The Horizons Project is partnering with Rotary International to explore how to embed concepts and practices of forgiveness, accountability, and societal healing within Rotary clubs and their partners around the world.
Forgiveness is often described as a very courageous act that allows the forgiver to take control and make the difficult choice to let go of animosity and ill-will towards a perpetrator without condoning the act of injustice itself. It can be a powerful tool for the individual journey towards transformation and self-healing. Yet, when an injustice or violent act affects more than one person and/or is part of an ongoing system that is perpetrating harm, forgiveness alone can be inadequate to meet the larger need for group, community, and/or societal healing.
Some social changemakers take issue with the term and practice of forgiveness due to the lack of accountability needed for the individual forgiveness process to occur. Without accountability, how can the wrongdoer learn from their mistakes so that they don’t cause further pain and suffering? If a larger group of people or system is responsible, how will an individual act of forgiveness serve others in a community or society who may encounter the same injustice? While forgiveness alone can be a powerful, spiritual act, it can sometimes overlook larger, systemic issues and injustices at play that perpetuate ongoing harm or trauma, even after the individual act of forgiveness takes place.
Trauma or harm can take many forms in society—it can come directly from a distressing event, be experienced over time from adversity (including chronic scarcity of essential resources) and/or be passed down through generations within communities where deep empathy and the recounting of direct traumatic experiences is common. Untreated trauma can lead to biological, cognitive and behavioral adaptations that affect social norms and group dynamics. In organizations and community groups, untreated trauma can influence the group’s norms, guiding principles, culture, and ability to make change together. However, when trauma is adequately addressed and treated, it can allow individuals and a larger society to take steps towards healing—to center love, find compassion and restore broken relationships.
The ways of addressing forgiveness, accountability, and trauma are often siloed in practice, with each field developing its own approaches and tools that can make it difficult to integrate for practical application. As a community-rooted organization, whose members “see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change” and seek to “provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace,” Rotarians are well-situated to help make these connections with the appropriate tools and resources.
Why It Is So Hard to Forgive, Dr. Jim Dincalci, The Forgiveness Foundation
In this short video, Dr. Dincalci provides an overview of forgiveness, myths about forgiveness, and why it can be beneficial for individual processes for transformation and self-healing. More resources from Dr. Dincalci can be found here.
Kazu Haga on Beloved Community, Kazu Haga, The Horizons Project
Haga discusses the challenge of building the beloved community, especially when it comes to including people who are not easy to love. Listening to their story may allow us to replace harbored resentment and anger—not to condone the action—but to find compassion through understanding.
International Forgiveness Institute Training Videos
The International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) has compiled a library of training videos and podcasts that discuss strategies and approaches individuals may explore on forgiveness. The videos and curriculum are targeted towards education professionals, counselors, psychotherapists, families, and other peacebuilding practitioners.
Loretta J. Ross: “Don’t call people out – call them in”, TED Talk
‘We live in a call-out culture, says activist and scholar Loretta J. Ross. You’re probably familiar with it: the public shaming and blaming, on social media and in real life, of people who may have done wrong and are being held accountable. In this bold, actionable talk, Ross gives us a toolkit for starting productive conversations instead of fights — what she calls a “call-in culture” — and shares strategies that help challenge wrongdoing while still creating space for growth, forgiveness and maybe even an unexpected friend. “Fighting hate should be fun,” Ross says. “It’s being a hater that sucks.”’
What Other Cultures Can Teach Us About Forgiveness, William Park, BBC Future
“Forgiving someone else can have a positive effect on your life, but exactly how you forgive someone depends on where in the world you are from.”
Reflections on Accountability and Forgiveness: Part 1, Stefanie Krasnow and Rami Nijjar
“This blog [explores] the perspective of those who have been hurt and ways that different perspectives of forgiveness and accountability can help or hinder their healing process.”
Reflections on Accountability and Forgiveness: Part 2, Stefanie Krasnow and Rami Nijjar
“This blog [explores] the role [that] accountability and forgiveness have in creating healing and repair when we are in the role of having done harm.”
The Necessity of Forgiveness – and Accountability: Matthew 18:21-35, Leah D. Schade, EcoPreacher, Patheos
“The parable about the Unforgiving Servant shows us that forgiveness is essential – but so is accountability…And I’d like to imagine that our church can think deeply about what it means to be in relationship with each other, with those who exercise power, and with those who have had their power stripped from them. Because theology does matter. How we read the Bible does matter. It is literally a matter of life and death. And the church needs to proclaim God’s radical forgiveness and divine mercy, as well as the surety of God’s accountability and justice.”
