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The Art of Forgiveness

Understanding forgiveness or being able to forgive someone that has hurt you can be a difficult thing for many people to understand much less to put into practice. However, research has shown, that by forgiving someone who has deeply hurt you, you let go of resentment, the urge to seek revenge and that can have positive health benefits.

Listen as Tim Markle describes how physically, forgiveness creates a higher quality of life, a healthier body, and a more positive attitude.
The Art of Forgiveness
Featured Speaker:
Tim Markle, MA; MA C/S
Tim Markle developed the six-week Freedom Through Forgiveness community education course in 2014 as the Capstone Project for his Master’s in Christian Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The course is based on the ground-breaking work in Forgiveness of Dr. Robert Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI), and other colleagues. Tim is currently part of IFI’s speakers’ bureau. Although originally piloted at a local church, the course was never intended to be exclusive, but rather to reach out to any one struggling to forgive. Stoughton Hospital has hosted five sessions of the course along with two local churches. Tim has also spoken on forgiveness at Mental Health Conferences across Wisconsin. During the week, Tim is employed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison as Director of the Southern Regional Center for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs at the Waisman Center. Tim lives in Stoughton with his wonderful wife of 21 years and their two children.

Melanie Cole (Host): Understanding forgiveness or being able to forgive someone that has hurt you can be a difficult thing for many people to understand, much less put into practice. However, research has shown that by forgiving someone who has deeply hurt you, you let go of resentment, the urge to seek revenge, and that can have positive health benefits. My guest today is Tim Markle. He’s the Director of the Southern Regional Center for Children and Youth with Special Healthcare Needs at the Wiseman Center, and he’s affiliated with Stoughton Hospital. Welcome to the show, Tim. Why does forgiveness matter, and why is it so important that we learn how to be a forgiving soul?

Tim Markle (Guest): I think one of the first things to remember is the fact that a lot of us grew up with just being told to forgive without being told how to forgive. In the instance of -- your sibling does something you don’t like. I had an older brother, I had younger brothers, so let’s say my older brother decided that it’s a good time just to haul off and smack me with a pillow and I didn’t really like that, well, if he said, “I’m sorry,” then my parents would say, “Well, forgive your brother. He said you’re sorry.”

We get trained in this automatic response of, “Hey, if they say they’re sorry then you forgive them,” but that hurt doesn’t go away. That anger doesn’t go away. We store it down inside, so then as we grow up and as people continue to hurt us and they’re unjust toward us, we start to harbor these resentments. These resentments turn into anger, and all of a sudden, we see the fact that this unforgiveness that we’re harboring and growing inside of us starts to affect our relationships with our families. We start to become distant. We start to become untrusting. We start to become anxious. We start to become depressed. We start to separate ourselves from people.

What do we do? We can’t just open up the door and say, “Okay, thank you. Thanks for being here, unnice emotions. You can leave now.” There’s a process we can go through in forgiveness that helps us realize how we are hurt, why we are hurt, and how we can deal with that, so we can finally put the past into the past. We don’t forget it. We learn from it. We grow from it, but it no longer controls us.

Melanie: I think that’s such an important point, and we see people maybe who’s children, God-forbid, have been murdered, and they say something like, “Well, I’m forgiving this person who’s in jail,” and you wonder to yourself, “God, how are they even doing that?” But, in reality, it’s probably a much more positive or healthy way for them to carry on. Or maybe they can’t carry on unless they do this, so how do they do that? How do people look at this – somebody who has hurt them deeply and say, “Okay, I’m going to work on this step-by-step way to forgive this person.” What do we even do?

Tim: Sure, so the work that I do, and everything that I’ve been teaching, is based on the work of Doctor Robert Enright who teaches up at the University of Maddison, and is Cofounder of the International Forgiveness Institute. What I’m teaching presently, now, is through his Eight Keys of Forgiveness book. The first thing that we have to realize is one that we have to accept that an injustice has been done. A lot of times we go through life, and we want to pretend like we weren’t hurt, “No, that didn’t matter to me. No, not really.” But, on the inside, it’s still boiling, and it’s still affecting the way that we live. So first, we accept that an injustice has been done.

Then, we have to accept the fact that what I have been trying to do to deal with this hurt, to deal with this pain, just isn’t working. Forgiveness is a choice, not something that anybody can make you do. It’s not something they can demand of you. You can’t demand someone to forgive you, and you can’t demand that they forgive other people either. It’s a personal choice, and so we make this decision that I have been hurt, what I have been doing to deal with this hurt isn’t working, but why don’t I think about forgiveness.

In the course, we go through – the fact that one of the first things we can do, and one of the most important things that anybody can do is make a commitment to do no harm. I know there are days where I will wake up and I will just – it’s like the wrong side of the bed or something. It seems that everybody is setting me off that day -- the drivers are extra rude on the road, the clerks are extra slow, it just nothing seems to be going right. My response could be to build up these resentments throughout the day and continue to harbor them and to feed them. Or, I can make a commitment to do no harm. When that person cuts me off, I can choose not to swear, not to cuss them out, not to be angry with them, but see them as a unique person that may be dealing with their own struggles today.

