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Abstract

The present volume is a ground-breaking and agenda-setting investigation of the psychology of self-forgiveness. It brings together the work of expert clinicians and researchers working within the field, to address questions such as: Why is self-forgiveness so difficult? What contexts and psychological experiences give rise to the need for self-forgiveness? What approaches can therapists use to help people process difficult experiences that elicit guilt, shame and self-condemnation? How can people work through their own failures and transgressions? Assembling current theories and findings, this unique resource reviews and advances our understanding of self-forgiveness, and its potentially critical function in interpersonal relationships and individual emotional and physical health. The editors begin by exploring the nature of self-forgiveness. They consider its processes, causes, and effects, how it may be measured, and its potential benefits to theory and psychotherapy. Expert clinicians and researchers then examine self-forgiveness in its many facets; as a response to guilt and shame, a step toward processing transgressions, a means of reducing anxiety, and an essential component of, or, under some circumstances a barrier to, psychotherapeutic intervention. Contributors also address self-forgiveness as applied to diverse psychosocial contexts such as addiction and recovery, couples and families, healthy aging, the workplace, and the military. Among the topics in the Handbook: An evolutionary approach to shame-based self-criticism, self-forgiveness and compassion. Working through psychological needs following transgressions to arrive at self-forgiveness. Self-forgiveness and health: a stress-and-coping model. Self-forgiveness and personal and relational well-being. Self-directed intervention to promote self-forgiveness. Understanding the role of forgiving the self in the act of hurting oneself. The Handbook of the Psychology of Self-Forgiveness serves many healing professionals. It covers a wide range of problems for which individuals often seek help from counselors, clergy, social workers, psychologists and physicians. Research psychologists, philosophers, and sociologists studying self-forgiveness will also find it an essential handbook that draws together the advances made over the past several decades, and identifies important directions for the road ahead. © Springer International Publishing AG 2017. All rights reserved.
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Orientation to the Psychology of Self-forgiveness
Lydia Woodyatt
Flinders University
Everett L. Worthington, Jr.
Virginia Commonwealth University
Michael Wenzel
Flinders University
Brandon J. Griffin
Virginia Commonwealth University
For: Lydia Woodyatt, Everett L. Worthington, Jr., Michael Wenzel, & Brandon J. Griffin (Eds.),
Handbook of the psychology of self-forgiveness. New York, NY: Springer.
Abstract
In this introductory chapter, we provide an overview of the history and context of self-
forgiveness research within the field of Psychology. We discuss definitions of self-forgiveness,
with emphasis on theoretical and empirical quandaries that have characterized the field. We
examine contexts in which self-forgiveness has been examined as a natural process, and how the
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process depends on factors including age, gender, and religious/cultural identity. We summarize
the promise of emerging interventions designed to promote self-forgiveness. Overall, this chapter
will deepen and broaden the scope of your understanding prior to engaging with the innovative,
challenging, and rigorous scholars whose contributions to this handbook follow in the remaining
chapters.
Key Words: Self-forgiveness; Measurement; Pseudo self-forgiveness; Responsibility;
Reconciliation; Repair; Moral Transgressions; Failure; Self-compassion
Orientation to the Psychology of Self-forgiveness
This chapter is a guide to understanding what self-forgiveness is and the broad state of
psychological research that relates to self-forgiveness. While the body of literature investigating
self-forgiveness is still in its early development, this chapter will touch on the key theories,
movements, empirical work, and unexplored questions. You will see that the research is not
without its controversies. There remain many rich areas for innovation and discovery. Consistent
with the format of this book we first consider early observations of self-forgiveness, and contexts
within which self-forgiveness has been examined. We discuss early definitions of self-
forgiveness, and we describe how these have shifted over time. We then discuss how self-
forgiveness has been operationalized and measured. Finally, we review processes of self-
forgiveness and clinical approaches that are emerging in the field. If you are unfamiliar with self-
forgiveness research, this chapter will familiarize you with some key ideas you will encounter
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throughout the literature on the psychology of self-forgiveness. If you are an expert in the field,
we hope this broad chapter will stimulate your thinking about the overarching issues and exciting
future directions.
Origins of the Empirical Science of Forgiveness
Self-forgiveness was a lay term in common usage long before the recent explosion of
scientific research. A quick internet search offers more on the topic than one could possibly read
(approximately 5,020,000 hits in 0.35 seconds). Despite this wide lay interest, the science of the
psychology of self-forgiveness is relatively new. Its emergence can be traced to the early to mid-
1990s. In the earliest years, however, the systematic exploration self-forgiveness primarily
occupied the thoughts of philosophers (Dillon, 2001; Holmgren, 1998; Mills, 1995; Snow, 1993),
with only a single phenomenological study (Bauer et al., 1992) and an early measurement of trait
self-forgiveness (Mauger et al., 1992) by psychologists.
The prelude to the empirical investigation of self-forgiveness was a conceptual article
written by Enright and the Human Development Study Group (1996). This article described the
forgiveness triad, which the authors saw as three interrelated aspects of dealing with moral
transgressions. Importantly, the emphasis was on intervening to help people forgive others,
receive forgiveness from others, and forgive oneself. As an intervention process, it is
prescriptive, not descriptive. That is, the process guided psychotherapy patients through a series
of steps to arrive at a therapeutic endpoint. However, the process that one experiences in
psychotherapy, counselling, or psychoeducation often substantially differs from the natural
progression of a phenomenon. That basic psychological science of self-forgiveness remained
relatively unexplored for several years. Although Enright and colleagues never empirically
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studied the proposed theory of intervention, their article provided a foundation for the
approaching explosion of scientific interest in forgiveness.
In 1997, the John Templeton Foundation funded a Request for Proposals (RFP) on
forgiveness that propelled its empirical study. An incredible amount of knowledge was gained
that described, predicted, and experimentally manipulated forgiveness of others specifically.
None of the funded projects dealt with self-forgiveness. What that RFP accomplished was to
engage numerous scientists in research on various aspects of forgiveness. But, by 2005, it was
clear that, as Hall and Fincham (2005) noted, self-forgiveness had become the neglected step-
child of forgiveness research, receiving little scientific attention. For instance, only 34 entries in
PsycINFO from 1971 to 2005 (retrieved April 12, 2017) examined self-forgiveness relative to
almost 1,100 studies that existed on forgiving others at the time (for a bibliography, see Scherer,
Cooke, & Worthington, 2005). Research on self-forgiveness began to accumulate in the second
decade of the twenty-first century. From 1971 to 2011, only 93 articles, dissertations, or chapters
had been published (~2 per year), but from 2011 to April 2017, 124 (~about 20 per year) studies
of self-forgiveness were published.
Scope of Psychological Research on Self-forgiveness Today
To date self-forgiveness has been examined across a range of contexts. It has been related
to drug and alcohol addiction or use (Gueta, 2013; McGaffin, Lyons, & Deane, 2013), mothering
(Gueta, 2013), smoking (Wohl & Thompson, 2011), gambling (Squires, Sztainert, Gillen,
Caouette, & Wohl, 2012), and disordered eating (Peterson et al., 2017). It has been studied in
population groups including cancer patients (Toussaint, Barry, Bornfriend, & Markman, 2014),
people living with HIV/AIDS (Mudgal & Tiwari, 2015), military service members (Bryan,
Theriault, & Bryan, 2015), hypersexual disorder patients (Hook et al., 2015), and complex
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trauma survivors (Worthington & Langberg, 2013). The ways self-forgiveness has been
examined, and the impact of self-forgiveness in these contexts has varied from study to study.
Self-forgiveness has been observed with a range of demographic factors. In terms of age,
self-forgiveness research has been largely focused within adult samples, particularly young
adults (as the research has been largely, but not exclusively, with undergraduate samples).
However, self-forgiveness may be of particular relevance for older adults (see Windsor, this
volume), because at later ages adults reflect back on their regrets, failures, and missed
opportunities in life (Ingersoll-Dayton & Krause, 2005). We know little about when young
children develop a sense of self-forgiveness, nor do we know the processes they use to work
through their own feelings of having done wrong.
