Development of Forgiveness After Violent Behavior
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Meet researchers and authors who have shared their thoughts about life events that compel us to re-evaluate the meaning of life and our place in it. In this episode, Dr. Thomas Johnson talks about the grudge management classes for violent behavior and the way spirituality came into play.


Male: Professor Institute funded a number of studies that sought to test spiritual intervention to reduce aggressive behavior and to train people to learn forgiveness. Dr. Johnson: To get men to sign up to heavy call grudge management, men wouldn’t sign up to come to do workshops on forgiveness. Men don’t need forgiveness. But grudge management, that would get a man in. So what they were able to do is use a variety of techniques over a several week period to help men and women, they did this for women as well, how to make a decision first of all about whether they want to forgive somebody about a specific incident. And then, once they made that decision to forgive, kind of took them to steps to help them do that. Male: But can compassion and forgiveness be taught? Or can an individual be retrained to feel compassion once they have developed the perspective on the world that doesn’t include compassion. Dr. Johnson says that one of the first steps involved in helping someone decided if they want to forgive someone is to help them understand what forgiveness is. He points out that forgiveness doesn’t have to mean that you have sanctioned the behavior or that one is acknowledging that what the other person did is okay. It doesn’t even mean that one intends to reconcile with that person. Dr. Johnson: So kind of educating about what forgiveness is and isn’t and that helps them think through, Am I going to do this? Do I want to do this? And once they made that decision then well, how do you do that? And there’s various things you can do. One of the things is kind of catching how you think about that other person or event. Trying to change the way people are perhaps interpreting the meaning of the other person’s behavior. Male: One approach to starting down the road to forgiveness is to invite someone to walk in the shoes of another to think about what may have been going on in that person’s life that caused them to react the way they did. Dr. Johnson: Again not to justify their behavior. Not that their behavior was right but maybe in the sense that okay well there are these things going on in their life that kind of maybe led them towards that. Doesn’t mean what they did was right, doesn’t mean that they should do it again but maybe you can let go of it and not kind of continue to drag it up and ruminate about it. And found that that in fact was beneficial help as well as benefits on aggressive behavior.