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  • Peter Miller

SGG episode #50: Wisconsin professor Bob Enright, the pioneer of forgiveness studies


In addition to ongoing conversations with leading coaches, the SGG podcast also examines common themes identified by coaches. We learn from top researchers and practitioners about the ideas that are essential to coaching for the growing good.

Bob Enright is a professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the founding board member of the International Forgiveness Institute, Inc. He pioneered the social scientific study of forgiveness and is the author of over 120 publications, including seven books. Professor Enright is not just a leading scholar, but also a world leader in fostering forgiveness in conflict zones such as Belfast, Athens, Liberia, and Galilee. Many of the coaches we’ve learned from on the SGG podcast have noted the importance of overcoming conflict on teams and developing trusting relationships. Forgiveness is at the heart of this trust and Dr. Enright shares some insights on forgiveness that can greatly help coaches and team. We discussed:

1.  How he came to the study of forgiveness…and the risk he took in doing so.

2.  When you forgive, “you get your life back, your energy back.”

3.  Why forgiveness is important in competitive settings, like team sports.

4.  The difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is a “moral virtue that we offer when we are mistreated.” It is unilateral. Reconciliation is “when two or more people come together again in mutual trust.” It is dependent upon both parties.

5.  When we forgive, we seek justice.

6.  Forgiveness is not an acceptance of injustice or an excusing of injustice.

7.  Why it is important for leaders of teams – coaches in particular – to model forgiveness.

8.  Forgiveness is a counter to resentment that can linger for many years.

9.  Aristotle says you grow in any virtue through three things: “practice, practice, practice.” How do sports help us with this practice of forgiveness?

10.  One who forgives on a team is saying, “This is a human being and a teammate who is more important than what just happened.”

11.  Preparing for the injustices that are to come for us…and still being committed to ending the injustices.

12.  Forgiveness deals with the effects of injustice. The effects themselves are often worse than the injustice itself. The injustice may be one particular act in time (or even numerous acts), but the effects go on and can be passed on through generations.

13.  Coaches can play a role in stopping the hurt of injustice.

14.  Bob’s experiences working on forgiveness in Palestinian communities.

15.  Aristotle: “Never practice a moral virtue in isolation from the others.”

16.  Why just “fixing” an injustice does not bring about healing.

17.  Eight Keys to Forgiveness and the Forgiving Life as tools for coaches to begin learning about how to cultivate forgiving cultures on teams.

18.  Self-forgiveness is harder than forgiving others. One step to begin: forgive someone else first, then apply the same process to yourself.