In terms of sex or gender differences, there have been no systematic investigations so far.
Suggestive evidence exists that women and men equally engage in self-forgiveness (Macaskill,
Maltby, & Day, 2002). However, there may be differences in how self-forgiveness functions as a
protective factor for women in contrast to men (Ermer & Proulx, 2016). Similarly, there has been
no systematic exploration of self-forgiveness and sexual identification. Some research has
examined the experiences of LGBTQ persons (Greene & Britton, 2013) and within romantic
couples (Pelucchi, Paleari, Regalia, & Fincham, 2013).
In terms of religious differences, Davis, Worthington, Hook, and Hill (2013) conducted a
meta-analysis of research on religion and spirituality as it was associated with forgiveness. In
contrast to forgiving others people, which is advocated in all five major religions, self-
forgiveness was related to neither religion nor spirituality. A positive association was observed
between self-forgiveness and religiousness when religiousness was observed as a relational
construct. In terms of cross-cultural occurrence and variations in the experience of self-
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forgiveness, we know very little. The phenomenon has been examined predominantly in North
American contexts (USA and Canada) but not uniquely so. Since 2012, studies have emerged
across a wider range of countries (e.g., Australia, Israel, India, and Italy). No study has yet
examined self-forgiveness from a cross-cultural perspective, specifically. For example, we do not
know what types of issues may lead to the need for self-forgiveness in different cultural contexts.
However, given the differences that emerge in terms of causes of shame and guilt, we could
predict differences would emerge (Goetz & Keltner, 2007). In addition, with self-forgiveness
being specifically an experience of the self, there have been no investigations of self-forgiveness
as it manifests (or doesn’t) in collectivistic cultures. What types of barriers may exist to self-
forgiveness in various cultural contexts? For example, certain belief systems may lead to
assumptions that self-forgiveness is unacceptable. Likewise, some highly religious people might
believe that forgiveness by God should be sufficient to assuage people’s shame and guilt, and
thus might invalidate the experience of self-forgiveness.
What Is Self-Forgiveness and How Can We Measure It? The Initial and Ongoing Challenge
The earliest psychological definition of self-forgiveness was proposed by Enright and the
Human Development Study Group (1996). They described self-forgiveness as “a willingness to
abandon self-resentment in the face of one’s acknowledged objective wrong, while fostering
compassion, generosity, and love toward oneself” (Enright et al., 1996, p. 116). This definition
was seminal. It is mirrored across much of the psychological literature, with nuances that
researchers have integrated from time to time in an attempt to concretely operationalize self-
forgiveness (Hall & Fincham, 2005; Wohl, DeShea, & Wahkinney, 2008). However, it is also a
source of dispute, in reply to which many scholars have proposed alternative definitions
(Woodyatt & Wenzel, 2013). There are several components of Enright et al.’s pioneering
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definition of self-forgiveness that are worth noting and which provide us with a useful frame for
examining the psychological and empirical literature that has emerged since that time.
Self-forgiveness entails releasing negative emotions directed at oneself. A key
component of self-forgiveness involves the meaningful interpretation and successful resolution
of negative emotions or attitudes directed at oneself. Enright et al. drew from philosophy of
forgiving others, paralleling the processes by beginning with resentment experienced by victims
toward perpetrators of offense (for a philosophical exploration see Holmgren, 2012). Resentment
implies holding one culpable for what has occurred and desiring to exact revenge or punishment.
When perpetrators accept forgiveness from one who was wronged, the perpetrator is released
from others’ resentment on behalf of a victim’s altruistic decision to forgive. Self-forgiveness,
according to Enright et al., is releasing the resentment one feels toward oneself for one’s own
actions.
Interestingly, in psychological research the idea of self-resentment, that is holding oneself
culpable for what occurred, experiencing the emotion of resentment, and seeking to punish
oneself, has not been clearly operationalised. Instead, researchers have identified either a
reduction in other negative emotions (i.e., shame, guilt, self-anger; e.g., Mauger et al., 1992; “I
feel guilty because I don’t do what I should do for my loved ones”) or a reduction in negative
cognition (i.e., self-blame appraisals; e.g., Wohl, Pychyl, & Bennett, 2010; “I criticize myself
for…..”). Adapting McCullough, Worthington, and Rachel’s (1997) conceptualization of
forgiving others, Hall and Fincham (2005) emphasized behaviour or behavioural motivations.
They defined self-forgiveness as “a set of motivational changes whereby one becomes
decreasingly motivated to avoid stimuli associated with the offense, decreasingly motivated to
retaliate against the self (e.g., punish the self, engage in self-destructive behaviours etc.), and
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increasingly motivated to act benevolently towards the self” (p.622). Here we can see several
motivational components, a reduction in avoidance and desire for self-punishing behaviours,
absent from Enright’s earlier definition. However, while many studies examine the roles of
shame, guilt, and self-blame in self-forgiveness (Fisher & Exline, 2010), self-directed behaviours
(e.g., self-punishment or self-deprivation) have rarely been assessed.
Given this context, it is not surprising that self-forgiveness has been defined, and then
operationalized, predominantly as the reduction or elimination of self-condemning emotions
such as shame and guilt. However, the critical element of self-forgiveness is not that the
individual has low levels of offense-related emotions. This would also be true of a perpetrator
who excused themselves of wrongdoing (Woodyatt & Wenzel, 2014). Rather, self-forgiveness is
the experience of self-condemnation and then release from these negative emotions and
cognition perhaps accompanied by an intention to repair any spiritual, social, and psychological
harm done. In this regard an underlying implicit assumption of self-forgiveness—but one rarely
operationally realized—has been that, while offense-related negative emotions can become toxic
over time, they initially empower the process of self-forgiveness by motivating reparation of
ruptures to one’s interpersonal relationships and catalysing personal growth following
perpetration of an offense. However, paradoxically, these emotions should be negatively related
to the end-state of self-forgiveness because successful self-forgiveness results necessarily in the
reduction of condemning self-directed emotions over time.
This paradox is arguably at the heart of self-forgiveness, namely that we need to
experience and accept our shame and guilt as legitimate in order to experience the later release
from them. Indeed, since a core of the definition of self-forgiveness relates to these emotions,
understanding them, how and why they arise, and how they can be worked through is essential to
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the process of self-forgiveness. There is of course a large body of accumulated research on the
self-conscious emotions (see Tracy, Robins, & Tangney, 2007), and emerging research in relation
to shame and guilt, as well as self-criticism, may offer new insights in the processes of self-
forgiveness (Gilbert, this volume; Leach, this volume).
Self-forgiveness entails fostering positive emotions directed toward oneself. Enright et
al.’s (1996) definition of self-forgiveness not only included the abandoning of self-directed
negative emotion but also the increase in positive or benevolent emotion (compassion,
generosity, and love toward the self). Davis et al. (2015), in their meta-analysis of the self-
forgiveness and well-being literature, define self-forgiveness as “an emotion-focused coping
strategy that involves reducing negative and increasing positive thoughts, emotions, motivations
and behaviours regarding oneself” (p.329-330). Even more broadly self-forgiveness has been
described as “the act of generosity and kindness toward the self following self-perceived
inappropriate action” (Bryan et al., 2015, p. 40). However, while some scales capture both the
absence of negative affect and cognition as well as the presence of positive affect and cognition,
the exact process of transformation from one to the other is still elusive. What is this
transformative process? Do negative affect and cognition simply cease and become replaced by
positive affect and cognitions? Or is a state of self-forgiveness a more emotionally complex
experience (Lindquist & Barrett, 2008)? Indeed if this was all there is to it, simply ceasing
feeling bad and moving towards feeling good, we would have a hedonic conception of self-
forgiveness, selfish and amoral as it were (for discussion of hedonic versus eudaimonic
experiences of self-forgiveness see Woodyatt, Wenzel, & Ferber, 2017).
