Forgiveness And Reconciliation A Critique

Forgiveness And Reconciliation A Critique


Research Topic
The Ethical Aspects of a Study
Strengths, Limitations, and Suggestions
Design (different for qualitative vs. quantitative)
Participants (different for qualitative vs. quantitative)
Data Quality & Collection (different for qualitative vs. quantitative)
Data Analysis (different for qualitative vs. quantitative)
Summary of Research Critique.

Forgiveness And Reconciliation A Critique

This paper “Forgiveness And Reconciliation A Critique” is a critique of a nine page report on “Forgiveness and Reconciliation: The Differing Perspectives of Psychologists and Christian Theologians”. This paper will cover the research topic itself which is how psychologists and Christian theologians differ on thoughts of forgiveness and reconciliation. When hoodlums who do bad things to other people, such as killing the child of a young couple, sometimes it takes years before any justice is done, which in itself further victimizes the people. The people themselves have so annoying a hurt while justice is being done and in some cases for justice to never be done. Sometimes for the victim the only justice will be that the perpetrator has been put to death because, a crime so heinous an act that sometimes the only justice that will be acceptable to the victim or victims parents will be the death of the perpetrator, how can one forgive that perpetrator? In thinking about this particular paper I cannot help but put myself into the role of those parents that have lost their three-year-old child. So the quick question comes to mind how do we forgive? I personally would have a very difficult time with that. While this paper does mention forgiveness of strangers, the thrust of this paper that we are critiquing here is more related to the long-term relationship between an abuser and the abused.
Using the death of a three-year-old child certainly a heinous crime and the ultimate something we would have to forgive, if the parent chooses to forgive. I do tend to choose something on that order when talking about the human condition, because heinous crimes have been around forever it would seem. On the other hand it’s much easier to forgive somebody that has stolen your checkbook, or they have stolen your coat; sometimes they may actually need something just to exist, and that I would find easy to forgive, then perhaps I would try to help more. A type of forgiveness that would be more difficult it seems is when one spouse brutalizes another spouse, or a parent abuses a child, which is quite common and I grew up with it. I have now had almost 65 trips around our sun and have yet to forgive that abuser. The victim spouse easily forgives the other one because, in their mind they knew they deserved the treatment they got, therefore they forget the treatment they received quickly as something bad. Another type is when a child is raped by their step father, 30 years later that child is still suffering. This child many times is trying to find reconciliation through participating in prostitution and drugs. There is a tape by Reverend Edward J, Farrell called Prayer And Reconciliation the Ave Maria press, Notre Dame Indiana. I have listened to that tape several times and always receive new hope from it however, that tape is different, yet the same from what I am understanding about this paper. That tape is about self forgiveness not the forgiveness of someone else who has done something against you. I will be referring to that tape later in this paper.
The purpose of the study was to determine if psychologists and theologians believe differently about the role of forgiveness and reconciliation. (Frise) “what extent does this privatized and secularized view of forgiveness and reconciliation conflict with the religious construct of forgiveness and reconciliation, that many clients and their religious leaders may hold.” This a lofty goal to meet, but as I will explain later I believe it falls short to some extent. Other studies that propose a correlation between the self and forgiveness to others have been presented. (Holeman) ” Differentiation of self is a central principle in Bowen Family Systems Theory (Bowen, 1976, 1978). Differentiation of self operates on intrapersonal and interpersonal levels. Regarding the intrapersonal level, Bowen (1976, 1978) proposed that people had two primary operating systems: the intellectual system and the emotional system. Differentiation of self refers to the ability to distinguish between thinking and feeling and the ability to choose which system directs one’s behavior. When one experiences negative emotional intensity, the capacity to distinguish between thinking and feeling diminishes. The result is emotional reactivity where individuals’ actions and reactions are driven by emotions instead of by calmer, objective thinking.” The importance here is mending broken lives and doing it in a manner that heals the abused and stops the abuser. Reconciliation has been debated for as long as man has been around or at-least back to the ancient Israelites. Ministerial training looks at reconciliation as an act as hospitality, (Shaw) ” Some specific praxis implications of hospitable ministerial training include building an atmosphere of trust, reciprocity, and modeling the character of God.” Jews throughout history have had the need for reconciliation with their abusers and have many holidays to celebrate reconciliation. I like a particular saying they have that reflects reconciliation for them very well. “They came, they conquered, we survived, lets eat.” The importance of this study is ultimately to help all peoples forgive and reconcile them live a happier life.
