Increasing awareness of potentially helpful motivations and techniques for forgiveness.
Keywords: dispositional forgiveness, mental and physical health
Conflict within human interpersonal relationships inevitably occurs. In examining and helping individuals deal with such conflicts, both researchers and counselors strive to alleviate large-scale interpersonal offenses, as well as everyday interpersonal transgressions (Exline, Baumeister, Bushman, Campbell, & Finkel, 2004). Forgiveness serves as a counseling resource (Konstam, Flolmes, & Levine, 2003) that helps to lessen interpersonal conflict (Worthington, 2005) and encourages healthy relational development (Toussaint & Webb, 2005) for a variety of populations (Cosgrove & Konstam, 2008).
Many conceptualizations of forgiveness exist (Leach & Lark, 2004). For instance, some researchers focus on forgiveness as a dispositional trait, whereas others view it as a process of gradual, prosocial change. Although conceptualizations of forgiveness vary, researchers agree that forgiveness is an intentional and effortful behavior (Younger, Piferi, Jobe, & Lawler, 2004). As with any intentional behavior, individuals need a reason (or motivation) for their behavior and effective techniques that easily enable them to express it (Ajzen, 2011). The current study adds to previous literature by investigating the attitudes and familiarity of forgiveness motives and techniques that may facilitate the forgiveness process among individuals who are categorized as being either naturally forgiving (high levels of dispositional forgiveness; HDF) or naturally unforgiving (low levels of dispositional forgiveness; LDF). To better understand the theoretical foundation of the current study, we review in greater detail research concerning forgiveness as a process and as a dispositional trait, as well as why (motivations) and how (techniques) people forgive others.
Conceptualizations of Forgiveness
Researchers define forgiveness as the voluntary release of resentment despite injustice and the offering of compassion in the face of unfairness (Enright, 1991). This definition involves an individual's tendency to reframe negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as being more positive (dispositional forgiveness; Toussaint & Webb, 2005) as well as a process of gradual, prosocial change (McCullough, Pargament, & Thoresen, 2000).
The intervention literature documents the forgiveness process of eliciting prosocial change (Wade, Worthington, & Meyer, 2005). The theoretical models (e.g., Enright, 1991; McCullough & Worthington, 1995; McCullough, Worthington, & Rachal, 1997) that were used as a guide for forgiveness interventions (for a full review, see Wade et al., 2005) indicate that effective interventions targeting prosocial change generally encourage the reduction of negative emotions, such as anger, hostility, and blame (Thoresen, Luskin, & Harris, 2008). Effective interventions also incorporate the beliefs and attitudes of forgiveness that the victim endorses (Thoresen et al., 2008). Previous research has shown that a considerable amount of variability in people's attitudes exists when undergoing the process of forgiveness (Cosgrove & Konstam, 2008). Attitudes may vary in relation to the motivation to forgive as well as general ability (e.g., the ability to implement effective techniques when forgiving others); thus, individuals may forgive for various reasons. Given the variability in attitudes related to forgiveness, researchers and counselors should tailor effective interventions that overlap with the underlying individual beliefs about forgiveness.
Similar to the process of prosocial change, research documents the benefits of dispositional forgiveness (Brown, 2003). HDF individuals often experience greater harmony within interpersonal relationships and exercise higher levels of compassion and empathy compared with LDF individuals (Emmons, 2000). The general response style of HDF individuals also serves as a benefit, because dispositional forgiveness correlates with psychosocial development and conflict resolution (Poston, Hanson, & Schwiebert, 2012). Whereas the benefits surrounding HDF are well understood, little empirical research addresses the promotion of forgiveness among LDF individuals (Walker & Gorsuch, 2002).
Taken together, a gap in previous research emerges in terms of assessing how researchers and counselors can work to encourage forgiveness among LDF individuals. Understanding attitudes and awareness of why and how forgiveness occurs might lead to promoting the forgiveness process (e.g., decreasing negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors toward the offender; Lundahl, Taylor, Stevenson, & Roberts, 2008) for both HDF and LDF individuals.