Self-forgiveness involves an appraisal of responsibility. The final component of Enright
et al.’s (1996) definition is perhaps the most pivotal: self-forgiveness occurs “in the face of one’s
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acknowledged objective wrong” (p.116). On one hand, one may question the inclusion of the
word objective wrong. It is easy to think of examples where self-forgiveness may be needed but
where objectively no moral wrong has occurred. There are situations where we make mistakes,
fail to have foresight, or act rightly but with bad consequences – and yet may feel the need to
forgive ourselves. For many, self-condemnation occurs not because one has perpetrated moral
wrongdoing but because one failed to reach some personal standard (Worthington, 2013). For
example, one might feel self-condemnation because one failed to make straight As, live up to a
parent’s ideal, outsell one’s competitor, or perform as well as one wished in a golf tournament.
No objective moral wrong was committed, yet people might experience self-condemnation,
regret, remorse, guilt, and shame, with all of the attendant emotional, cognitive, and motivational
fallout. Nonetheless, social psychologists would tend to argue that these standards, including
morality, relate to one’s perceived values of reference groups and social identities, which can
vary with context and time (see Leach, Bilali, & Pagliaro, 2015).
That aside, there is general agreement that self-forgiveness does not mean denying
responsibility, but in fact results from a felt responsibility and likely involves working through
ones appraisals of responsibility. If self-forgiveness was simply releasing oneself from blame
and increasing positive emotion, this would not be true forgiveness at all, but what has been
termed pseudo self-forgiveness. Pseudo self-forgiveness is excusing oneself of blame without
recognizing that an offense has occurred, in essence letting oneself off the hook (Hall &
Fincham, 2005; Tangney, Boone, & Dearing, 2005). This means that genuine self-forgiveness
cannot be achieved by merely reappraising the wrongful or disappointing behaviour (1) as not
being so wrong, (2) as being excusable, (3) as not solely one’s own fault, or (4) as being
harmless in its effects. Without a sense of wrongdoing or at least a feeling of responsibility there
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is nothing to forgive (Hall & Fincham, 2005; Wenzel, Woodyatt, & Hedrick, 2012; Woodyatt &
Wenzel, 2013a).
Feelings of guilt, remorse, regret and condemnation that are to some extent deserved or
warranted, set the occasion for forgiveness (Dillon, 2001). This perception of perceived
responsibility for harm to oneself, others, or even towards a perceived higher moral principle or
spiritual power, also differentiates self-forgiveness from cases where humans are just managing
other self-directed negative emotion (e.g. low self-worth). Self-forgiveness may involve coming
to a more realistic understanding of one’s appraisal of responsibility. For example, it may involve
addressing self-critical perfectionism or other unrealistic expectations. Self-forgiveness is
nevertheless distinguishable from a simple release of self-condemning emotion by merely
adopting a more benevolent, generous, or understanding stance toward oneself (i.e., self-
acceptance).
The Paradox Expanded: What Makes Self-forgiveness So Difficult?
We have so far concluded that self-forgiveness is a process that occurs over time in which
an individual appraises himself or herself as responsible for a perceived wrongdoing or failure,
meaningfully interprets and successfully resolves the consequent negative self-condemning
emotions, cognitions, motivations, and behaviors, toward more positive self-directed emotions,
cognitions, motivations, and behaviors. The challenge of self-forgiveness, in both research and
clinical practice, seems to be that self-forgiveness occurs at the intersection of both of these
concerns, for arriving at and maintaining appropriate responsibility for one’s actions on one
hand, and for maintaining a positive and coherent sense of self on the other hand. This quandary
has likely hindered the development and an empirical science of self-forgiveness for some time.
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Research has come to focus on either (1) a dispositional tendency to release self-
condemnation (e.g., Maltby, Macaskill, & Day, 2001; Thompson et al., 2005), or (2) an end-state
of self-forgiveness where individuals have disposed of their self-condemnation, and instead show
high compassion, love, and generosity toward the self (Wohl et al., 2008). Hall and Fincham
(2005) identified this problem, noting that, at a measurement level, the outcome of self-
forgiveness would be indistinguishable from pseudo self-forgiveness, where offenders let
themselves off the hook by denying responsibility, minimizing harm or blaming the victim (see
also Tangney et al., 2005; Wenzel et al., 2012). Despite Hall and Fincham’s (2005) warnings on
the problems associated with measuring self-forgiveness as a hedonic disposition or end-state,
research on self-forgiveness has largely evolved using this approach, possibly introducing the
influence of a confound into the extant literature on self-forgiveness.
We contend that in forgiveness (of self or others) negative feelings are released
(Worthington, 2006) without explaining away or excusing harmful behaviour (Thompson et al.,
2005). For this reason, Wenzel, Woodyatt, and Hedrick (2012) argued that self-forgiveness is
best understood as the process by which we sever the negative link between taking responsibility
and positive self-regard, which is a process that Holmgren (1998) referred to as genuine self-
forgiveness. Woodyatt and Wenzel (2013b) demonstrated that measures of self-forgiveness had
been largely oriented toward capturing repair of positive self-regard and, instead, developed a
measure of genuine self-forgiveness as a process, emphasizing acceptance of responsibility, and
thus differentiating state self-forgiveness from pseudo self-forgiveness. Cornish and Woodyatt
(2017) developed a dispositional measure of genuine self-forgiveness, in an attempt to
disentangle dispositional self-forgiveness from personality traits associated with hedonic well-
being, that is, simply the maintenance of positive self-regard.
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More recently, Griffin (2017) suggested a measure that attempts to capture directly the
distinct nature of accepting responsibility and enhancing esteem as a dual-process model in an
effort to improve state self-forgiveness measures. According to the dual-process model (Griffin
et al., 2015), two distinct processes make up self-forgiveness. First, affirmation of values
requires a cognitive shift toward accepting responsibility for one’s offense and committing to
align one’s behaviour and values in the future. Second, restoration of esteem entails the
replacement of self-condemning emotions with self-affirming emotions. While these distinct but
related components are each necessary and jointly sufficient for self-forgiveness to occur, they
likely relate uniquely to various antecedents and consequences. For example, making a decision
to affirm violated values by accepting responsibility and attempting to learn from one’s mistakes
is more proximally associated with interpersonal benefits (e.g., social belonging), while
enhancing esteem is more proximally associated with intrapersonal benefits (e.g., personal
health; Griffin et al., 2016). Within this dual-process framework, preliminary evidence suggests
that the existing scales that purport to assess self-forgiveness err either toward responsibility
acceptance (Woodyatt & Wenzel, 2013) or enhancing esteem (Wohl et al., 2008), potentially to
the exclusion of the other (Griffin, 2017). These dual processes may mirror decisional and
emotional components of forgiveness toward others (Exline, Worthington, Hill, & McCullough,
2003; Worthington, 2006, 2013).
These recent developments can be seen as a movement towards a eudaimonic
conceptualisation of self-forgiveness. Self-forgiveness is conceptualised as more than a hedonic
outcome, that is more than just relieving the self from feeling bad and helping the self to feel
good. It is a process of personal development, growth, and change (Woodyatt et al., 2017) and is
embedded within relationships in which responsibility is acted out, values are reaffirmed, and
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social harmony is of concern. For self-forgiveness to be genuine, individuals need to maintain
their awareness of responsibility and having done wrong while relieving self-condemnation.
They may accept their self despite their guilt and shame, severing (global) self-evaluation from
their (specific) moral failure, or indeed regain their self-worth through accepting guilt and shame
as indicators of their intact moral identity.
In this sense, self-forgiveness would require psychological work, but there are still many
questions as to what kind of work exactly is part of the process. Is it simply the process of
working through one’s harmful actions to arrive at a state of reduced self-condemnation, or are
there certain attitudes and actions that are required for self-forgiveness to have occurred? To
what extent should amend making or behavior change be required as part of the process? Are
these behaviors part of the process of self-forgiveness, or in addition to it? Is self-forgiveness
simply an “emotional coping” response where one shifts from a negative to positive self-directed
state (as defined by Davis et al., 2015), or is more involved? This is a point of tension within the
research: Where does the definition of self-forgiveness end, and prescriptions of how self-
forgiveness ‘should’ work begin? This has implications for our understanding of the outcomes
and the ethicality of self-forgiveness.
