Research News

Enright receives international Expanded Reason Award for groundbreaking forgiveness work

July 25, 2019

UW–Madison’s Robert Enright is receiving a 2019 Expanded Reason Award in recognition of his pioneering work on the power of forgiveness.

This international award from the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria in Madrid, Spain, and the Vatican Foundation Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, recognizes extraordinary teachers and researchers. The recognition utilizes an international panel of seven judges who examine books and journal articles to ascertain who across the globe is best conducting innovative and important scholarship that cuts across the social sciences and philosophy or theology.

Enright, a professor with the School of Education’s highly regarded Department of Educational Psychology, is being recognized in the Expanded Reason Award’s research category for his book, “Forgiveness Therapy: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope.” Enright co-authored this work with Richard Fitzgibbons, who heads the Institute of Marital Healing and is also being honored. This recognition carries a 25,000 euro gift to the winners.

Robert Enright
Enright
“So often, scholarship is created in small boxes of specialization so that people in other disciplines have to struggle to exchange ideas that could benefit a wide variety of disciplines,” says Enright, the founder of the International Forgiveness Institute. “The scientific work I have been honored to do for almost my entire career, the psychology of forgiveness, lends itself to inter-disciplinary dialogue across developmental/ social/clinical/and counseling psychology, psychiatry, social work, philosophy, theology, education, and public policy.”

Enright has been researching how forgiveness affects wellbeing at locations across the globe for more than three decades. Enright notes that forgiveness is a choice for people who have been deeply hurt by another.

He constructed a framework for teaching people how to forgive, developing this work into a 20-step program that he regards as essential for achieving a forgiving life.

The forgiveness program is divided into four phases: uncovering your anger; deciding to forgive; working on forgiveness; and discovery and release from emotional prison. 

The idea, Enright explains, is giving people the option of choosing to forgive rather than holding onto anger and resentment, which can be debilitating.

“I have been amazed to be able to engage theologians in Jerusalem and Rome conferences, philosophers in Scotland, prison officials in Wisconsin, Israel, and Scotland, medical personnel in different parts of Europe, and educators in such areas as Belfast, Manila, Monrovia, Athens, Jerusalem and Galilee, and the United States,” says Enright. “As I continue to study the life-giving moral virtue of forgiveness, I see a richness that has so many layers. I am a continual learner as I engage with people from a wide variety of disciplines for the good of humanity. This Expanded Reason Award was set up to encourage such inter-disciplinary dialogue and so I am hoping that more people now will become aware of the vital importance of forgiveness for reducing resentment and creating stronger individuals, families, and communities."

“Forgiveness Therapy” is the second and retitled edition of “Helping Clients Forgive.” This new work benefits from more than 13 years of new research that updates the important work of Enright and Fitzgibbons. The significant development of “Forgiveness Therapy” and greater understanding of the role of excessive anger in mental health disorders make this book a vital tool for clinicians.

Forgiveness TherapyThis new work features new chapters focused on the lasting legacy of those who enter forgiveness therapy and on forgiveness education for children and adolescents. “Forgiveness Therapy” also describes the approach’s philosophical roots and includes new case studies, new empirical evaluations, and new measurement techniques.

The Expanded Reason Awards website notes: “We recognize and encourage innovation in scientific research and the academic programs of those professors or researchers who make a dialogue from their particular science with philosophy and/or theology.”

The site adds: “It is important for us to keep alive our sensitivity to the truth and, to this end, we must put the whole of man back into play by rescuing the fundamental existential questions that emerge from his particular tasks and also from all scientific tasks. After all, science is the answer to the amazement of reality, hence the confluence of these human questions and scientific work.   We recognize and encourage innovation in scientific research and the academic programs of those professors or researchers who make a dialogue from their particular science with philosophy and/or theology.”