What is forgiveness and what is reconciliation? In order for this critique to make sense we must first define forgiveness and reconciliation in the context of this paper. (Wigoder) Maimonides teaches that in order to secure God’s forgiveness, the individual must confess to having sinned, then repent, and finally resolve not to sin again. How this applies to this paper is that the abuser must first seek forgiveness from the abused, before forgiveness can be given. Then this also implies that the abuser must recognize they have done something wrong and will vow to never do the wrong again. Again, I go back to Jewish tradition the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is for man to seek forgiveness from those people he has wronged. God does not forgive transgression of man against man. God only forgives transgressions against God.
Reconciliation is the second step in this two step process. (Hauss) ” As is the case with any new concept, there is no standard definition that all scholars and practitioners rely on. However, almost everyone acknowledges that it includes at least four critical components identified by John Paul Lederach — truth, justice, mercy, and peace.” In short Reconciliation is dependent on truth, love and a sincere effort of the abuser not to do it again. This is the kind of reconciliation that God refers to when he forgives the Israelites for their transgressions of the golden calf. The importance of this study is to help promote dialoged between theologians and psychologists on a very important subject of psychological healing for victims of some abuse.
In this paper we discuss the ethical aspects of the study itself. When looking at the criteria for ethics we will look at several aspects of the ethics question;
1. Deception, there was no deception used in this paper. The information sent to the participants was straight forward and explanatory. The people surveyed are considered well enough equipped to detect deception. Many did comment on the study.
2. Safeguards were not indicated or needed for the participants because all questions were within the participants own field of expertise.
3. Approval process was neither requested or granted. This seemed to pose no problems for the psychologist that were used in this study. However, some theologians were concerned with the questions themselves. They considered this approach to the subject matter was perceived as at best problematic and at worst patronizing. Several theologians commented that the questions themselves were not adequate and that taking the survey, the Democratic approach, may not be the appropriate manner for determining philosophical matters. Those comments alone were comments of approval or non-approval.
4. Informed consent was implied in that 285 individuals were sent e-mails about this survey of which they responded online the response rate was 30%, This actually answers the question, that there was no undue influence and that consent was implied when the respondents answered.
5. Coercion or undue influence was not a problem because they only have a 30% response rate.
6. Debriefing again was implied from the fact that the participants had the opportunity to comment at the end of the survey. And as said above, many theologians did comment on the survey and survey questions.
Strengths, there were two studies, the first study consisted of four questions using a Likert-type scale based on one to five being strongly agree, along with one open-ended question. It was sent to scholars in both disciplines. The second study consisted of the same four questions and the one open-ended question requesting the opinions of the experts the response rate went up to 60% in the second study. Experts were considered ones who have published papers on one or both of the subjects. The brevity of the questionnaire is a strength because, people were more eager to complete it at-least the experts. The strengths and limitations and the suggestion that this paper puts forth are good.
Prior to 1990 there were less than two dozen articles published on forgiveness and reconciliation. Since then there have been over 1000 articles published. So apparently this type of study is gaining a lot of ground in the psychology field, and seems to have a lot of support in what it is questioning, which is definitely its major strength because it is opening up dialog.
Weakness, there was only a 30% response rate in the first study. While brevity is considered a strength it can also be considered a weakness. Participants may have believed that this is too mundane for them to take the time to answer. The researchers admit there was possible selection bias in the first study. Since there was no oversight committee looking at the questions or any part of the study that is perhaps part of the reason, that there was some less than flattering endorsements from the clergy side of this report.