Natural and Clinical Models of Self-forgiveness
What processes are involved in working through one’s wrongdoing or self-condemnation?
We must come at this question by two routes. First, models of naturally occurring self-
forgiveness might reveal ways that people work through self-condemnation to reach self-
forgiveness without specific intervention. Second, clinical models suggest ways that clinicians
have shown that people can be induced to forgive themselves when they seek help.
Models of Naturally Occurring Self-Forgiveness
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While no clear dominant evidence-based model of naturally occurring self-forgiveness
has yet emerged (McConnell, 2015), several models have been proposed. Hall and Fincham
(2005) posited a psychological model of self-forgiveness. In their model, self-forgiveness was an
outcome of attributions of responsibility, perception of severity, guilt, shame and empathy,
conciliatory behaviors, and perception of forgiveness by others. This model was subsequently
tested using a longitudinal design, reported in Hall and Fincham (2008). In their study
participants who reported perpetrating an interpersonal transgression as recently as three days
prior, were surveyed over a period of seven weeks. The results indicated that self-forgiveness
(measured as a single item) was linearly associated with time. As people forgave themselves,
guilt decreased and conciliatory behavior increased. However, to this point in time, Hall and
Fincham’s model has had mixed empirical support (for a review, see McConnell, 2015). We
identify three common aspects arising from models of naturally occurring self-forgiveness as
well as different contextual factors that appear to influence its progression. Unlike clinical
models, which prescribe an order of experiences, these three experiences do not imply a time
sequence, and no longitudinal research has tested the sequencing of the experiences.
Working through attributions of responsibility. Effective self-forgiveness requires that
the person make personal attributions of responsibility for wrongdoing or for failing to live up to
expectations or standards. But, what has occurred when such attributions are made? Does one
take appropriate or reasonable responsibility for one’s actions—and how much and what kind of
acknowledgement of one’s responsibility is publicly necessary, if any? What barriers impede
acceptance of personal responsibility (see Woodyatt, Wenzel, & deVel Palumbo, this volume)?
Coping with emotions that arise. When confronted with one’s actions involving
wrongdoing or failure, shame, guilt, remorse, anger, and other self-conscious emotions can arise.
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Part of self-forgiveness is likely to be to understand these emotions and their functions (see
Leach this edition; Gilbert this edition) and to allow them to be present without deflecting them,
avoiding them, or reverting to defensiveness or hopelessness. Strategies to meaningfully interpret
and successfully resolve these emotions may be required in order to help clients enact repair to
their self-image.
Repair of social, psychological, and perhaps spiritual relationships. Repair involves (at
least) two components. Conciliatory actions or amend-making to heal any hurt caused is needed
to facilitate social repair. In addition, other actions may be needed to repair one’s own sense of
self. (Worthington, 2013, suggested that people needed also to repair a third component: their
relationship to the Sacred—God, nature, or humanity, depending on what people hold to be
sacred.) Often these two (or three) occur together. While attempting these repairs can lead to
increase shame and guilt in the lead-up to conciliatory behaviour, it also allows individuals to
address underlying concerns that are associated with the ongoing experience of self-
condemnation. In the absence of a victim, actions to re-affirm values that have been violated
have been shown to have similar benefits (Woodyatt & Wenzel, 2014; Woodyatt et al., 2017).
Additionally, as noted by Jacinto and Edwards (2011), this may also involve re-entering
community, to re-establish one’s identity and the relationships that define the self.
Clinical Intervention Models
While there is no clear dominant clinical intervention model, there are several relationships
that one may consider that arise across models. Some models have been tested in controlled
experiments (Cornish & Wade, 2015b; Campana, 2011; Exline, Root, Yadavalli, Martin, &
Fisher, 2011; Griffin, Worthington, Lavelock, Greer, Lin, Davis, & Hook, 2015; Scherer,
Worthington, Hook, & Campana, 2011; Toussaint et al., 2014). Other articles are theoretical
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17
reflections (Enright et al., 1996; Jacinto & Edwards, 2011; Worthington, 2013). However, many
of the therapeutic processes do contain, to some extent and with varying foci, the process themes
we have identified above. You will see these themes reflected for example in Cornish and Wade
(2015a, 2015b), Griffin et al. (2015), based on Worthington’s (2013) six steps. These approaches
are all supported by basic research, but the interventions also rely on many other techniques to
make the core experiences palatable and engaging to clients and to set up a logical movement
through the core elements. The order of movement differs with different interventions, and each
intervention creates a persuasive and engaging flow. The other elements that are likely important
in intervention include motivating change, building hope and confidence in the specific
intervention the person is following, defining self-forgiveness in a way that helps structure the
treatment, focusing on a specific event to forgive rather than trying to globally change the
character, using concrete exercises that produce emotionally memorable experiences, making a
clearly demarcated decision or choice to forgive oneself, consolidating changes, and seeking to
help clients generalize the changes and the change process beyond the specific event that has
been the focus of the intervention. Several chapters contained in this book that review
approaches to individual psychotherapy (Cornish & Wade, this volume), group therapy
(Worthington, Griffin & Wade, this volume) and self-directed approaches (Griffin, Worthington,
Davis, and Bell, this volume).
Conclusions
Self-forgiveness is not easy, not in practice and not in research. Across the literature there
is relative consistency across definitions of self-forgiveness. Measurements that can be roughly
categorised as dispositional versus situational, end-state versus process, and hedonic (presence of
positive/absence of negative affect) versus eudaimonic (growth/change often considering what is
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18
good for oneself and others) versus dual focused. Measures of self-forgiveness have tended to be
largely dispositional and weighted towards hedonic conceptualizations. There are fewer state
measures (Wohl et al., 2008) and to date only one published measure assessing genuine self-
forgiveness as a process (Woodyatt & Wenzel, 2013). Researchers have tended to assess
emotions and cognitions more than motivation and definitely more than behaviour. Measurement
and observation of complex psychological experiences are inevitably flawed. As such, it is
important to have multiple measures of the construct and researchers continue to develop new
approaches.
In addition, as a process that unfolds over time there are still very few longitudinal studies
examining self-forgiveness (Fisher & Exline, 2010; Hall & Fincham, 2008; Woodyatt & Wenzel,
2013b). The vast majority of self-forgiveness studies tend to be cross-sectional. However, self-
forgiveness is a process of change and difficult to capture empirically because it unfolds in
different time frames and in different ways for different individuals. As surmised by Hall and
Fincham (2005), “[T]he realization of wrongdoing and acceptance of responsibility generally
initiate feelings of guilt and regret, which must be fully experienced before one can move toward
self-forgiveness” (pp. 626-627). This is the challenge of self-forgiveness, and of self-forgiveness
research: How is the experience of having done wrong worked through to move beyond the
experience of self-condemnation (Hall & Fincham, 2008; Fisher & Exline, 2006; Cornish &
Wade, 2015b) so that one can ‘play on’ in the future (Snow, 1993)?
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Chapters (24)

In this introductory chapter, we provide an overview of the history and context of self-forgiveness research within the field of Psychology. We discuss definitions of self-forgiveness, with emphasis on theoretical and empirical quandaries that have characterized the field. We examine contexts in which self-forgiveness has been examined as a natural process, and how the process depends on factors including age, gender, and religious/cultural identity. We summarize the promise of emerging interventions designed to promote self-forgiveness. Overall, this chapter will deepen and broaden the scope of your understanding prior to engaging with the innovative, challenging, and rigorous scholars whose contributions to this handbook follow in the remaining chapters.