Theoretical Framework for the Motivation and Ability to Forgive
Forgiveness, like any other intentional behavior, requires effort on the part of the victim. According to the theory of planned behavior (TPB; Ajzen, 1985), effortful behaviors result from three factors: (a) an individual's beliefs about the outcomes of expressing a behavior (an individual's attitudes based on his or her behavioral beliefs), (b) an individual's beliefs about subjective norms or the expectations of others regarding the behavior (normative beliefs), and (c) an individual's beliefs about his or her ability to successfully perform the behavior (control beliefs). These factors contribute to the formation of a "behavioral intention" (Ajzen, 1985, p. 11). Before an individual intends to engage in a specific behavior, he or she must first consider the beliefs that support the behavior; for example, individuals tend to engage in intentional behaviors if the behavioral and normative beliefs are favorable and if perceived control regarding their ability to act is high (Ajzen, 2011).
These same principles apply to the behavior of forgiving. For forgiveness to occur, an individual must form a behavioral intention. As noted earlier, an individual's belief about the outcomes of the behavior (e.g., forgiveness is beneficial for mental or physical health) and the subjective norms of the behavior (e.g., society or religion defines forgiveness as the moral or ethical thing to do) both work to influence his or her intention to forgive. One's belief about the ability to implement the behavior (e.g., effective techniques, such as forgive and forget) also plays a significant role in the intention to forgive.
Individuals forgive for different reasons (McCullough, 2000), frequently for relationship-focused motives (Enright, 2001). Because many cultural traditions recognize the importance of forgiving others (Thoresen, Harris, & Luskin, 2000), the relationship-focused belief that forgiveness is the right thing to do subsequently motivates forgiving. Given the socially prescribed, relationship-focused belief that forgiveness is the right thing to do (Thoresen et al., 2000), this motivation to forgive most likely overlaps with subjective norm beliefs (i.e., the expectations of others) found within the TPB.
More recently, researchers have recommended self-focused motivations for forgiving others. For instance, forgiveness leads to a number of positive mental health outcomes (Toussaint & Friedman 2009; Tseng, 2008), such as decreased depression and anxiety (Wade, Hoyt, Kidwell, & Worthington, 2014), as well as physical health benefits, such as decreased immune system dysregulation (Witvliet, Phipps, Feldman, & Beckham, 2004). These self-focused motivations regarding mental and physical health illustrate behavioral beliefs or views about the likely outcomes of a behavior as described in the TPB.
Younger et al.'s (2004) research comparing undergraduate students and community adults suggests that the student sample (age range = 18-43 years; mean age = 20.92, SD = 4.18) rated relationship-focused motivations as a more compelling reason to forgive than they rated self-focused motivations. That is, the potential for a close relationship to end (relationship-focused reasoning) seemed to be one of the main motivating factors for forgiveness among the student sample. Forgiveness theory (Worthington & Wade, 1999) supports this finding, in that individuals may often choose to forgive rather than risk losing a friend or close family member. In contrast, the community adult sample (age range = 27-60 years; mean age = 42.2, SD = 9.5) rated self-focused motives of forgiveness as primary reasons to forgive, which suggests that these motives "may become more salient with age" (Younger et al., 2004, p. 850). This difference may be due to a lack of familiarity regarding the self-focused motives of forgiveness among the younger undergraduate student sample. However, more empirical research must examine this possibility to discern if young adults are aware of these self-focused reasons for forgiveness.
In addition to the cultural viewpoint that forgiving is considered the right thing to do, the literature frequently promotes the idea of "forgive and forget" (McCullough et al., 1998). However, individuals may lack the ability (i.e., control beliefs described in the TPB) to forget a transgression because of various situational, relational, and cognitive factors (Cehajic, Brown, & Castano, 2008; Enright, 2001). For example, individuals may find it difficult to forget transgressions for severe offenses lacking justice or apologies (Cehajic et al., 2008). Reconciliation also makes forgetting more difficult (Enright, 2001) because reconciling may serve as a reminder of the transgression, especially when multiple reconciliation attempts occur because the offender continues to act unjustly (Enright, 2001).
Noreen, Bierman, and MacLeod (2014) examined the cognitive effort needed to forget a transgression and found that the ability to suppress negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors following an interpersonal offense depended on whether an individual managed to successfully engage in the forgiveness process. Difficulty forgetting an interpersonal offense may hinder or delay the forgiveness process.
