Spiritual Support: Forgiveness Program
Learn More About the Forgiveness Program at CTCA: Chat with Us | Email Us
Forgiveness Education Program
CTCA at Eastern Regional Medical Center offers patients and their loved ones a formal Forgiveness Education Program. Led by the hospital’s Director of Pastoral Care Rev. Michael S. Barry, the program explores the healing powers of forgiveness during cancer care.
According to Rev. Barry, many patients arrive at CTCA with forgiveness issues. “Most patients need to forgive themselves or others for something that happened in the past,” he says.
Letting go of painful memories and past wounds can improve your well-being at any time of your life, but especially during cancer treatment. The ultimate goal of the Forgiveness Education Program is to help you be at peace with other things in your life so you can focus on healing.
When you first arrive at the hospital, you’ll have an opportunity to meet with a member of the pastoral care team to discuss your beliefs and assess your spiritual needs.
Part of this assessment is a spirituality questionnaire, which includes a series of questions related to religious struggles. This information helps us identify if you are struggling with forgiveness issues. If so, you may decide to address them through the program.
The Forgiveness Education Program focuses on your need to resolve a painful past through the healing of memories.
Some highlights of the program include:
- Desire to forgive – addresses any issues of avoidance.
- Education – defines the terms and outlines the goals of forgiveness, as well as barriers to forgiveness.
- Internal reflection – introduces various treatment mechanisms, such as narrative therapy, exposure therapy, journaling and prayer.
According to Rev. Barry, the treatment mechanisms for forgiveness are similar to interventions for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Forgiveness education often includes written exercises designed to help you process your thoughts and feelings.
Through forgiveness education, Rev. Barry and his team can help you learn to deal with things in your life that you regret and find ways to cope during your cancer treatment.
“It’s about finding coping mechanisms. We try to teach patients good, strong coping mechanisms. Forgiveness is a great coping mechanism. That’s one we try to emphasize,” says Rev. Barry.
Some common barriers to forgiveness have been identified. For example, sometimes patients believe that forgiveness equates to mental consent, anti-justice, forgetting, or reconciliation. These beliefs can be difficult to overcome.
Rev. Barry is realistic about the challenges of forgiveness. Instead of promising solutions, he tries to clear up misunderstandings by teaching what forgiveness is and is not. The goal, says Rev. Barry, is to help patients “fall out of hatred into peaceful indifference.”
The peace and well-being that often accompanies forgiveness can be an integral part of the healing process. According to Rev. Barry, the benefits of forgiveness may be experienced on many levels, including theological (your relationship with God), relational (your relationship with others) and biological (your physical well being).
“The Bible suggests a way we ought to live our life even in the face of adversity. I try to help patients understand that there is always something that is trying to take our joy away from us. We know when people are at peace with themselves, they may have significantly higher immune function,” says Rev. Barry.
Rev. Barry says many patients describe their experience, when they find forgiveness, as a feeling of lightness, a changed heart, or an “aha” moment.
Rev. Barry offers forgiveness seminars and training to individuals and faith communities throughout the East Coast. He has also conducted numerous radio and television interviews across the country and published several books, including his most recent book titled The Forgiveness Project.