People can experience intense dysphoria when they fail to meet standards important to them, or important to others of consequence. Whether it is moral, competence, or conventional in nature, failure to meet important standards can lead to the emotional experiences of shame or guilt. Academic psychology tends to portray guilt as a constructive dysphoria associated with self-forgiveness, self-improvement, and making amends, whereas shame is portrayed as a debilitating self-castigation associated with avoidance of failure and its consequences. Recent theory and research, however, has bolstered a consistent, if iconoclastic, criticism that shame and guilt are not polar opposite forms of dysphoria that move people in opposite directions. Instead, guilt and shame may be better thought of close, sibling emotions that differ by degree. Even more importantly, recent theory and research suggests that guilt and shame’s links to self-forgiveness are best understood when analysts specify the exact nature of one’s emotional experience (e.g., feelings of inferiority, rejection, self-reproach) as well as whether one’s failing is more or less likely to be improved with effort.
Why does self-criticism arise and why might we get stuck in it? This chapter explores the physiological, social-cultural, and evolutionary theories that may help us to understand the experience of self-criticism. Experiences of stigma, shame, guilt, and self-criticism are embedded in innate potentials for human experience that are social. Motives for both competition and caring have evolved within humans. Competition motives shape our experiences of shame, humiliation, and self-criticism, while caring motives may shape our experiences of guilt, compassion, and empathy. Understanding these contrasting motivational underpinnings can help to tease apart the different facilitators and inhibitors of self-forgiveness. This chapter also explores self-compassion as a component of self-forgiveness and how this is a key resource for addressing unhelpful or hostile self-criticisms.
Moral failure—transgressing against moral codes and values, and hurting others or oneself—implies several psychological threats to self, specifically to one’s need for personal agency, moral identity, and social belonging. Self-forgiveness is an effortful process that may address these needs, not by diminishing the failure, but rather through acceptance of failure and responsibility, and their integration into oneself. Though this path may be psychologically taxing, it allows offenders to restore their relationship with the victim and their place within the broader community in a way that is empowering rather than defensive. In this chapter, we discuss the psychological threats that arise when we commit transgressions, particularly the underlying threats to the needs for moral-social identity and agency. We discuss how taking responsibility for misdeeds is a first step to processing these needs, and we identify barriers to responsibility-taking. We conclude by exploring ways of reducing these barriers, including value reaffirmation, as a means of moving toward self-forgiveness.
Meaning in life is the term used to describe how people make sense of their lives, how they commit to pursuing purpose in life, and how they come to see their lives as significant and worthwhile. Committing wrongs against other people or our own moral code, might—perhaps even ought to—challenges these components of a meaningful life. In fact, such wrongs may be considered to constitute a rupture in meaning, with a potential to spark intractable cycles of rumination. In this chapter, we propose that self-forgiveness and meaning work together to enable people to resolve their rumination, learn more about themselves, make reparations, and move toward healing their own hurt and that which they caused in others.
In this chapter, I critique measures of dispositional self-forgiveness. I conclude that existing measures are limited because they are concerned with measuring only one facet of the self-forgiveness construct, specifically, self-regard. In addition, the majority of studies are correlational in nature and focus on relations with other trait-level variables. Relatively few studies test relations between dispositional self-forgiveness and responses to victims in the context of specific transgressions. As such, it is difficult to know how to interpret the existing literature. I therefore identify ways in which researchers could improve upon present measures of dispositional self-forgiveness. I also suggest ways in which researchers could better test how a person with a strong self-forgiving disposition may act in response to specific transgressions.
In this chapter, we present a stress-and-coping model of self-forgiveness and health. Three propositions are built from the seminal transactional model of stress and coping and the stress-and-coping model of forgiveness. The three propositions of the stress-and-coping model of self-forgiveness include: (1) self-condemnation is stressful; (2) self-forgiveness can be used to cope with the stressful effects of self-condemnation; and (3) self-forgiveness is related to health. Studies bearing on these propositions are briefly reviewed. Research is rapidly growing and supportive of the proposition that self-forgiveness is related to health, but studies examining the stressfulness of unforgiveness and the efficacy of self-forgiveness as a coping mechanism for self-condemnation are needed. There are countless applications of self-forgiveness in the promotion of health and wellness, and the relevance of self-forgiveness to students, interpersonal relationships, and workers is highlighted.
Self-forgiveness is a relatively new construct in the positive psychology literature. Many researchers posit that self-forgiveness promotes well-being, psychologically and relationally, but others worry it might serve as a moral disengagement strategy that can harm individuals and relationships. In the present chapter, we conducted a qualitative review of 65 published empirical studies exploring associations of self-forgiveness with mental health and relational well-being. In order to address discrepancies in the literature, the review highlights more sophisticated studies and explores the differences that emerge when self-forgiveness is assessed as a state as opposed to a trait. In particular, measurement concerns are identified, specifically noting the lack of studies in the field that assess well-being while considering the two-part definition of self-forgiveness. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.
The chapter describes self-forgiveness as a proactive and meaning-focused coping strategy, pointing out the functions of three key factors related to the process: taking responsibility, working through guilt and shame emotions, and the activation of self-compassion. In relation to a couple transgression, self-forgiveness could be depicted as a pro-relationship strategy to cope with the wrongdoing by caring for the couple bond. In particular two self-forgiveness determinants, offenders’ reparative strategies and partner victims’ forgiveness, symbolize the offenders' commitment and trust in the relationship. Finally, the chapther presents a study that investigates the mediational role of self-forgiveness between offending partner self-compassion and offender’s couple well-being.
Although religion and spirituality often bring comfort and hope, people can also experience religious/spiritual (r/s) struggles in multiple domains: divine, demonic, moral, interpersonal, doubt-related, and ultimate meaning. This chapter explores how these types of r/s struggles could relate to challenges and opportunities associated with various aspects of the self-forgiveness process. Our primary aim is to provide a conceptual overview and to generate testable hypotheses, with the broader aim of providing a foundation for more systematic empirical work in the future. We will focus on three aspects of the self-forgiveness process: acknowledging one’s perceived wrongdoing and accepting responsibility, apology/repentance and making amends, and releasing unhelpful negative thoughts and emotions. Although there are many possible ways that challenges with self-forgiveness might lead to r/s struggles and vice versa, successful attempts to work through these challenges could promote relational healing and personal growth.
Self-forgiveness is typically conceptualized as an abandonment of self-condemnation in the face of acknowledged, self-directed harm-doing that helps the harm-doer make a positive change in their life. In this chapter, we qualify the link between self-forgiveness and well-being by outlining theory and research that positions self-forgiveness for an ongoing, harmful behavior as a hindrance to positive behavioral change. We argue that self-forgiveness in this context de-motivates behavioral change by alleviating negative emotions (e.g., guilt) that are needed to initiate change. The net effect is a maintenance of the behavioral status quo. We conclude by outlining a conceptual model of self-forgiveness for ongoing harm-doing that situates this dark side of self-forgiveness within the broader self-forgiveness literature. In doing so, we point to potentially fruitful avenues for future research.
When patients enter individual psychotherapy with guilt or shame over past actions or inactions that hurt themselves or others, self-forgiveness can be a powerful tool to help patients move forward. To be effective, however, therapists must be able to determine when self-forgiveness is an appropriate goal for individual counseling, and they must have working knowledge of the process of forgiving oneself. Toward that end, we outline signs that individual therapy patients could benefit from self-forgiveness. We then review theoretical models on the therapeutic promotion of self-forgiveness, as well as intervention programs designed for individual therapy. We end with a review of the empirical literature on self-forgiveness in individual counseling.
On its face, self-forgiveness sounds like something that an individual should do best. Individuals can work alone to bring about self-forgiveness, as has been illustrated by several interventions that aim to promote self-forgiveness using self-directed workbooks or individual psychotherapy. Only one existing intervention uses a group—a psychoeducational group within treatment for alcohol abuse. However, group treatment has advantages. First, the self is socially constructed, and therefore, we can change the self through social interactions. Second, therapeutic factors of group therapy can be used in self-forgiveness groups. Six interventions have been developed and tested. Those are reviewed in depth. We suggest that they can be used in psychoeducational or group therapy formats to promote self-forgiveness. We suggest a best-practices model for group psychotherapy, and we identify future research and clinical applications.