Despite the adage to "forgive and forget," forgiveness does not require forgetting (McCullough & Witvliet, 2002). In fact, sometimes clinicians encourage the release of negative emotions, such as hostility and resentment, while still remembering the transgression in order to reduce the likelihood of such events happening again in the future (Cosgrove & Konstam, 2008). Not being required to forget an event may make reconciliation with the offender easier following an interpersonal transgression (Enright, 2001). Although forgiving results in relational and health benefits, remembering the event reduces the likelihood of future abuse (Enright, 2001).
Although not discussed much in past literature, one can also forgive without any expectations of forgetting (or not). Removing any constraints concerning forgetting may potentially facilitate the forgiveness process (Cosgrove & Konstam, 2008). Despite research suggesting that forgiveness does not require forgetting, there has been little research examining the familiarity or ease of implementing these techniques (i.e., forgive and forget vs. forgive but do not have to forget vs. forgive and remember). The current research addresses this void.
The Current Study
The current study examined two research questions. First, are there differences between LDF and HDF individuals in how familiar and compelling they find certain forgiveness motivations? Second, are there differences between LDF and HDF individuals in how easy or difficult it is for them to implement certain forgiveness techniques and their familiarity with these techniques? To assess these research questions, we exposed HDF and LDF individuals to messages pertaining to three motives for forgiveness (i.e., forgive others because it is the right thing to do, forgive others for mental health benefits, and forgive others for physical health benefits) and three techniques related to forgiving others (i.e., forgive and forget, forgive but do not have to forget, and forgive and remember). By investigating such messages, this study fills a gap in research regarding the differences (or similarities) between HDF and LDF individuals. Because favorable beliefs are necessary for engaging in any intentional behavior (i.e., TPB; Ajzen, 2011), comparing the familiarity of these messages, as well as their persuasiveness and ease, may better inform researchers and counselors of the motives and techniques young adults may find helpful when trying to forgive others.
We hypothesized that HDF participants would rate the three motivations to forgive as well as the three techniques of forgiveness as more familiar compared with the LDF participants. We also predicted that the LDF participants would rate the mental and physical health benefits (i.e., self-focused motivations) as more compelling reasons to forgive, whereas the HDF participants would rate the motive that forgiveness is the right thing to do (i.e., relational-focused motivation) as the most compelling reason to forgive. Finally, we hypothesized that HDF and LDF participants would rate forgive and forget as the most difficult technique to implement when forgiving.
Empirical research testing the effectiveness of forgiveness interventions frequently uses college student samples (Lampton, Oliver, Worthington, & Berry, 2005; Luskin, Ginzburg, & Thoresen, 2005; McCullough et al., 1997; Rye & Pargament, 2002). Thus, we recruited 253 undergraduate students to participate in the current study in exchange for introductory psychology course credit. The recruitment information displayed to the students reflected a general study about forgiveness to reduce sampling biases. Participants received course credit for participating even if they did not finish the study; no one who signed up for the study dropped out. Participants who completed the study represented a distribution of both HDF and LDF individuals.
Participants responded to a series of questions approved by the university's institutional review board using Qualtrics (2014). In accordance with research guidelines set by the American Psychological Association (2010) and the American Counseling Association (2014), we stressed the voluntary and confidential nature of the study. The informed consent described the research goal of gaining a better understanding of why and how people forgive. At the end of the study, we provided a debriefing statement.
Consistent with data-cleaning procedures outlined by Tabachnick and Fidell (2013), we removed seven participants from subsequent analyses via listwise deletion due to nonresponding (i.e., leaving incomplete more than 10 items). Of the remaining 246 undergraduates (113 women; mean age = 19.61 years, SD = 2.44), 74.8% self-identified as Caucasian, 11.4% as African American, 5.7% as Hispanic/Latina/o, 5.3% as Asian, and 2.8% as other. For college classification, 66.3% were 1st-year students, 26.4% were sophomores, 5.3% were juniors, and 2% were seniors.
The Shapiro-Wilk test and Q-Q plots indicated no departures from normality (p values for the Shapiro-Wilk tests ranged from .10 to .24 for the variables of interest). We compared standardized scores for each variable of interest to the convention of [+ or -] 3.29 (Tabachnick & Fidell, 2013). Six scores exceeded [+ or -] 3.29, suggesting the potential presence of outliers. We entered these values as missing and did not use them in subsequent analyses.