When Forgiveness Isn’t Enough, Andrea Jongbloed, Relevant Magazine
“Forgiveness involves ceasing to feel resentment towards someone. Reconciliation involves the restoring of a relationship, something that can be difficult to do (and something that can’t or shouldn’t happen in some situations).” In this article, Jongbloed discusses the benefits and hard work of going beyond forgiveness—to reconciliation. She quotes Bishop Desmond Tutu in describing why reconciliation is worthwhile, despite the pain: ‘”Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are,” he says. “It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.”’
We need to build a movement that heals our nation’s traumas, Kazu Haga, Waging Nonviolence
“As a nation, we have never talked about the traumatic years of our collective childhood. Sure, in some small, hidden ways there were whispers of it. We would talk about it in activist spaces. Radicals would read books about it and have healing rituals. There would be murmurs and rumors spoken in progressive circles. But as a nation, we have never dove into it. And so the trauma that we all experienced got frozen and stuck.”
Issue #50: Belonging and Transformative Resilience, Future of Belonging
Explore this conversation “with Ama Marston to discuss her book, Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World, and work focused on transformative resilience. [The] conversation focused on the mindset, solutions, and approaches for moving through crisis and trauma that transformative resilience offers, many of which align with fulfilling the need for belonging.”
Shame, Safety and Moving Beyond Cancel Culture, The Ezra Klein Show
“When is cancellation merited or useful? When is it insufficient or harmful? And what other tools are available in those cases?”
The Limits of Forgiveness, In this Vox Conversations podcast, philosopher Lucy Allais reflects on human nature, concepts of power, and the limits of forgiveness. From her perspective as a South African living in the US, she discusses the contours of forgiveness as a political tool to move forward as a polarized democracy.
Resources from The Forgiveness Foundation, The Forgiveness Foundation
Check out these books, trainings, group discussion guides and therapy resources on forgiveness from The Forgiveness Foundation based on Dr. Jim Dincalci’s work. They “utilize a comprehensive approach – incorporating psychological, sociological, educational and other aspects” to help individuals through the forgiveness process.
The Art of Forgiveness, Frederic Luskin, Ph.D.
“One of the most challenging tasks we face in life is how to remain peaceful when something frustrates us. Not getting what we want is one of the main challenges to dealing with illness, abandonment, dishonesty, or any other difficulties that humans experience. Most of us never fully accept that life often does not give us what we want. We often react with outrage or offense when a normal, but difficult, life experience emerges. Most of us will make the situation worse by insisting and complaining that the specific difficulty is wrong instead of focusing our energy on how to best deal with the situation.” This article discusses several stages/approaches for granting forgiveness.
From Trauma to Transformative Futures: Four Dimensions, Interaction Institute for Social Change
This framework from the Interaction Institute for Social Change helps organizations, groups, and individuals consider how they might transition from trauma to reckoning to healing to transformative futures.
Adverse Community Experiences and Resilience: A Framework for Addressing and Preventing Community Trauma, Rachel David, Howard Pinderhughes and Myesha Wiliams, Prevention Institute
“This report offers a groundbreaking framework for understanding the relationship between community trauma and violence. Until now, there has been no basis for understanding how community trauma undermines both individual and community resilience, especially in communities highly impacted by violence, and what can be done about it. Funded by Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit in Northern California and based on interviews with practitioners in communities with high rates of violence, the report outlines specific strategies to address and prevent community trauma—and foster resilience—using techniques from those living in affected areas.”
#ListenFirst Conversations Complete Guide, #Listen First
“A #ListenFirst conversation is any conversation that helps us see each other across differences and discover human connection. It might be between two friends or among many strangers. It might be on a park bench, in a classroom, in the workplace, at home, or online. Regardless of where you are or who you’re with, here are our favorite principles and tips!”
Calling In and Calling Out Guide, Harvard University’s Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging
“In fostering spaces of inclusion and belonging, it is important to recognize, name, and address when individuals or groups with marginalized identities are experiencing harm, such as bias or discrimination. The concepts of “calling out” or “calling in” have become popular ways of thinking about how to bring attention to this type of harm. Knowing the difference between these concepts can help us reflect, then act, in the ways we feel will best promote constructive change. This guide is a continuously evolving document that we plan to improve over time.”