Ethos Education

Super 8: Why is it hard to forgive someone who has caused pain?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Awareness of Christian teaching on forgiveness.
  • Awareness of the importance of forgiveness and repentance in Jesus’ earthly ministry.
  • Understanding of the relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon factors that make it easy or difficult to forgive.
  • Evaluate reasons why past events may make it hard for people to forgive one another.
  • Analyse biblical teaching on the subject of forgiveness.
  • Reflect on the importance of reconciliation for those who have wronged others.
  • Analyse Colossians 1:21-23 to determine the significance of reconciliation in the Christian faith.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a case study of a real life instance where forgiveness was either offered or withheld.


Set up a continuum line across the classroom with the words, ‘Impossible to forgive’ at one end and ‘Easy to forgive’ at the other. Tell students you are going to read out a set of scenarios. For each one, students must decide how easy they would find it to forgive the perpetrator and place themselves accordingly on the continuum line. Pause between each scenario to ask individual students to justify their positioning.

As a static version of the same activity, give pairs or small groups of students a set of the Forgiveness Scenario Cards worksheet. Ask them to set up a continuum line on their desks with the card, ‘Impossible to forgive’ at one end and the card, ‘Easy to forgive’ at the other. Divide the scenario cards between the students in the group and ask students to take it in turns to read out a scenario card and place it on the continuum line according to how easy or difficult they would find it to forgive the perpetrator, justifying their decision to the rest of the group. Students should challenge one another’s decisions whilst acknowledging that, having discussed it, they may agree to differ.

These scenarios are replicated on the worksheet for use with the static version. If any of the scenarios are too close to home for some students (for example, if there has been a recent bereavement in the family in similar circumstances to one of the cards) you might want to remove that scenario and not use it.

  • Your best friend stands by and does nothing as bullies beat you up.
  • Your best friend repeatedly fails to help when bullies pick on you.
  • At a party, your boyfriend or girlfriend flirts with somebody else.
  • At a party, your boyfriend or girlfriend kisses somebody else.
  • A classmate tells the teacher that you were fighting at lunchtime.
  • A teacher wrongly accuses you of starting a fight, and you are internally suspended for a day.
  • Someone lies to the police, and you are arrested as a result.
  • A jury wrongly finds you guilty of a crime, unaware that the evidence presented to them is false.
  • A drunk driver kills a member of your family and drives away from the scene of the crime.
  • A drunk driver kills a member of your family, hands themselves in to the police and promises never to drink and drive again.

Encourage discussion and elicit feedback on what makes forgiveness harder or easier. Consider: the seriousness of the wrong; the extent to which the wrong can be put right; the age or mental stability of the perpetrator; the remorsefulness of the perpetrator; the changed nature of the perpetrator. Explain that in this lesson students will be exploring the Christian mandate for forgiveness with a particular focus on the relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation.


Introduce the first clip from Super 8 (Paramount, 2011, certificate 12). Click here to buy a copy of the DVD online.

Explain that Joe’s (Joel Courtney) mother died a few months earlier, and that Joe’s dad and Alice’s (Elle Fanning) dad don’t get along. Both fathers have told their children that they aren’t to spend time together. In this scene, Alice goes to talk to Joe and we discover more about why the two fathers don’t get along.

  • Start time: 0.54.38 (beginning of chapter 10 of the DVD)
  • End time: 0.58.57 
  • Clip length: 4 minutes and 19 seconds 

The clip starts with a tapping on Joe’s window. The first line is Alice asking, ‘Are you… were you sleeping?’ The clip ends with the film of Joe’s home movie running off the spool. Stop the film before Alice and Joe get freaked out by weird stuff happening in Joe’s room.

On the basis of what the students have just seen, ask them why they think the two fathers are so hostile to one another? Is it understandable for Jack (Joe’s dad) to hate Louis (Alice’s dad)? Why do they think Louis is also hostile to Jack? Do the students think this hostility is reasonable? Is it understandable? Is it right or wrong? Is it healthy or unhealthy? Encourage a discussion about who benefits from the continued enmity between the two men.

Split the class into pairs or small groups and ask them to read the following Bible passages together. For each passage they should make a list of what that passage has to say on the subject of forgiveness. Once everyone has completed this, bring the class back together and go through their observations together. If you want to get through this part of the lesson a little more quickly, you could only give each group a couple of passages and make sure that they take notes about the other passages during the collective feedback time. Here are the Bible passages: Matthew 5:38-48; Matthew 6:9-15; Matthew 18:21-35; Luke 7:36-50; John 8:1-11.

Introduce the second clip from Super 8. Explain that Jack and Louis have been forced by circumstances to team up to rescue each of their children from an alien that has caused chaos in their neighbourhood. Ask the students to pay particular attention to what the two men say to each other and the reasons for their change of attitude.

  • Start time: 1.25.52 (beginning of chapter 18 of the DVD)
  • End time: 1.26.43
  • Clip length: 51 seconds

The clip starts with Jack (Kyle Chandler) and Louis (Ron Eldard) in the car together. The first line is Louis saying, ‘I came to your house that day…’. It ends with Jack saying, ‘It was an accident’ twice.

Ask the students why they think Jack was able to put aside his anger towards Louis. Draw out that the peril their children were in may well have put things into perspective – their children needed them to stop feuding in order to rescue them – but also that Louis’ apology was a first move towards reconciliation.

Read Colossians 1:21-23 with the students. Explain that the concept of reconciliation is at the heart of the Christian faith. Christians believe that for people to know peace, it is necessary for them to be forgiven by God for their sins against him. Christians believe that not only did Jesus’ death on the cross pay for those sins, but it was also a profound demonstration of forgiveness and reconciliation. Christians believe that God’s plan for reconciliation also results in a new relationship, not simply a mutual moving on and parting of the ways.


Ask the students to write a case study of a real life situation that they have faced where they had a choice of whether or not to forgive somebody. They should say whether or not they forgave, and what the consequences of their decision were.

Alternatively, students can write about a situation where they were forgiven for something when they felt that they didn’t deserve forgiveness, and the consequences of that decision.

Students’ case studies should also include a summary of the reasons why Christians believe that forgiveness is important, to demonstrate understanding of Christian perspectives on this subject.


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