When we conducted analyses of variance (ANOVAs), Mauchly's test indicated that the assumption of sphericity was violated when testing the persuasiveness of the forgiveness motives, [chi square](2) = 10, p = .007, and the familiarity of these motives, [chi square](2) = 33.19, p < .001. This same result occurred when testing the ease of the forgiveness techniques, [chi square](2) = 6.86, p = .032, and the familiarity of these techniques, [chi square](2) = 33.02, p < .001. Violations in the assumption of sphericity frequently occur; however, to overcome these violations, we corrected the degrees of freedom for each test using Greenhouse-Geisser estimates (Tabachnick & Fidell, 2013).
Participants were asked to imagine an interpersonal conflict in which they experienced a deep betrayal by someone close to them and, as a result, developed negative emotions (e.g., hostility, resentment, anger) toward the offender. Participants then read six randomly presented messages emphasizing each of three motives (see Appendix A) and three techniques (see Appendix B) associated with forgiveness. After reading each message, participants indicated their familiarity of the concept prior to the study using a 7-point Likert-type scale (1 = never hear people promote the idea, 7 = frequently hear the idea promoted). The three-item scale for the familiarity of the motivation messages and the three-item scale for the familiarity of the technique messages had Cronbach's alphas of .77 and .68, respectively. For the motivation messages, participants rated the persuasiveness of the messages as reasons to forgive on a 7-point Likert-type scale (1 = not at all compelling, 7 = extremely compelling). The three items estimating the persuasiveness of the motive messages had a Cronbach's alpha of .71. For the technique messages, participants rated ease of implementing the technique using a 7-point Likert-type scale (1 = not at all easy, 7 = extremely easy). The three items used to rate the ease of implementation of these techniques had a Cronbach's alpha of .69.
Participants then completed the Tendency to Forgive Scale (TTF; Brown, 2003), which measures dispositional forgiveness on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree). The TTF assesses how participants generally respond when offended or wronged. Therefore, the TTF measures individual differences in the tendency to either "let go" of an interpersonal transgression or "hold on to" and ruminate about these transgression experiences (Brown, 2003, p. 761). Participants completed four items based on their typical responses to previous interpersonal transgressions. Example items include "I have a tendency to harbor grudges" (reverse scored), "I tend to get over it quickly when someone hurts my feelings," "When people wrong me, my approach is just to forgive and forget," and "If someone wrongs me, I often think about it a lot after" (reverse scored). Higher scores on the TTF indicate higher levels of dispositional forgiveness. The sample mean for the TTF was 3.03 (SD = 0.95). Cronbach's alpha for the four-item scale was .72. Previous research supports the construct-related (Brown, 2003) and predictive validity (Brown & Phillips, 2005) of the TTF; the reliability statistic value found in the current study resembled previous research.
In accordance with previous literature (Lawler et al., 2005), we calculated median split groups for HDF participants ([greater than or equal to] 3.01; N = 138, M = 2.35, SD = 0.53) and LDF participants ([less than or equal to] 3.00; N = 108, M = 3.92, SD = 0.57) using responses on the TTF. To assess motivation to forgive, forgiveness techniques, and familiarity among people high or low in dispositional forgiveness, we conducted mixed-factors ANOVAs. The within-subjects factors for the first ANOVA consisted of the motivation to forgive and familiarity, whereas the within-subjects factors for the second ANOVA consisted of forgiveness techniques and familiarity. The between-subjects factor for each ANOVA consisted of dispositional forgiveness. Tables 1 and 2 show the descriptive statistics for the variables of interest used in both ANOVAs.
Motivation to Forgive
A significant main effect emerged for the type of motive, F(1.92, 469.09) = 6.90, p = .001, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .05, such that participants rated forgiveness as the right thing to do as significantly more compelling than the mental (p = .01) and physical (p = .001) health benefits. A significant difference between the mental and physical health motives did not emerge. However, participants rated the persuasiveness of the mental and physical health motives above the midpoint (4) of the scale, which potentially indicates that these motives may be seen as being good reasons to forgive. Furthermore, HDF participants rated the motives overall as more compelling than did LDF participants, F(1, 244) = 9.82, p = .002, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .04. The interaction did not approach significance, F(1.92, 469.09) = 0.22, p = .79, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .005. There were no significant differences between HDF and LDF participants' ratings of the persuasiveness of forgiveness being the right thing to do, the mental health benefits, and the physical health benefits.
