This dissertation investigated how honor and dignity cultural logics were related to why people choose to forgive or not forgive and how that choice was associated with one’s well-being and relationship quality. Few studies examined why people forgive or do not, and even fewer used diverse samples or examined cultural values. In addition, forgiveness is often recommended because it has relational, physical, and psychological benefits; however, people may still choose not to forgive. The literature is not clear if the positive outcomes of forgiveness are because of the degree of forgiveness or the reasons for forgiveness; it is also unclear if all reasons for not forgiving are related to worse outcomes or if the person’s motives for withholding forgiveness are related to these outcomes. This dissertation addressed that gap by examining whether types of forgiveness (i.e., decisional and emotional) mediated the relation between forgiveness motives and well-being or relationship quality and how unforgiveness motives related to these same outcomes. I conducted two studies where Mexicans (an honor culture) and Northern U.S. European Americans (a dignity culture) wrote about conflicts they had forgiven or not forgiven. In Study 1, participants wrote about how they came to this decision (i.e., their reasons for forgiving or not forgiving), and in Study 2, participants indicated to what extent they used different motives for forgiving or not forgiving. In both studies, participants also indicated the type of offense that occurred (whether it was a reputation threat and the type of moral foundation violated).
Results showed that Mexicans and Northern U.S. European Americans tended to forgive the most for egocentric, relationship, and altruistic reasons and forgave for religious, normative, and reparative work reasons to a lesser extent. Mexicans and Northern U.S. European Americans also tended to not forgive for similar reasons; unreadiness, self-protection, reputation, lack of reparative work, and moral concern. The findings related to cultural differences in the use of forgiveness and unforgiveness motives were mixed; some supported my hypotheses, and some did not. Additionally, the findings demonstrated that it does matter why someone chose to forgive or not to forgive; not all forgiveness reasons are associated with better outcomes, and not all unforgiveness reasons are associated with worse outcomes. Forgiving for egocentric, religious, or normative reasons was not consistently associated with well-being or relationship quality, but forgiving for relationship, altruistic, and reparative work reasons were highly related to relationship quality but inconsistently with well-being in both cultural groups. Not forgiving because of unreadiness reasons was associated with worse well-being but better relationship commitment with their offender. In contrast, not forgiving because of moral concerns was positively related to satisfaction with life and relationship satisfaction but negatively with relationship commitment. Lastly, in both studies, conflicts were not about one’s reputation but were primarily about harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, or ingroup/loyalty moral foundations, and this did not vary by country.