Self-forgiveness has significant implications for relationships and couple and family therapy. In this chapter, we provide a framework for therapists working with couples and families that are going through the challenges of a rupture due to an offense. We propose that genuine self-forgiveness is an integrative process within a person in which the self that committed the wrongdoing is acknowledged, accepted, and provided the opportunity to move forward. The theoretical concepts of attachment, differentiation of self (DoS), and intersubjectivity are outlined to address the integrative relational process of self-forgiveness and the common barriers to the process. We explore how therapists can identify these barriers and foster these capacities within their clients. Three brief cases demonstrate how the issues of self-forgiveness may present in couple and family therapy cases, and cultural and religious considerations are discussed.
Intervention research promoting self-forgiveness for one’s wrongdoing or perception of “wrong-being” has only recently been initiated. Self-directed interventions are an important strategy, because offenses may cause feelings of self-condemnation that elicit avoidance-oriented coping and discourage individuals from seeking traditional modalities of psychotherapy (e.g., individual, group, couple, or family settings). Also, self-directed interventions can circumvent logistic barriers to traditional methods of delivering psychotherapy (e.g., geographic isolation, financial insecurity, and help-seeking stigma). In the current chapter, we offer a critical overview of self-directed interventions for decreasing self-condemnation and increasing self-forgiveness, acknowledging advantages and disadvantages of using self-directed treatments compared to more intensive treatment modalities. We conclude by identifying directions for future research and practical implications situating self-directed interventions alongside more traditional modalities of delivering psychological services within a triaged care model.
Self-perceived violation of a socio-moral standard can cause military service members to experience moral injury. Sustaining a moral injury is associated with stress-related problems including physiological, psychological, social, and spiritual distress. By applying a stress-and-coping model, we adduce evidence to suggest that clinical application of self-forgiveness promotes the well-being of active duty personnel and military veterans who bear the burden of self-condemnation secondary to moral conflict. While self-forgiveness may be applicable to many military health issues, we explore protective effects of self-forgiveness for personnel at risk of suicide. Implications for future research and clinical practice are discussed.
Given that people who have personality disorders (PD) have major life pervasive and maladaptive patterns of thinking and behaviors, it is hypothesized that they will differ from the normal population in how they reach self-forgiveness. This chapter explores this possible difference by drawing hypothetical suppositions derived from existing neurobiological research on PD subjects, and known information about certain structures and functions of the human brain, and the author’s practice experience. One central supposition suggested is that PD patients do not have sufficient insight and healthy guilt for their offenses which in turn acts to impede their ability to achieve self-forgiveness. This deficit is hypothesized to be the result of brain abnormalities related to emotions and interpersonal relationships. It is argued here that one way to help PD patients to achieve self-forgiveness is to help them along on a journey of accepting their diagnoses and to work on creating new brain pathways. A PD case study is used to bring the suggested treatment to life that includes the patient’s own account of his journey to self-forgiveness. The chapter ends with some guiding questions for future research development and emphasizes the need for future psychological research on self-forgiveness to include neurobiological integration.
Suicide is a significant public health problem, and suicide risk, as well as engagement in non-suicidal self injury, is often predicated on thwarted interpersonal functioning, feelings of internal distress, and a sense of hopelessness, all of which we argue are conceptually related to self-forgiveness. Maladaptive cognitive-emotional characteristics, including ruminative thoughts, feelings of shame and guilt, and negative emotions, are often present when a person is unforgiving of the self, perhaps for a transgression committed or a behavior omitted which caused harm. As well, the self-punitive impact of a perceived transgression may result in social withdrawal, and a desire to escape, both of which are strong predictors of suicide risk. Preliminary results, including in adolescents, college students, and veterans, suggest that self-forgiveness is beneficially related to self-injury and suicide risk. In original data collection for this chapter, using a community sample, we found that self-forgiveness was inversely related to lifetime history of suicide attempt, suicide ideation in the past year, and likelihood of making a future suicide attempt. Current self-forgiveness was also related to a greater likelihood of forgiving others in the future and, in turn, to less suicide risk. Therapeutically bolstering self-forgiveness may promote adaptive coping via cognitive restructuring (e.g., resolving the transgression), reductions in distress (e.g., less negative mood), and an ability to transcend seemingly hopeless or unforgivable situations, thereby reducing suicide risk.
Self-forgiveness is thought to play a meaningful role in the relationship between addiction and recovery. Scientific theories have been developed regarding the general nature of the forgiveness–health association and the forgiveness–addiction association and are supported by accumulating empirical evidence. However, scientific modeling regarding the explicit role of self-forgiveness in the process of addiction and recovery is much less developed. Based on the integration of a stress-and-coping model of self-forgiveness and health and a general model of the forgiveness–addiction association, we describe the development of a model addressing the self-condemnation–self-forgiveness–addiction/recovery association, including resentment and psychache as particularly relevant manifestations of self-condemnation. To this end, we provide an overview of the psychology of self-forgiveness as it pertains to addiction and recovery, ending with a discussion of clinical applications. In sum, the power of self-forgiveness to facilitate recovery from addiction may stem from its role as a uniquely effective coping mechanism to address the stressful effects of self-condemnation.
In this chapter, we explore the role of self-forgiveness in hypersexual behavior. Hypersexual behavior, also known as sexual addiction, sexual compulsivity, and sexual impulsivity, involves sexual thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are excessive, difficult to control, and cause distress and problems in a person’s life. It is theorized that individuals engage in hypersexual behavior in response to dysphoric mood states (e.g., depression, anxiety). Although hypersexual behavior alleviates the dysphoric mood states temporarily, the relief is time-limited, and is often accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame, prompting individuals to re-engage in the sexual behavior. Self-forgiveness may play a role in alleviating dysphoric mood states and maladaptive shame and guilt, providing hope for individuals dealing with hypersexual behavior. We present a model for how self-forgiveness can reduce shame, guilt, and hypersexual behavior, adduce evidence supporting the model, and present an agenda for future research.
At work we can fail, and we can fail to act. Sometimes we harm others by our actions or inactions. How we come to terms with our wrongdoings and failures at work can have an impact on our psychological, relational, and organizational well-being. Ineffectively coping with these experiences can lead to reduced productivity, relational strain, increased perceptions of stress and, ultimately, burnout. Working through these experiences of failure and wrongdoing can be difficult. In this chapter we integrate the current research on self-forgiveness and well-being at work. We explore how the need for self-forgiveness can arise in the workplace. Finally, we outline a process whereby people can work through both transgressions and perceived failures, and we describe contextual factors that may encourage or inhibit self-forgiveness at work.
When pursuing the sacred, it is likely that an individual will engage in self-evaluative reflection. Given the common struggles of life and the associated inherent imperfection of the human condition, said personal reflection may lead individuals to perceive a need for self-forgiveness due to experiencing self-condemnation related to having offended the sacred. Self-forgiveness may play a critical role in spiritual health and well-being; yet, pursuit of the sacred including seeking forgiveness from the sacred and feeling forgiveness from the sacred may be associated with one’s ability to self-forgive. Moreover, such associations may be facilitated through pastoral-related care, or spiritual assistance. Little work has empirically examined the associations among self-forgiveness and pursuit of the sacred, whether as facilitated by pastoral-related care or in the larger context of the forgiveness–health association. In this chapter we will elaborate on our theoretical model, present data from an initial study designed to test our hypotheses, and discuss implications of and future directions for this program of study.
Over the past two decades, research in lifespan developmental psychology has identified normative changes in social and emotional functioning that occur throughout adulthood. With its grounding in the interpersonal realm, and a focus on processes of adaptation and emotional experience, self-forgiveness represents a construct of direct relevance to socio-emotional aging. Despite this, relatively few studies have examined associations of self-forgiveness with age. This chapter provides an overview of the existing empirical literature concerned with aging and self-forgiveness and offers a lifespan perspective by integrating conceptual models of self-forgiveness with lifespan developmental theory and research on motivation, self- and emotion-regulation. The chapter concludes with an outline of how accrued interpersonal experience, shifts in motivation, and changing resource profiles with aging could each impact on the nature of self-forgiveness in later life. Directions for future research and implications for clinical practice are discussed.