A main effect emerged for familiarity of the motive, F(1.77, 432.76) = 111.46, p < .001, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .31, indicating that participants rated forgiveness being the right thing to do as more familiar than the mental and physical health benefits (both ps < .001), whereas participants rated the mental health benefits as significantly more familiar than the physical health benefits (p < .001). These results suggest that participants may not be equally familiar (as indicated by the medium effect size of .31) with these motivations for forgiveness. HDF participants rated the motives as more familiar than did LDF participants, F(1, 244) = 4.99, p = .026, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .02. A significant interaction between levels of dispositional forgiveness and the familiarity of the motives did not emerge, F(1.77, 432.76) = 1.12, p = .321, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .02. Results did not indicate significant differences between HDF and LDF participants in ratings of familiarity for forgiveness being the right thing to do, the mental health benefits, and the physical health benefits.
Ability to Forgive
A significant main effect emerged for the type of technique, F(1.95, 474.79) = 70.11, p < .001, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .22, such that participants rated forgive and remember as easier to do than forget (p < .001) and forgive but do not have to forget (p = .003). Furthermore, participants rated forgive but do not have to forget as easier to do than forget (p < .001). HDF participants rated the techniques as easier to perform than did LDF participants, F(l, 244) = 7.91, p = .005, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .03. The interaction did not approach significance, F(1.95, 474.79) = 0.662, p = .513, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .002. No significant differences emerged for HDF and LDF participants regarding the ease of the technique for forgive and forget, forgive but do not have to forget, and forgive and remember.
Results indicated a main effect for familiarity of technique, F(1.76,432.99) -16.23, p < .001, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .09, suggesting that participants rated forgive and forget as more familiar than forgive but do not have to forget and forgive and remember (both ps < .001). There was no significant difference between forgive and remember and forgive but do not have to forget. The HDF participants rated the techniques as more familiar than did LDF participants, F(1, 244) = 7.65, p = .006, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .03. A significant interaction, F(1.76, 432.99) = 4.52, p = .015, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .02, suggested that the main effect was qualified by HDF participants' greater familiarity with the technique of forgive and forget compared with LDF participants, t(244) = 4.16, p < .001. However, no significant differences emerged for familiarity of the techniques forgive but do not have to forget as well as forgive and remember. Participants rated forgive and forget as the most difficult (partial [[eta].sup.2] = .22) but also the somewhat more familiar (partial [[eta].sup.2] = .09) technique.
Given that HDF individuals display greater tendencies to forgive (Brown, 2003), it is not surprising that the HDF participants in our study rated the forgiveness motives as more compelling compared with the LDF participants. Participants also rated forgiveness as the right thing to do as a more compelling reason to forgive than the mental and physical health benefits of forgiveness; however, participants rated the mental and physical health benefits above the midpoint (4) of the scale. These mean ratings appear to suggest that although participants rated forgiveness as the right thing to do as more compelling, they may find the motives of mental and physical health benefits appealing as potential reasons to forgive. More research is needed to discern the appeal of the health motivations in encouraging forgiveness intentions and behaviors.
Participants rated the motive that forgiveness is the right thing to do as most familiar and the mental and physical health benefits as somewhat less familiar. However, overall, HDF participants rated all of the forgiveness motives as more familiar than did LDF participants. Given that LDF participants practice less forgiveness compared with HDF participants, they may also pay less attention to reasons for forgiveness even though they generally know of these motives. The LDF individuals may just need greater exposure to these reasons, especially considering that the mental and physical health motives benefit the victim (self-focused motivation)--a compelling motive for LDF participants, as indicated by the current findings. Exposure to these health motives may increase forgiveness, because a key factor in promoting an intentional behavior involves favorable beliefs about the outcomes of the behavior (or favorable behavioral beliefs; Ajzen, 2011). More motivations for a behavior increase its likelihood (Fishbein & Ajzen, 2005); in this case, more motivations to forgive may increase the likelihood of forgiveness.
With regard to forgiveness techniques, HDF participants reported each technique as easier to perform than did LDF participants. A greater willingness among HDF participants to engage in these techniques as well as a practice effect may account for these differences. However, participants rated forgive and forget as significantly more difficult to perform than the techniques associated with remembering. Participants also rated that they were somewhat more familiar with this technique. Greater exposure to easier techniques to perform may increase the intent to forgive for both HDF and LDF participants.
