In a world where horrors are rampant and political schisms run deep, some people rise above their grief and fears and reach out with forgiveness to those who harmed them.
It is this consciousness that inspired Robert W. Plath to create the Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance (WFA). Bob believed that forgiveness as a concept, philosophy and way of life had the potential to become a cultural phenomenon of tremendous popularity around the world. Because of the rising frustration with war, antagonism and aggression, Mr. Plath felt that people were ready for a change. People are seeking an alternative to animosity and death. He believes that forgiveness is that alternative. Forgiveness offers peace, reconciliation and even life.
Mr. Plath’s convictions regarding the power of forgiveness are strongly supported by research. He cites the work of his friend, Dr. Frederic Luskin, Ph.D., Director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project and author of the book, Forgive for Life.
Dr. Luskin conducted seven studies within the last 15 years which found that the practice of forgiveness has positive ramifications in three areas: psychological, physical and economic.
- 27% reduction in the physical symptoms of stress/backache, dizziness, sleeplessness, headache, stomach upset, etc.),
- 12% increase in physical vitality (energy level, appetite, sleep patterns)
- 15% decrease in emotional experience of stress;
- 42% decrease in feelings of depression
- 35% increase in self-confidence,
- 22% increase in feelings of hope,
- 28% increase in optimism, and
- 13% increase in production based on a study done in a corporation
Dr. Luskin’s, along with other research, indicates that practicing forgiveness contributes to:
- better physical, mental and emotional health;
- stronger, longer lasting and more loving relationships;
- greater abundance, prosperity and financial resourcefulness;
- a more real and lasting sense of self-esteem, self-worth and purpose;
- a deeper sense of connection and safety in the world;
- enhanced freedom, joy and laughter on a daily basis.
The later validation that this kind of research provided has strongly reinforced Mr. Plath’s belief that when he created International Forgiveness Day in 1996 the time was right. His pioneering inspiration resulted in the first celebration of International Forgiveness was on Sunday August 4, 1996 in Marin County, California. This year will mark its 17th annual celebration on August 4, 2013.
The mission of the Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance is to expand the healing power of forgiveness and the awareness of it throughout the world. WFA envisions itself as one of the driving forces in raising that level of awareness about Forgiveness to the point that it permeates the consciousness of the planet. By helping forgiveness become a widely accepted and practiced philosophy as well as a way of life, the WFA believes that the acceptance of an annual forgiveness celebration on the first Sunday of August around the world will see International Forgiveness Day become the world’s first globally recognized holiday. Bob Plath often quotes Bishop Desmond Tutu: "Without forgiveness, there is no future."
This 17th annual celebration will feature events over Saturday August 3rd and Sunday August 4th. On Saturday August 3rd, The esteemed author, teacher and speaker Marianne Williamson will present a special program on forgiveness in a Masters Workshop. She will also introduce her new book "The Law of Divine Compensation." Then Sunday, August 17th is the annual awards program. Marianne Williamson is a previously honored Champion of Forgiveness.
On Sunday August 4th, the awards celebration will honor Heroes of Forgiveness, Misty Wallace and Keith Blackburn. When Misty Wallace was 18 years old, she was shot in the face and left to die by a drug and alcohol crazed 17-year old Keith Blackburn, who was hijacking her car. After 18 years of psychological and emotional pain, Misty went in search of Keith, who had just finished a long-term in prison. She eventually found him and forgave him. Now Misty and Keith, who is now a minister, share their with incarcerated prisoners story in their "Bridges to Life" program. They teach the prisoners about forgiveness and the lifetime impact of their crimes on themselves as well as their victims.
The WFA pays tribute to Heroes of Forgiveness – people who exemplify the power of forgiveness by overcoming personal tragedies and traumas and by moving from anger and revenge to the transformative release of forgiveness and reconciliation. Champions of Forgiveness – those who dedicate their lives and work to expanding awareness and knowledge about forgiveness and helping others to experience its power.
This year’s 17th annual International Forgiveness Day events will be presented at the Angelico Hall on the campus of Dominican University in San Rafael, CA. On Saturday August 3rd, the Masters Workshop program featuring Marianne Williamson is from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. The awards ceremony and entertainment event is from 7:00 – 9:00 PM on Sunday August 4, 2013. For information see the website (www.forgivenessday.org) or call (415) 261-1393.
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This article appears in:
2013 Catalyst - Issue 12