., she looks in depth at the psychology of forgiving and how to move from unforgiveness towards forgiveness.

Forgiveness Is Not A Binary State” is a lengthy Atlantic article that fully explores how forgiveness is “a highly personal choice, speeding healing for some and precluding healing for others.” It brings us full circle to last week’s expert on apologizing, Harriet Lerner.

Check out this link for an abundance of resources on forgiveness, or perhaps simply listen to this nine-minute interview with writer, professor, political activist, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, as he reflects on forgiveness.

Thank you for reading. We’re almost at the March break. Please be in touch if you have any comments at lfraser@ucc.on.ca.

Laurie Fraser
Character Program Director