Limitations and Future Directions
Although the findings of this study help to advance the promotion of forgiveness, limitations exist. First, the sample used represents a typical college-age sample with little diversity, thereby limiting generalizability of the findings to other age groups. Although some argue that age influences forgiveness (Carstensen, Fung, & Charles, 2003), more recent research indicates little support for this claim. In a meta-analysis, Fehr, Gelfand, and Nag (2010) posited that "the effect of age on forgiveness [although significant] is negligible" (p. 908). Although speculative, the attitudes of the young adult participants in our study regarding the motivation and ability to forgive and the awareness of these ideas may generalize to other populations; however, this requires future research.
In addition, we used a within-subjects data collection strategy in this study, in which we examined data from participants at the same point in time without accounting for differences over time. Although the study was informative, future research would benefit from a longitudinal design among participants who engage in resolving an interpersonal transgression. Future research also may profit from using a longitudinal design to assess the causality of exposing participants to the motivation and technique messages, as well as the effectiveness of such exposure in promoting forgiveness.
Third, participants in this study imagined a situation in which someone close to them betrayed them. Future research assessing the type of transgression and the participants' appraisal regarding the severity of the transgression may provide additional information about the differences and similarities in the motivation to forgive and techniques used when forgiving specific transgressions. Fourth, our study focused on the cognitive awareness of participants in relation to their thoughts on the most compelling and familiar motives and techniques for forgiveness. Future research examining cognitive awareness and how emotions and volition play a role in compelling individuals to forgive others and the techniques used may add new knowledge to existing literature.
Finally, this study focused solely on the trait variable of forgiveness; however, future research examining additional variables that can affect the motivation to forgive and the techniques used when forgiving others may be helpful. Previous research indicates that other trait variables, such as levels of empathy (Konstam et al., 2003), correlate with a person's engagement in forgiveness. Future research should also examine situational factors, such as levels of social support and religious background and affiliation, as well as relational factors, such as relationship satisfaction and closeness that influence the motivation and ability to forgive.
Application to Clinical Practice
Despite the aforementioned limitations, the current findings add unique information to previous forgiveness literature and practice. Although much literature exists on the benefits of forgiveness on mental and physical health, there has been little empirical information about persuasiveness and familiarity of the mental and physical health benefits encountered when forgiving. Young adults may find the mental and physical health benefits compelling motives to forgive, but they may not recognize these benefits as much as researchers and counselors would hope. Our findings, although preliminary, are clinically relevant for practitioners working with young adults.
Self-focused reasoning does not significantly motivate forgiveness among young adults (Younger at al., 2004); however, this may result from a lack of familiarity. Learning how to practice forgiveness may require greater exposure to self-focused motives. The most effective interventions help people see the benefits of forgiveness for both relationship and self-focused reasons (Thoresen et al., 2008). Counselors discussing the mental and physical health motivations with young adult clients may increase the clients' intentions to forgive; however, we would not expect this effect to be large given additional factors (e.g., empathy, social support, religious background, relationship closeness, severity of the transgression) that play a role in the forgiveness process. Thus, we recommend clinical exposure to these self-focused motivations in combination with additional factors. Effective forgiveness interventions should also acknowledge the attitudes and beliefs of the individual regarding forgiveness (Thoresen et al., 2008). The current findings provide important information for counselors about the attitudes toward specific motivations and techniques that facilitate forgiveness. Continued research efforts that are focused on these motives and additional factors that influence forgiveness may provide an early foundation for forgiveness behaviors and decreased relational conflict.
Moreover, given the difficulty in forgiving and forgetting, structuring interventions to better inform young adults of easier techniques to implement may help to promote behavioral intentions to forgive. Exposing young adults to a variety of techniques may increase control beliefs, and subsequently, the likelihood and ability of successfully engaging in the process of forgiveness. Continued research should further test these ideas.
In sum, this study's findings offer preliminary evidence that promoting awareness of both moral and health-related motives, easy-to-implement techniques, and additional factors that influence forgiveness may result in greater behavioral intentions to forgive. Successful behavioral interventions require increasing the favorability for the motives of forgiveness (behavioral and normative beliefs) and the ability to forgive (control beliefs). Continued research efforts focusing on the motives and techniques for forgiveness might lead to interventions that improve the general coping skills and health of individuals who experience interpersonal conflict.
