Taped to the office wall of Everett Worthington, Ph.D., a Virginia Commonwealth University counseling psychology professor and a leading scholar in the field of forgiveness research, is the staggeringly ambitious to-do list for his upcoming retirement.
Among the goals? Influence the way couples, countries, political systems, Christian denominations and cultures practice forgiveness.
“My mission,” the list reads, “is: ‘To do all I can to promote forgiveness in every willing heart, home and homeland.’ That mission MUST govern the content of my decisions.”
To achieve these goals, the list calls for Worthington to conduct at least 10 studies on forgiveness and humility, speak in at least 15 countries and author 10 papers with international scholars, write enough additional articles and book so his lifetime total is at least 500 articles and book chapters, and author enough additional books to reach a lifetime total of 50 books.
He wants to accomplish all this by the time he reaches 80 in 2026.
“I make lists,” Worthington said. “I don’t think retirement will really be that much more [work]. It’s pretty much the same pace I’ve always done.”
Early in the fall semester, Worthington, a beloved faculty member who has greatly influenced the understanding of forgiveness, couples counseling and much more, will retire from the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences after nearly four decades.
Over those years, Worthington developed a couples counseling intervention that has been implemented by marriage counselors around the world, saving numerous relationships; wrote 37 books (a rough estimate, he says); and mentored a generation of graduate students, quite a few of whom have gone on to become famous psychologists.
Yet, in that time, Worthington also suffered unthinkable tragedy.