07 November 2013
Even in societies enjoying relative peace and social harmony, there are, perhaps, few people who do not need to seek, or consider offering, forgiveness.
Dr Masi Noor
This is especially so in societies that are marked by political violence, where causing or enduring irreversible harm, such as the loss of loved ones, overwhelms all thought of reconciliation. Although forgiveness has been a topic of much moralising and spiritualising, comparatively little attention has been paid to its practice.
To assist people and societies interested in the notion of forgiveness, a Canterbury Christ Church University Psychologist, Dr Masi Noor, has developed a skills-based Forgiveness Toolbox. The toolbox is a web based resource, and since going live in July has attracted over 1000 visitors from all over the world.
Dr Noor, who has a background in Psychology and Conflict Resolution, has identified key skills that can foster forgiveness. Uniquely, these skills are derived from first hand-accounts of both the victims and the perpetrators of political violence (Northern Ireland, Palestine/Israel, etc.) who have struggled with trauma, loss, resentment, and even thoughts of revenge. These ordinary people seem to have succeeded in extraordinary ways to liberate themselves from the debilitating effect of destructiveness, to reach out and see ‘the gifts in their wounds’.
In collaboration with the Forgiveness Project, which uses real life stories of victims and perpetrators to explore the concept of forgiveness, the toolbox delivers seven important skills. These include: going beyond understanding, building bridges out of suffering, empathy, courage & curiosity, accepting responsibility, resisting conformity and, finally, beyond resentment.
Dr Noor explains: “There is a real hunger for forgiveness, which is understandable given the social utility of forgiveness in protecting victims from becoming perpetrators and so stopping the endless cycle of revenge.
“At the same time, forgiveness often remains a vague concept. Psychology is well-positioned in disentangling the myths around powerful concepts such as forgiveness, and breaking them down into practical and tangible skills that are accessible to people. The seven skills based on actual real-life stories are among the first key skills that we know of. They do not form an exhaustive or prescriptive list and, indeed, we wish to expand this set as we advance empirical research in this area.
“Having worked and conducted research across several societies in conflict, I have come to view forgiveness as a challenging and yet potentially useful strategy for conflict resolution. Forgiveness can bring about shifts in victims and perpetrators’ hearts and minds that used to be filled with strong and persistent negative emotions and mistrusting motives. As witnessed in the real-life stories, sometimes such shifts are sudden, while other times they can take a long and painful time. Holding onto resentment has certainly a cost.
“The toolbox can be used by anyone who is struggling to let go and move ahead with their life. Eventually we hope to offer training, based on the skills in the toolbox, to communities and organisations, that have suffered conflict and trauma to help with the process of forgiveness and moving on.”
For more information visit: www.theforgivenesstoolbox.com.
The Forgiveness Toolbox project received funding from the Research Excellence Framework (REF) cluster - Politics and International Studies.
To interview Dr Noor please contact the Corporate Communications Unit at Canterbury Christ Church University on 01227 782391 or email Jeanette.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Noor will be organising a conference on psychology’s contribution to understanding victimhood as a result of intergroup conflict. The conference is funded by the European Association of Social Psychology, Canterbury Christ Church University, University of Clark and University of Milano Biccoca. The conference will take place in June, 2014 in Verona, Italy. For more information contact email@example.com.
Notes to Editor
Canterbury Christ Church University
Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.
With nearly 20,000 students, across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.
- 94% of our recent UK undergraduates are in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
- We are the number one choice for local people looking to study at university in Kent (2012 UCAS).
- We are one of the South East’s largest provider of education, training and skills to the public service careers.
*2011/12 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey