Mr. Lyndon Harris
Tigg’s Pond Retreat Center/ Gardens of Forgiveness
Creating the Future through the Power of Forgiveness: Transformational Practices that will Change your Work, Change your Community and Change your Life
Content Focus Area
National and international trends
Biographical information related to the topic
The plenary session I am submitting is about creating the future through forgiveness. I have spent many years in theological research as a doctoral candidate considering the topic of reconciliation, but I have learned so much more through my experiences during and after the crisis of September 11, 2001. During that time, I served as the priest in charge of Saint Paul’s Chapel, directly across the street from the former World Trade Center in NYC. I was present on that day, and caught up in the devastation as I stood at the foot of the South Tower when the second airplane collided with it, exploding into a devastating fireball. The next day I opened the doors of my church and initiated a rescue mission to serve the needs of the first responders. We offered grief counseling, massage therapy, chiropractic care and food. In the 8.5 months we served over half a million meals. But the heights of joy I had in serving the needs of these heroes were soon to be matched by despair. With over 240 days exposure to the site, I had PTSD, depression and significant lung challenges. The combination of unfortunate circumstances and my own mistakes led me into a dark place, a place of bitterness and resentment where I would reside for several years.
In that darkness, however, through the tenacious love of friends and the mercy of God I found a new start through forgiveness. For the first time, I heard with my heart the words of the great Nelson Mandela, that not to forgive is like drinking poison and waiting for your enemies to die from it. My wound became my medicine. Working with Stanford University professor Dr. Fred Luskin, we co-founded an educational initiative, The Gardens of Forgiveness to teach widely about the power of forgiveness to heal individuals and to transform communities.
My work has been written about widely, including The NY Times, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, CNN and NBC. My work has also been featured in the award winning documentary, “The Power of Forgiveness” (Journey Films, 2006).
“Creating the Future through the Power of Forgiveness: Transformational Practices that will Change your Work, Change your Community and Change your Life”
This keynote will be a tight compelling tour de force on the transformative impact of forgiveness, offering insights from a global perspective on the power of forgiveness to heal the past and create the future. Archbishop Desmond Tutu states it eloquently, “There is no future without forgiveness.” Although sometimes challenging to do, forgiveness has been scientifically proven to reduce blood pressure, release anger, anxiety and stress, and increase hope, compassion and wellness. Learning to forgive is good for our physical and emotional health; it is also good for our work places and communities. A recent study has indicated that forgiveness is good for us on a par with quitting smoking!
But what is this forgiveness idea, and how does it work? Forgiveness is an emerging trend in the fields of wellness, mindfulness and spiritual practices for both individuals and communities. Citing research from the developing science of forgiveness, Harris will offer practical exercises for takeaway – for use in our work places, our families and our communities. Attention will also be given to the importance of self forgiveness. Harris will share examples about the healing power of forgiveness from around the world: illustrations from first hand experiences in Kigale, Rwanda; Beirut, Lebanon; Israel/Palestine; Belfast, Northern Ireland; and in the USA, New York City, Los Angeles, and Charleston, SC. We will examine forgiveness interventions and discern applicable lessons. These will include forgiveness in the aftermath of public tragedy and genocide, the extraordinary success of a forgiveness intervention with a Fortune 100 company, and remarkable stories of individuals who are thriving by forgiving.
Forgiveness is a transformational practice that will change your work, change your community and change your life. Although sometimes challenging to do, forgiveness has been scientifically proven to reduce blood pressure, release anger, anxiety and stress, and increase hope, compassion and wellness. Learning to forgive is good for our physical and emotional health; it is also good for our work places and communities. Join us to hear stories about the power of forgiveness to heal individuals and communities, and to find out how you can benefit from it.
Learning Objective 1
Using compelling stories, forgiveness will be presented as an idea worthy of consideration
Learning Objective 2
Distinguish between what forgiveness is and is not, and why that’s important for individuals, in our communities and in the work places.
Learning Objective 3
The effectiveness of forgiveness will be examined citing research based forgiveness interventions, and I will offer strategies on how to incorporate these ideas in one’s own context.