Forgiveness Expert Explores Religious Dimension

By Rocca, Francis X. | The Christian Century, March 22, 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Forgiveness Expert Explores Religious Dimension


Rocca, Francis X., The Christian Century


FOR MORE than a quarter of a century, psychologist Robert D. Enright has been a pioneer in the scientific study of forgiveness--the kind of guy Time magazine once dubbed "the forgiveness trailblazer."

Enright has probed the mental and physical benefits that incest survivors, adult children of alcoholics, cardiac patients and others can enjoy if they choose to show mercy to those who have done them wrong.

His work has taken him to global hotspots--to a school program of "forgiveness education" for Catholic and Protestant children in Northern Ireland and to a project to promote e-mail dialogue among Jewish, Muslim and Christian children in Israel and Palestine.

But while forgiveness carries strong associations with religion, at one time Enright supported his claims with empirical data alone, insisting that his method is usable by "theists and nontheists" alike.

The study of forgiveness has nevertheless ended up nurturing Enright's own faith, ultimately bringing him back to the Roman Catholic Church of his youth. He is now preparing, for the first time, to make that faith explicit in his work.

Enright was not a churchgoer when he embarked on this line of research in 1985, but as he tells it, his discovery of the field that would define his career came in answer to a prayer.

Seeking to help a graduate student in search of a thesis topic, Enright decided while driving one day to ask God for a suggestion. He recalls that "one word came back: forgiveness."

Today, at least 1,000 academic researchers and "countless therapists" specialize in forgiveness studies, Enright said, but in 1985 a library search turned up not a single piece of scholarship on the subject in any of the social sciences.

Enright found himself drawn to the subject and began leading a seminar on forgiveness at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he was a tenured professor. Among the assigned readings for the seminar were selections from the scriptures of various religious traditions.

Those texts raised questions that led Enright back to Christianity--first to what he describes as a liberal Methodist church, then to an evangelical Protestant congregation and finally back to Catholicism.

A major turning point in both his spiritual development and his understanding of forgiveness, Enright said, was the death of his wife, Nancy, from kidney cancer in 2002. That ordeal, which left him a single father of two young boys, taught him the power of redemptive suffering.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"Forgiveness as Redemptive Suffering" is the working title of a book that Enright will be writing with his son Kevin, 23, a recent college graduate who plans to pursue graduate studies in philosophy.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Forgiveness Expert Explores Religious Dimension
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?