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Dealing with conflict

As the executive director of A Campaign for Forgiveness Research at Virginia Commonwealth University, Everett Worthington devoted his life to studying and promoting the benefits of forgiveness.  In 1995, when his mother was brutally murdered, his philosophy of forgiveness was put to the test.  While pacing the room during a sleepless night, he debated with himself the pros and cons of forgiving.  On one hand, he was so angry and hurt that he did not want to extend the gift of forgiveness to the young man who senselessly and viciously changed the face of his family forever.  Conversely, his research determined that carrying resentment around was like hauling around a “red-hot coal with the intention of one day throwing it back at the one who hurt you” (Worthington, 2001, p. 8).  The burden of blame and anger creates pain, heartache, and possible health problems for the person who carries it around (Worthington). 

For many people, the red hot coal burns their hands and their hearts.  Forgiveness, in some cases, seems impossible.  In others, people want to begin their forgiveness work, and simply do not know how to begin.  This paper begins with a justification of the topic’s relevance and why further research is important.  It begins with a working definition of the term forgiveness and moves forward to explore current research.  The process begins with a paradigm shift that attempts to dispel prevalent myths about forgiveness and moves toward a discussion of the relationship between the triad of apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation. A positive correlation has been made between the benefits of letting go of negative emotions, such as anger and blame, and replacing them with positive ones associated with forgiveness.   Additionally, religious beliefs play a part in the ideas that persist about forgiveness, so a discussion of that topic ensues.  In an effort to help people who choose forgiveness over unforgiveness, two action models are presented.  Next, the paper examines how mediators can move the disputants down the path toward forgiveness. It concludes with a discussion of the positive and negative aspects of the paper, along with its limitations.