A research study on forgiveness written by Franciscan University of Steubenville counseling professor Dr. Milo Milburn was selected by Springer publications as one of the “ground-breaking articles that has the potential to change the world.”

Dr. Milburn’s article, “To Forgive Is to be Sane and Realistic: Contributions of REBT to the Psychology of Forgiving,” was published in the December 2015 issue of the Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (JORE). It articulates how mental health professionals can help patients to forgive when using Rational-Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), a widely used form of psychotherapy.

“Forgiveness is something that when lacking, makes everything else go worse,” says Milburn, a faculty member and former chair of Franciscan University’s Clinical Mental Health Department. “There then is no reset button, no way to restore one’s inner peace. Also, forgiveness is crucial to reconciliation.”

Milburn’s article was chosen when Springer, one of the largest publishers of scientific books and journals, asked the editors-in-chief of their 100+ journals to select one article from 2015 that “addresses the world’s most pressing challenges.” The editor of JORE called Dr. Milburn’s contribution in the social sciences and psychology fields “a significant article, given the current degree of hate in the world.”

The article begins with a survey of the research literature that shows how chronic unforgiveness is often associated with physical maladies such as heart disease and irritable bowel syndrome and can be associated with marital problems and mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

The paper compares REBT with other therapeutic approaches to helping patients resolve chronic unforgiveness.

Clearing up confusion about what forgiving involves is important, says Milburn. “For example, to find it in your heart to forgive another person does not require condoning the offensive act—neither does forgiving always involve reconciliation or restoration of trust. It does involve accepting the other person as a flawed, but worthwhile human being, not unlike oneself.”

The paper recounts an unnamed famous person who found “real-world forgiveness” of the person who killed his loved one by choosing to remember his loved one’s memory and not focus on forgiving the killer. It also summarizes a woman’s progress from four months of REBT counseling for hurts occasioned by her parents and other people in her life.

Milburn traces his interest in forgiveness to his 1992 doctoral dissertation, “Forgiving Another: An Empirical-Phenomenological Investigation.” He says REBT-informed forgiveness therapy “is entirely consistent” with the Christian teachings on forgiveness, including the parable of the unforgiving servant found in the Gospel of Matthew. He adds, “The rational wisdom of REBT’s unconditional self, other, and life acceptance fits very well with the Year of Mercy [currently being observed in the Catholic Church] and that, as Pope Francis has said in the title of his recent book, the name of God is mercy.”

Springer publications is making all 100+ articles that can change the world, including Dr. Milburn’s “To Forgive Is to be Sane and Realistic” available for free online until July 15, 2016.