Is the paper a qualitative versus a quantitative discussion. The paper is both quantitative and qualitative. Qualitative research is research that usually involves a lower number of people but it is fact-finding research. There was no hypothesis presented with this study to prove or disprove, which makes it qualitative. Where quantitative is usually going to have a much better response rate and asks opinions on some scale. This paper is both quantitative and qualitative.
There were two identical studies presented in this paper. The first study from “Forgiveness and Reconciliation: The Differing Perspectives of Psychologists and Christian Theologians” was a quantitative study in that it did ask four questions which required a response on the likert-like scale from one to five, with five being strongly agree. The second study was also quantitative in that it asked the same questions. What made the two studies different was the people questioned were different. (Frise) “whereas the first study surveyed scholars of each discipline, this second study examined the opinions of experts. These experts have published in their respective fields on the topic of forgiveness.” However the analysis was qualitative, but, what makes it qualitative is that qualitative is based on words and quantitative is based on data and all qualitative data must be quantified to be meaningful, as well as, all quantitative data must be qualitative to be meaningful. (Trochim) “What he means by that all quantitative data is based on qualitative judgment.” The final factor for qualitative is the last question which is open-ended and requires a verbal response. (Frise) “Participants on both studies were asked an open-ended question about whether reconciliation is an essential part of forgiveness.” Therefore, the study is qualitative as well as quantitative
Quantitative in this study is the first four questions asked. They were all opinion and were all answered on a likert-like scale and easily tabulated. The researchers determined that the psychologist and the theologians agreed on several points and disagreed on one. The first question “did forgiveness entail a release of negative questions?” there was no significant difference. The second question “letting go of the desire for revenge” there was no significant difference. The third question “true forgiveness involves developing positive feeling for the offender” there was a significant difference between the psychologists and the theologians. The theologians believed that good feeling toward the offender was necessary. Sounds to me like “turn the other cheek”. The fourth question also showed a significant difference, “True forgiveness means that a person is restored to an ongoing relationship”. Here the theologians and the less religious psychologists displayed no significant difference while the religious psychologists showed that restoring an ongoing relationship is not necessary. My personal belief is with this group, because I believe that restoring an ongoing relationship also means allowing the same situation and abuse to reassert itself. I believe one should extricate themselves from an abusive relationship, in order to stop it from happening again.
In the second study the experts, those who published, from both sides seemed to agree with the theologians of the first study. I find this to be a very telling statistic which I will explain in my summary later.
I do like this study because it hits some very important issues. Its’ greatest strength is that of simplicity. It gets right to the point and asks very important questions. I would give it a seven on a ten scale. I also believe it has some weakness, which is the reason for the seven instead of a ten, in that it needs three more, I believe, very important questions question one “Should the abused extricate themselves from an abusive relationship or go back to the relationship just to prove they forgave the abuser?” Question two “What is more important Forgiveness or Reconciliation”? then question three, Why is one more important than the other? By not asking these questions I believe the researchers miss a very important aspect of the forgiveness and reconciliation process and debate.
Finally we get a summary of the research itself and what the researchers have to say and what possibly could have been done better and how they could improve in the future. The researchers acknowledge there were limitations and that some theologians wrote that the research was problematic and patronizing. Some theologians thought the questions themselves were not adequate. I agree with this assessment with the addition of the questions above, I think should be added. The researchers also added that in the future, the general public should be included in the survey. I agree with that assessment; the lay should be included.
