Last month I read a novel titled, The Hummingbird, by Stephen P Kiernan, (Harper Collins Publishers, 2015). In the book one of the characters asked another “what would be your answer to each of these four questions?”
Is there anyone you need to say ‘I’m sorry’ to?
Is there anyone you need to say ‘I forgive you’ to?
Is there anyone you need to say ‘thank you’ to?
Is there anyone you need to say ‘I love you’ to?
I bookmarked the page saying to myself, “Here is your May Blog – apology, forgiveness, gratitude (thanks), and love.”
I was struck by the power of the four questions and what they say about “reflection” – something I do not think we do often in our classrooms. As you know, ”reflection” is a component in learning, a source of both knowledge and beliefs, and an aspect of critical thinking—looking back on the implications of one’s actions.
I asked a few teachers what they thought about the idea of having students answer these questions about once a month during class-meeting time.
“I like it! What a good way to teach students to reflect on the substance of the questions. I would have them write down their answers and discuss them in class, but only those students who want to do so publicly.”
Another teacher suggested that she would have her students add their own reflective question(s) to the list.
I have written about gratitude (thanks) and love in two previous blogs—November 2018 and February 2019. Before we revisit those two virtues, some commentary about “apology and forgiveness.”
The question—how does one “apologize?”
“How to apologize can be the key to getting true forgiveness and moving a relationship forward in a positive way,” writes Marlee McKee. McKee offers seven tips for apologizing sincerely and successfully:
- Ask for permission to apologize.
- Let them know that you realize you hurt them.
- Tell them how you plan to right the situation.
- Let them know that inherent in your apology is a promise that you
won’t do what you did again.
- After you’ve talked through things, formally ask them for forgiveness.
- Consider following up with a handwritten note.
- Now it’s time for both people to go forth and live out their promises.
Teaching children “forgiveness” as you may have guessed, is a parent and teacher responsibility. Enright and Fitzgibbons write that “Forgiveness is a virtue hard to exercise and challenging to implement in the face of injustice, but one that offers a concrete hope for peace.”
They recommend “family forgiveness gatherings” at least once a week, such as during mealtimes, to talk about “what forgiveness means, how it feels, and what is easy and hard about.” Here is a strategy that would work in the classroom as well.
Robert Enright, Forgiveness is a Choice (Washington: APA, 2001); Robert Enright and
Richard Fitzgibbons, Helping Clients Forgive (Washington: APA, 2000); cf. International Forgiveness Institute, web-site: www.forgiveness-institute.org
Jamie Perillo, LPC, a child and family psychotherapist and parent educator, offers seven ideas to help parents and teachers get started on teaching children forgiveness. He notes that to forgive is to say, “I do not like your words or actions, but I am willing to let it go because it does not help me to hold onto these feelings.” He suggests that we look beyond the action and explore the person—helping her/him to answer the question: “what triggered the behavior?”
Perillo also suggests that the child (student) should be encouraged to “identify the feeling” he/she is experiencing (anger, embarrassment, disappointment) and then “state the feeling before offering forgiveness.”
We need to teach our children at home and in school that there are usually two or more sides to an issue or problem. “We need to teach our kids to be able to see things from the other side. Forgiving is much easier when we know the whole story and not just half of it. Ask your kids how they would want someone to respond when they did something wrong. They would want to be forgiven. Then tell them to do likewise.”
In the November blog, I wrote that Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, said: “You literally cannot overplay the hand of gratitude; the grateful mind reaps massive benefits in every domain of life that has been examined so far. There are countless ways in which gratitude could pay off in the workplace” (and in homes and schools).
I wrote that studies have shown that people who experience gratitude and thanks have more positive emotions (joy, love, happiness) and exhibit fewer negative emotions (bitterness, envy, resentment.) The “gratitude experience” also contributes to feelings of connectedness, relationships, and better physical health.
In the “What’s LOVE got to do with it?” blog, I noted that, Barbara Fredrickson, psychologist and author of the book Positivity, discusses “the science of happiness” and ten positive emotions including love.
“Love,” she writes, “comes into play in a close and safe relationship. Love is the most common feeling of positivity and comes in surges. Love fosters warmth and trust with the people who mean the most to us. Love makes us want to do and be better people.”
This might be a good time for you to reflect on each of the four questions and plan your next steps. Take 10 minutes and ask yourself “is there anyone I need to say I’m sorry, I forgive you, I thank you, I love you to?”
Ed DeRoche, Director, Character Education Resource Center, SOLES