Our authors have contributed an impressive range of chapters from their fields of specialty. In this epilogue, we briefly sum up the road so far—the key themes and understanding we have gained throughout. We acknowledge that readers would have found countless other themes that are relevant to their particular research or clinical interests—which is our joy in sharing an edited book with readers. Next, based on our diverse experiences, we endeavour to anticipate the road ahead. Where are the opportunities to develop further knowledge about self-forgiveness? What lingering questions and interesting avenues have arisen in the process of the production of this book? We review the key themes of the book that we identified in the prologue with the goal of directing the field forward, from the knowns to the unknowns. We hope to stimulate growth and development and perhaps supplement the insights that readers gained as they read the scholarly reviews of this volume. Finally, we end by offering our thoughts on the key tools available to us as we look to the road ahead.
... Forgiveness has received considerable attention in the behavioral sciences over recent decades (Woodyatt et al., 2017;Worthington et al., 2020). Forgiveness may be viewed within the context of one's relationships with the divine, other people, and/or oneself. ...
... (p. 1676) Woodyatt et al. (2017) define self-forgiveness as: ...
... Several publications in the last decade have focused on self-forgiveness (Davis et al., 2015;Toussaint, 2012;Woodyatt & Wenzel, 2013;Woodyatt et al., 2017). Most studies that have examined trait self-forgiveness found associations with physical and mental health outcomes. ...
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Understanding how forgiveness relates to mental health outcomes may improve clinical care. This study assessed 248 adult psychiatric inpatients, testing associations of forgiveness, religious comfort (RC), religious strain (RS), and changes in depressive symptomatology from admission to discharge. Experiencing divine forgiveness and self-forgiveness was both directly associated with RC and inversely associated with RS. Using structural equation modeling, the path from divine forgiveness to depression through RC was significant, β = − .106, SE = .046, z = − 2.290, p = .022, bootstrapped 95% CI = − .196 to − .015. Qualitative findings illustrated patients’ changed perspectives on divine forgiveness during hospitalization.
... Taj se broj istraživanja tijekom godina ipak povećao, a 2017. godine objavljen je opsežan priručnik o psihologiji opraštanja sebi (Woodyatt, Worthington, Wenzel i Griffin, 2017c). Cilj je ovoga istraživanja također doprinijeti boljemu upoznavanju i razumijevanju opraštanja sebi, na prvome mjestu u kontekstu metakognicije (istraživanja o čemu do sada nisu provođena), a zatim ga povezati s depresivnošću i elementima alkoholne ovisnosti. ...
... U svojemu priručniku o psihologiji opraštanja sebi (Woodyatt, Worthington, Wenzel i Griffin, 2017c) autori sumiraju dotadašnje spoznaje o toj temi. Opraštanje sebi u svakome slučaju uključuje proradu onoga što se dogodilo, priznavanje odgovornosti bez oslobađanja bilo od kakve obveze ili okrivljavanja sebe za stvari koje su izvan nečije kontrole, traženje načina za ispravljanje i promoviranje popravka odnosa gdje je to moguće i otpuštanje samoga sebe od samoosuđivanja i pratećih osjećaja. ...
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Since the issue of the metacognitive aspect of self-forgiveness has not been covered by previous research, this study examined the relationships of trait self-forgiveness, feeling of shame related to drinking, modified metacognitive model of depression and alcohol craving in a sample (N = 125) of inpatients during their treatment for alcohol dependence in psychiatric hospital. An extended metacognitive model of depression has been proposed to explain the association of these variables. The original metacognitive model was modified in such a way that depressive ruminations were replaced by ruminations related to drinking alcohol. The variables of trait self-forgiveness and feeling of shame related to drinking were added to model as antecedents, and finally alcohol craving as the outcome variable. Multiple mediation analyses with parallel and serial mediators were used to test the extended metacognitive model of depression previously disassembled into several smaller models. The model is largely validated. Self-forgiveness has an indirect effect on positive metacognitive beliefs about ruminations through feelings of shame related to drinking, and an indirect effect on ruminations about drinking through feelings of shame related to drinking and positive metacognitive beliefs about rumination. The direct effect of self-forgiveness on the interpersonal and social consequences of rumination is also significant. The effect of self-forgiveness on depression is fully explained by the mediator of rumination about drinking, and analyses also show an indirect effect through negative metacognitive beliefs about rumination. The indirect effect of self-forgiveness on alcohol craving through feelings of shame related to drinking and rumination about drinking was also discovered. All the above effects of self-forgiveness on the mentioned criterion variables are of negative sign. Ruminations about drinking have been shown to be the most significant predictor of depression and alcohol cravings. A modified metacognitive model of depression was also confirmed in a sample of individuals on treatment for alcohol dependence. The results suggest that forgiving oneself is a much more adaptive option for dealing with feelings of shame and avoiding all other potential negative consequences such as depression and alcohol craving than it is to repeatedly think about a perceived offense that has the opposite effect. In the second part of the study, the variables of changes in craving during treatment and trait self-forgiveness were examined as predictors of the number of days of abstinence 90 days after discharge from treatment. The repeatedly measured predictor of craving and trait self-forgiveness did not prove statistically significant in predicting the number of days of abstinence. This research provided new insights in understanding the constructs of self-forgiveness and feelings of shame by revealing their metacognitive context. It also contributes to a better understanding of depression in alcohol addicts by suggesting that the treatment of depression in these individuals should take into account the negative affect and rumination associated with the addiction itself. Also, the results suggest that for successful abstinence, it is not enough to be inclined to forgive oneself for one’s own transgressions, nor not to feel alcohol craving during treatment. When interpreting the results, the limitations of the research described in detail in the dissertation should certainly be taken into account. KEY WORDS: self-forgiveness, shame, metacognitive beliefs, depression, alcohol craving, alcohol recidivism
... However, acknowledging one's perceived moral failure and accepting personal responsibility is psychologically challenging because it likely increases psychological threat (Bastian, 2018;Fisher & Exline, 2010;Hall & Fincham, 2005;Woodyatt, Worthington, et al., 2017). People are only willing to do so when they hold perceived self-efficacy: they must consider themselves capable of improving on their perceived moral failure (Baldwin et al., 2006;Bandura, 1991Bandura, , 1994Gausel et al., 2012;Gausel & Leach, 2011;Hall & Fincham, 2005;Heald, 2017;Leach, 2017). ...
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Current carbon‐intensive lifestyles are unsustainable and drastic social changes are required to combat climate change. To achieve such change, moral rebels (i.e., individuals who deviate from current behavioral norms based on ethical considerations) may be crucial catalyzers. However, the current literature holds that moral rebels may do more harm than good. By deviating from what most people do, based on a moral concern, moral rebels pose a threat to the moral self‐view of their observers who share but fail to uphold that concern. Those observers may realize that their behavior does not live up to their moral values, and feel morally inadequate as a result. Work on “do‐gooder derogation” demonstrates that rebel‐induced threat can elicit defensive reactance among observers, resulting in the rejection of moral rebels and their behavioral choices. Such findings suggest that advocates for social change should avoid triggering moral threat by, for example, presenting nonmoral justifications for their choices. We challenge this view by arguing that moral threat may be a necessary ingredient to achieve social change precisely because it triggers ethical dissonance. Thus, instead of avoiding moral justifications, it may be more effective to harness that threat. Ethical dissonance may offer the fuel needed for observers to engage in self‐improvement after being exposed to moral rebels, provided that observers feel capable of changing. Whether or not observers feel capable of changing, however, depends on how rebels communicate their moral choices to others—how they talk about change. This article is categorized under: Perceptions, Behaviour and Communication of Climate Change > Behaviour Change and Responses
... The concept of self-forgiveness refers to "a willingness to abandon self-resentment in the face of one's acknowledged objective wrong, while fostering compassion, generosity, and love toward oneself" [16; p. 116]. Experts on self-forgiveness claim that a key component of selfforgiveness is the meaningful interpretation and successful resolution of negative emotions or attitudes directed at oneself [17]. Generally, self-forgiveness can counteract sustained engagement in negative behavior. ...
