The Church as Forgiving Community: An Initial Model
The topic covered by this article is about the power of forgiveness and the Church posing as the initial model of a forgiving community. Forgiveness interventions have shown to decrease anxiety, depression and anger while increasing self-esteem and hope. (Magnuson & Enright, 2008) The article focuses on the process of forgiving as a learned action that must be practiced and performed in order to truly master it. The process is two-fold in both providing and receiving forgiveness. The article focuses on promoting the essential moral trait of forgiveness in children within their central communities and the establishment of these communities, referred to as “The Forgiving Communities”. These communities include three interdependent categories: the family, the school, and the Church. The article introduces two process models of forgiveness; Robert Enright’s process model which breaks down forgiveness into a four phase process that includes uncovering anger, deciding to forgive, working on forgiveness and the final outcome. Worthington’s REACH model breaks down the forgiveness process into recalling the offense, empathizing with the offender, gifting the offender with forgiveness, committing publicly to forgiveness and holding onto the forgiveness one has achieved. Both models agree that empathy for the offender is vital to the forgiveness process. These models were tested amongst select primary schools in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in which forgiveness interventions were held with children with notable success. The article proposes that the Church could be utilized as a similar model in which it serves as Forgiving Community in which all levels of leadership would cater to the community from infancy through adulthood with various types of programing and education.
I was interested in this article because I know how detrimental it can be to hold onto forgiveness. Throughout my 18 years of service in the U.S. Air Force, multiple deployments and several assignments in leadership, I have witnessed how holding onto past wrongs can eat away at you like a cancer and often time, it goes unnoticed until truly identified and examined by self-identification or through third party intervention. I have been involved with several situations in which members deploy into a combat zone and return different people. Many have been wronged by a common enemy and struggle to even examine the idea of forgiveness. Many soldiers carry around this pain and baggage for years without ever truly recognizing exactly what they are holding onto. The Church can be vital to this recognition and the recovery process.
The article relayed how the Church can play such a vital role as a Forgiving Community reaching to all members of the family from child to adult. It was also interesting how among the various levels of leadership and roles in the Church, each one was able to offer their own gifts and talents providing to the community. It relays how a community must be all-encompassing feeling of safety and opens not only to give forgiveness, but to accept forgiveness as well.
I would like to further investigate this topic by researching small group studies on forgiveness that are available through my own local Church community. I am part of a small group that meets regularly and would like to incorporate the topic into our lessons. In addition, I see that Robert Enright has done a vast amount of research on the topic and has produced many works as a result. One of the books that I would like to read is his Forgiveness is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope (2001). I understand that it is something that we must decide to do. Until we make the first step to accept and be willing to forgive, or be...
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