It’s a different way of looking at the world. The first thing is committing to do no harm, that I’m no longer going to be talking smack about people left and right. I’m not going to join in the negative gossip talk at work and continually put people down. What happens is if we continue to feed that negative and we continue to put those people down and continue to see ourselves as this victim, it just continues to reinforce itself. One of the first things we talk about is first, do no harm. As I tell my class, the first thing I want you to do is nothing. I just want you to shut up. Practice shutting up for a day. See how much different it is when we’re not continually putting other people down.

Melanie: Okay, so keep going with these tips because that’s a really good one. People do need to learn just to listen, how not to say whatever comes to their mind in that case and how just to shut up, as you say, and take it all in. Give us more tips.

Tim: Sure, no problem. So then, the next step that we talk about is what Dr. Enright calls “Cultivating a Clear Vision,” and I love this because it references back to Dr. Seuss -- who’s just a phenomenal author --and his story “Horton Hears a Who.” Horton gets this clover bud and the Who are on there, and he’s the only one that can hear the Who. At one point in the story, Horton says, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” We start to cultivate this clear vision of a person is a person no matter what. None of us want to be defined by our worst moments. None of us want to be defined by our mistakes. That’s not how we want to be remembered. That’s not how we want people to think it’s the core of us because it’s not. We’re more than that.

Well, guess what? These people that have hurt us – and sometimes they have hurt us in horrible ways – but they’re still more than that. We start to cultivate this clear vision that everybody around us is a person. Well, what does that mean? It means that they’re special. It means they’re unique. It means they’re irreplaceable. And whether you look at that from a spiritual point of view or a scientific point of view, the truth is still there. We are surrounded by these amazing, unique creatures, and sometimes they screw up, and they hurt us, but that doesn’t define who they are. It doesn’t make them less of a person.

Part of what we work with forgiveness is restoring humanity to that other person who has hurt us. We stop making them out to be a monster. We stop making them out to be that horrible thing that happened to me when I was growing up, and we begin to see them again as a person --

Melanie: Well, that’s true --

Tim: With their own failings.

Melanie: Because I think that when we feel that way – and you say we start to think of them as a monster – we probably imagine more things that they’ve done wrong, and add that into their pile of bad things, when maybe they didn’t do those things, but we put that into our own heads. Now, in the last few minutes, forgiving the individual -- the active work of it -- give us the best advice of what you would say if somebody needs to start doing this today. What would you tell them to do?

Tim: I would start with the – start to change your mind, and start to stop being negative all of the time. It starts with that commitment to do no harm, and then, start to look around and see these examples of love and mercy that are out there. Start to change your view of the world. And then you put this person in your mind, and you say, “Okay, this person did hurt me. This is what they did. I’m not going to relive it, but I have to name it.”

So, I name it, and then what we can do is we can go through a series of exercises. One would be visualizing them as an infant is one of the effective ways that helps the class. If you take that person back and you look at them as they were just born, as they’re just this newborn, innocent, needy child in the crib, and you realize that this little creature is innocent. This little creature is special, unique, and irreplaceable. They have this great capacity to love and be loved, and somewhere -- somewhere in their life along the line something happened that took away that capacity to love or diminished that capacity to love, or diminished that capacity to love, but they’re still that individual. Can we see that uniqueness? Can we see that specialness that’s inherent in people, even those that hurt us?

And so, when we start to see them as a human, we don’t accept that what they did was right. It’s never right. An injustice has occurred, but we will willingly forgive that person, and then with Dr. Enright’s work, and one of the things that I really believe is that then, as we look through and see this person in a new way, we turn the corner when we get to the point where we can finally do something good. Can we think a good thought about them? Can we just send an anonymous note? Can we make a donation in their name? Can we smile at them instead of sneer at them? Can we invite them somewhere – even if we have to put limits on it – can we finally invite them back to the family gathering? Is there some sort of offer of goodness, love, and mercy, that we can give to this person that we have spent time building up resentment and hatred towards?

That’s when the corner gets turned, and we start to see that we really can be free in our own lives. We don’t have to be bound to these negative emotions anymore, but through forgiveness, we really can open up and live the life that we want to live. We can become the people that we truly want to be and that we truly were meant to be. We’re no longer going to be held back by these old resentments and hurts.

Melanie: Well, Tim, that is such great information. Where can people find out more about you or even attend one of your forgiveness classes?

Tim: I usually hold the forgiveness classes at Stoughton Hospital, through usually once in the Fall and once in the Spring, and so again, they’ll be part of the wellness curriculum. I’m also part of the Speakers Bureau for the International Forgiveness Institute, and so I do go out, and I speak at churches and different organizations’ conferences. They can learn more about that at, a fantastic resource. Dr. Enright’s work is up there. I highly recommend that website.

Melanie: Thank you, so much, for being with us today. You’re listening to Stoughton Hospital Health Talk, and for more information, you can go to, that’s This is Melanie Cole. Thanks, so much, for listening.