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All over the world financial hardship arising from overspending and over-indebtedness, and often leading to poverty, strongly hampers peoples’ life satisfaction, well-being, and health. Going beyond the immediate economic issues, psychology has much to offer to identify potential causes and consequences of financial hardship and interventions on how to handle these problems. Many publications in developmental psychology explore the detrimental impact of financial hardship on children’s development, their behavior, health, and their neurological development. Other fields in psychology are focused on the question of how financial hardship affects peoples’ economic decisions and economic behavior. Most importantly, recent research has explored the psychological factors that lead to overspending, over-indebtedness, and poverty, and offered possible interventions to fight the poverty trap. The present article reviews recent research on these topics.
... Research suggests that self-forgiveness is vital to promoting better physical, psychological, and relational well-being (see Woodyatt et al., 2017 for a major book-length discussion on the topic of self-forgiveness). For example, self-forgiveness has a negative link with depressive symptoms and self-blame and is positively linked to better mental health (Branscombe et al., 2003;Wohl et al., 2008). ...
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It is conceivable that one’s level of self-forgiveness is likely to be influenced by the extent to which one feels forgiven by God. Also, self-forgiveness, especially when the self-offense involves wronging another, is likely to be influenced by the extent to which one feels forgiven by the victim. Therefore, this study was aimed at simultaneously examining the interplay between divine, victim, and self-forgiveness as well as their effects on psychological outcomes. In Study 1, we examined the relative strength of divine and victim forgiveness as predictors of self-forgiveness and found that divine and victim forgiveness predicted self-forgiveness independently from each other. In Study 2, we examined the unique effects of three types of forgiveness on psychological outcomes and found that while all three types of forgiveness are associated with each other, after controlling for the other two types of forgiveness, self-forgiveness alone predicted anger, anxiety, and depression. A further analysis showed that self-forgiveness mediated the relationship between divine and victim forgiveness and psychological outcomes. In other words, divine and victim forgiveness contribute to self-forgiveness, which in turn lead to better psychological outcomes.
... • Determine the growth-promoting and transcendence functions of forgiveness, neither of which have received much research given the focus on the deleterious effects of not forgiving characterizing much research (Worthington, 2020b); • Find differences in the ways that decisional and emotional forgiveness interact with each other over time and ways that each contribute to spiritual, relational, psychological, and physical health outcomes; whereas the two types of forgiveness have been hypothesized to have different spiritual, relational, psychological, and physical health outcomes, little systematic research has investigated what those differences are (Worthington, 2020b); • Enhance and supplement theoretical and empirical frameworks for self-forgiveness; Woodyatt and Wenzel (2020) have systematically reviewed the research and arrived at a similar conclusion; • Map interconnections, especially over time, among decisions to forgive, emotional forgiveness, observing in offenders expressions of accountability (e.g., remorse, regret, apology, and amends making), and observing in offenders indications of self-forgiveness and feeling forgiven by God (Worthington, 2020b); • Explore context-specific variables that affect the presence or absence of forgiveness in dyadic, family, group, community, and macro (i.e., cultural) contexts (for reviews, see Worthington and Wade, 2020); and • Investigate the future cultural value of forgiving (qua justice) in this era of increasing political and ideological polarization that has resulted in a strong valuing of punitive justice of those who harm and censure of those failing to support social justice for those who lack social power (Sandage et al., 2020). ...
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Positive psychology has accumulated a large and ever-growing body of scientific knowledge about human strengths and virtues. However, research on positive psychology interventions (PPIs) to develop such is still in its infancy. In this brief position paper, we summarize the status of PPIs in one of the positive psychology's most important virtues: temperance. Temperance refers to the capacity to manage habits and protect against excess and is composed of forgiveness, humility, and (we include) patience. Specifically, we examine the current state-of-the-science in the conceptualization of temperance, explore the efficacy of temperance interventions, and reflect upon what the future may hold in this research domain. In this paper, we first highlight the challenges and opportunities for expanding the theoretical conceptualization of temperance and reflect upon the challenges in temperance-related PPIs. For each aspect of temperance, we propose a specific research agenda. Second, we explore what is needed for PPIs to promote temperance and how growth in temperance intervention research can be fostered. Generally, while forgiveness interventions are well established, we recommended that both humility and patience interventions need more viable evidence-based research on existing and new interventions. Third, we advanced several recommendations regarding how to promote more research in new interventions. These recommendations included attracting more funders to the area, developing new interventions, and employing new technology. Because intervention research in temperance is in its infancy, the future looks rosy for PPI researchers as we move into a second generation of positive psychology research.
... En este sentido, el autoperdón efectivo requiere que la persona se responsabilice por su transgresión (Woodyatt, Wenzel y de Vel Palumbo, 2017). Sin embargo, es probable que en muchos casos puedan tener un sentido de responsabilidad inapropiado o desproporcionado porque determinadas situaciones están fuera de su control (Woodyatt, Wenzel, y Griffin, 2017). Pero, ¿qué ocurre cuando se hacen esas atribuciones de una forma irracional? ...
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En este trabajo se presentan algunas líneas de investigación futuras para examinar los beneficios del autoperdón como una estrategia de afrontamiento proactiva que puede ayudar a las personas a valorar de una forma más objetiva su percepción de culpabilidad o de responsabilidad sobre un daño (real o imaginario) hacia los demás o hacia sí mismas durante la actual pandemia del COVID-19.
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Gambling's impact on a couple's relationship is an essential element in the gambling disorder (GD). Gamblers tend to lie to their partner to conceal the extent of their gambling problems and debts, which can lead to a serious relational transgression for the couple. One promising avenue is a couple treatment focusing on forgiveness processes. The objective of this study was to determine whether the Integrative Couple Treatment for Pathological Gamblers (ICT‐PG) with an emphasis on forgiveness processes helped couples to enhance these processes. A Single‐Case Research Design (SCRD) was used with three couples in which one of the members had a GD. The results highlight the importance of jointly analyzing the forgiveness processes between the gamblers and their partner, which constantly influenced each other. These promising results illustrate the relevance of integrating forgiveness processes in treatment for couples where one of the members has a GD.
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Background: Immigration detention is associated with detrimental mental health outcomes but little is known about the underlying psychological processes. Moral injury, the experience of transgression of moral beliefs, may play an important role. Objective: Our aim was to explore moral injury appraisals and associated mental health outcomes related to immigration detention on Nauru. Methods: In this retrospective study, we conducted in-depth interviews with 13 individuals who had sought refuge in Australia and, due to arriving by boat, had been transferred to immigration detention on Nauru. At the time of the study, they lived in Australia following medical transfer. We used reflexive thematic analysis to develop themes from the data. Results: Major themes included 1) how participants' home country experience and the expectation to get protection led them to seek safety in Australia; 2) how they experienced deprivation, lack of agency, violence, and dehumanization after arrival, with the Australian government seen as the driving force behind these experiences; and 3) how these experiences led to feeling irreparably damaged. The participant statement 'In my country they torture your body but in Australia they kill your mind.' conveyed these three key themes in our analysis. Conclusion: Our findings suggest that moral injury may be one of the processes by which mandatory immigration detention can cause harm. Although refugees returned to Australia from offshore detention may benefit from interventions that specifically target moral injury, collective steps are needed to diminish deterioration of refugee mental health. Our results highlight the potentially deleterious mental health impact of experiencing multiple subtle and substantial transgressions of one's moral frameworks. Policy makers should incorporate moral injury considerations to prevent eroding refugee mental health.
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Following interpersonal transgressions, both victim and offender can experience psychological loss due to threatened needs for agency and moral-social identity. Moral repair is the process by which these losses are restored. Rather than involving only intra-individual static processes, research is starting to recognize that moral repair is dyadic, reciprocal, and interactionist. It involves the victim and offender co-engaging with one another, reciprocally responding to the other’s psychological needs, and co-constructing a shared understanding of what has occurred, their relationship, and a way forward. Each of these steps represents periods of vulnerability where the losses of a transgression can be repaired - or exacerbated.
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