Jewish Family Service Workshop Teaches New Approach to Forgiveness

Cincinnati professionals gained new insights into forgiveness when Jewish Family Service presented “Don’t ask me to forgive you! A radical approach to healing from interpersonal wounds” with national media guest expert and best selling author Janis Abrahms Spring, PhD, ABPP on Thursday, April 11.


Spring began her presentation by describing two unhealthy responses to interpersonal wounds. “Research says that hating and hurting is not good for you, but that does not translate into the fact that forgiveness is good for you,” said Spring.


She went on to describe how forgiveness, when it is given too easily, can lead to continual mistreatment or quash any opportunity for a relationship to grow closer. The other extreme, refusing to forgive, is a reactive response that prevents any future positive resolution of conflict. Spring cited scientific research that showed the correlation between non-forgiving and poor health.


“Refusing to forgive literally makes you sick. Research shows it can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, and compromise your immune system. This can make you more vulnerable to cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Living in a grudge state diverts you from making peace with yourself and it punishes you, not the offender,” she said.


Spring then offered two healthy ways to heal. Genuine forgiveness is one way, but the offender must be involved for that to occur. She asked what happens when the offender is unavailable or unwilling to earn forgiveness.


“What is your response when dealing with parent’s suicide or losing a child to an act of terrorism,” she asked. “Forgiving can be too generous. Not forgiving is too destructive to your personal well being.”


She presented what she described as an alternative radical approach to the emotional healing process, Acceptance. Acceptance was defined as “a responsible response to an interpersonal injury when the offender can’t or won’t engage in the healing process. It is a program of self-care, a generous and healing gift to oneself accomplished by the self, for the self.”


Spring explained that the goal of Acceptance is to resurrect your best self, “Never let the need for revenge be greater than the need for healing.” She also suggested ways to help stop obsessing, noting that “each time you go over it in your mind, you affect yourself physically and emotionally.”


In private practice for 35 years, Dr. Spring is a recipient of the Connecticut Psychological Association’s Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Practice of Psychology and the Connecticut Association of Marriage and Family Therapists Award for Distinguished Family Service. Board Certified in Clinical Psychology, she is a former clinical supervisor in the Department of Psychology at Yale University.


“Don’t ask me to forgive you!” was Jewish Family Service’s 9th annual Miriam O. Smith Educational Series (MOSES) workshop. Susan Shorr (of Symmes Township) and Marcie Bachrach (of Blue Ash) were the volunteer co-chairs. The workshop provides the opportunity for professional development as well as offers the community a chance to learn from nationally recognized experts on different mental health issues.


Jewish Family Service provided the 261 event attendees Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in many disciplines including social workers, counselors, marriage and family therapists, educators, psychologists, case managers, nurses, chemical dependency counselors, rehabilitation counselors, life coaches, clergy, psychiatrists, and occupational therapists.


Jewish Family Service established the MOSES series to honor the memory of Miriam O. Smith, who was a long time social worker at Jewish Family Service. She provided extensive individual and family therapy, headed the adoption program, and served as the interim director of the agency.


Next Year, the 10th Annual Miriam O. Smith Educational Series will feature Diane Poole Heller, PhD, world renowned author, presenter, and expert in trauma and adult attachment.