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Motivation to Forgive
Please read the following messages and rate them on: how familiar you are with these concepts prior to the study (1 = never hear people promote the idea, 7 = frequently hear the idea promoted) and how compelling/persuasive these messages are as reasons to forgive for you personally (1 = not at all compelling, 7 = extremely compelling).
1. Forgiving others is the right thing to do as most religious, ethical, and social systems promote forgiveness and discourage unforgiveness. People are taught from a young age that carrying negative emotions, such as resentment and anger, or holding a grudge against someone is wrong.
2. Forgiveness has positive benefits for one's own mental health. Many people think that not forgiving provides a sense of control over the situation, but in reality, obsessing about the person and the event gives the other person more power. By continuing to relive the event, the other person continues to hurt you.
3. Forgiveness has positive benefits for one's own physical health. Many people think that not forgiving hurts the other person, but in reality, not forgiving hurts the victim. For example, much research shows that people who do not forgive have an increased risk of physical health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and premature death.
Please read the following messages and rate them on: how familiar you are with these concepts prior to the study (1 = never hear people promote the idea, 7 = frequently hear the idea promoted) and how easy it would be to implement these techniques when forgiving (1 = not at all easy, 7 = extremely easy).
1. When someone hurts you and you want to forgive them, it is best for everyone if you just put the event behind you and get on with your life as if nothing happened. Therefore, forgive and forget.
2. Forgiving others does not require you to forget what happened, but that you do not continue to hold negative emotions, such as hostility and resentment anymore. Therefore, you should forgive but you do not have to forget.
3. When people hurt you, remembering the event that happened can allow you to learn and grow wiser. It may also help you make changes to the relationship so that things are better in the future. Therefore, forgive and remember.
Whitney K. Jeter and Laura A. Brannon, Department of Psychological Sciences, Kansas State University. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Whitney K. Jeter, Department of Psychological Sciences, Kansas State University, 1100 Mid-Campus Drive, 492 Bluemont Hall, Manhattan, KS 66506 (e-mail: email@example.com).
TABLE 1 Low and High Dispositional Forgiveness Participants' Mean Ratings and Standard Error for the Persuasiveness and Familiarity of Each Motive Right Mental Variable M SE M SE Persuasiveness Low forgiveness 5.02 0.09 4.80 0.10 High forgiveness 5.50 0.09 5.24 0.08 Total 5.26 0.09 5.02 0.09 Familiarity Low forgiveness 5.61 0.10 4.72 0.11 High forgiveness 6.17 0.09 5.07 0.09 Total 5.89 0.09 4.90 0.10 Physical Total Variable M SE M SE Persuasiveness Low forgiveness 4.64 0.10 4.82 0.10 High forgiveness 5.20 0.10 5.32 0.12 Total 4.92 0.10 Familiarity Low forgiveness 4.12 0.11 4.82 0.11 High forgiveness 4.34 0.13 5.19 0.13 Total 4.23 0.12 Note. Right = belief that forgiveness is the right thing to do; Mental = mental health benefits of forgiveness; Physical = physical health benefits of forgiveness. TABLE 2 Low and High Dispositional Forgiveness Participants' Mean Ratings and Standard Error for the Ease of Implementing and Familiarity of Each Technique Forgive But Do Not Have Forget to Forget Variable M SE M SE Ease of technique Low forgiveness 2.99 0.10 4.07 0.10 High forgiveness 3.32 0.10 4.34 0.10 Total 3.16 0.10 4.20 0.10 Familiarity Low forgiveness 5.10 0.13 4.91 0.14 High forgiveness 5.92 0.15 5.13 0.16 Total 5.51 0.10 5.02 0.10 Forgive and Remember Total Variable M SE M SE Ease of technique Low forgiveness 4.30 0.10 3.79 0.09 High forgiveness 4.85 0.10 4.17 0.10 Total 4.58 0.10 Familiarity Low forgiveness 4.79 0.13 4.94 0.11 High forgiveness 5.07 0.15 5.37 0.12 Total 4.93 0.10
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|Author:||Jeter, Whitney K.; Brannon, Laura A.|
|Publication:||Counseling and Values|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2015|
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