I believe that this study was a good study in many ways. Where does forgiveness come from? (Farrell) “forgiveness and reconciliation comes from God” To understand this concept we must go way back to Exodus 32 where the Hebrews made the golden calf to worship. Moses came back to the people after spending time on the mountain. God was angry at his people and was going to destroy them all, but Moses intervened to save the people from Gods retribution, he asks God to forgive them. God forgives the people then gives them as reconciliation, the Torah at mount Sinai, as rules to live by. Over three million people witnessed this event. The point I am trying to make here is, that God provided the example and model for forgiveness and reconciliation. There are several stages to this model:
1. The act of abuse which was the worship of the golden calf, or spousal abuse.
2. The anger stage where God wanted to destroy the entire people. The spouse usually wishes to destroy the abusing spouse.
3. The acknowledgement of wrong doing, the people Israel realized they did wrong and Moses asks God to forgive them. The abusing spouse acknowledges they were wrong then asks for forgiveness from the other.
4. The forgiveness stage, God forgives the people. The abused spouse forgives the other spouse.
5. Finally the reconciliation state, God gave the Torah to the people Israel. The abused spouse reconciles with the abuser to regain what they once had, a good relationship.
The problem with step five here is that the people Israel returned to the ways of idolatry (abuse) again and again, just like the abusing spouse returns to their abusing ways. God finally had enough and sent the Jews from Israel into the world as slaves and the name of the land was changed to Palestine. The same is true for an abused spouse, they will leave the situation, because the abuser will not change. It certainly sounds like this procedure has gone on for a long time, like as long as the history of man.
The five steps above work if you have a belief in a supreme being. The belief in a supreme being is an essential part of believing in forgiveness and reconciliation. Those psychologists that are not religious and are also experts in the field did respond to a great extent like the theologians. I believe this is due to them having watched human interaction in person and not from a text book. This also brings many questions to mind that are the subjects of many other studies, such as did God create man, or did man create God. There have been such a plethora of gods since time began that one would think it is up to man to create god. My own belief is that God created man then, man created gods. How does this statement relate to the study? It is because the human condition has been around for a long time and was well documented in a book of rules over 3,000 years ago at a mountain in a dessert.
That scenario has repeated itself over again and again and again. I mentioned self-forgiveness earlier in this paper and I mentioned Gods forgiveness as well. Perhaps they are one and the same, because God lives in our hearts and not on some celestial throne. God works miracles through us, not through some volcano devouring a city or changing a woman into a pillar of salt.
It is the same story with different names in different places and at different levels of the human condition. It is a story that will be with man for many a year to come. People will always want to rule and abuse, then there will always be people who willing submit to being ruled and abused. That will happen whether we have Obama, Osama, Hitler, Stalin, Kahn and Mao doing the ruling or we have, Moses, Jesus, Gandhi, Washington, Jefferson, John Paul II, or Reagan doing the freedom fighting. The human condition will go on as long as there are humans. We will continue to run this cycle of forgiveness and reconciliation, until man learns to live above themselves and they learn to live as Rabbi Hillel stated about 200 CE, when he was asked by a king, what is Judaism about? Hillel said, while standing on one foot, “Judaism is all about, NOT doing onto others that which you would NOT want done unto you, all the rest is commentary. When man learns to live by this statement, then we will have broken the cycle of forgiveness and reconciliation.


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Wigoder, Geoffrey, G.G. The New Encyclopedia of Judaism, edited by, The Jerusalem Publishing House, Ltd.

Hauss, Charles. (2003) Reconcilition. Beyond Intractability. Retrieved June 2, 2011.

Holeman, V., Dean, J., DeShea, L., & Duba, J.. (2011). THE MULTIDIMENSIONAL
NATURE OF THE QUEST CONSTRUCT FORGIVENESS, SPIRITUAL PERCEPTION, & DIFFERENTIATION OF SELF. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 39(1), 31-43. Retrieved June 3, 2011, from ProQuest Religion. (Document ID: 2353322471).

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Hospitality. Christian Education Journal, 8(1), 8-26. Retrieved June 3, 2011, from ProQuest Religion. (Document ID: 2331208571).

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Frise, Nathan, R. McMinn, Mark, R. (2010) Forgiveness and Reconciliation: The differing
Perspectives of Psychologists and Christian Theologians. Journal of Psychology and Theology. Biola University. Correspondence Nathan R Frise, George Fox University, 422 N. Meridian St V311, Newberg, OR 97132

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