Research – forgiveness 2017-01-13T13:39:19+00:00

Research – Forgiveness

Professor Robert Enright from the University of Wisconsin, Madison has done considerable research into the field of forgiveness and developed an effective process for forgiving. This involves: confronting the injustice/injury and uncovering the consequences of having been offended; deciding to commit to forgiveness; working on forgiveness by viewing the offender in a different light; and deepening the forgiveness to find release from the bitterness and anger.

One research paper compared several studies of clinical individual and group therapies that used his “process model of forgiveness” often in long-term therapies ranging from 6 to 60 weekly sessions. Therapies that used these methods were shown to be effective in increasing forgiveness, and in decreasing negative psychological states such as anxiety, grief and anger.

Read a summary of the model:
The Enright Process Model of Psychological Forgiveness

Read the paper about the effectiveness of the model:
Intervention studies on forgiveness: A meta-analysis.

(If you have any problems following links in our research, then please copy and paste the text from our footnote* into your browser top bar)

Fred Luskin et al. gave 259 adults a six-week training course in forgiveness, which included taking less personal offense, blaming the offender less, and offering more understanding of the offender and of oneself. The participants reported lower stress, anger, and hurt than people who didn’t undergo the training. They also felt more capable of forgiving and greater optimism immediately after the training and four months later.

Read the research:
Effects of a group forgiveness intervention on forgiveness, perceived stress and trait anger: A randomized trial

Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet et al. at Hope College in Michigan investigated the physiological effects of forgiveness versus holding a grudge. They asked 71 students to remember a time they were hurt or mistreated by someone else. The participants remembered offences that included rejections, lies, and insults from their friends, romantic partners, and family members.

Over the course of the study, the participants rehearsed either forgiving that person or ruminating over the event whilst their psychophysiological responses (including blood pressure), emotional responses and facial expressions were recorded. The results powerfully showed that forgiveness was associated with a healthier profile of emotional and physiological reactions, compared to unforgiveness, whereby physical arousal and stress soared in the participants, persisting after the exercise.

Read the research:
Granting forgiveness of harboring grudges: Implications for emotion, physiology, and health

Further Interesting Research

Michael McCullough, Everett Worthington et al. developed a scale to measure forgiveness in people’s relationships, measuring how likely people were to seek revenge or to try to avoid a person who committed an offence against them. They discovered that people who tended to forgive reported greater relationship quality, and also greater commitment to relationships.

Read the research:
Interpersonal Forgiving in Close Relationships II

Jack Berry and Everett Worthington measured the cortisol (stress hormone) levels in 39 people before and after they imagined scenes from their relationship with their romantic partner. The researchers saw a strong correlation. Those who were unable to forgive partners showed noticeably higher levels of cortisol. This indicates a jump in stress, which can have a negative effect on both physical and mental health. Those who were able to forgive felt they were in happy relationships and didn’t show signs of high physical stress.

Access the study here:
Forgivingness, relationship quality, stress while imagining relationship events, and physical and mental health

Toussaint et al. conducted a phone survey with a sample of 1,423 adults in the USA. They found forgiveness of oneself and others was inversely associated with hopelessness and depression. However, instances of depression increased amongst adults who were seeking forgiveness. They concluded that forgiveness is an important factor when wanting to achieve good mental health.

Access the full study here:
Why forgiveness may protect against depression: Hopelessness as an explanatory mechanism

In a further study, Toussaint et al. conducted a survey of nearly 1,500 Americans of different ages, examining the associations between mental and physical health and the ways in which participants practice and experienced forgiveness. The researchers found forgiveness was more common in middle and old age. Those over the age of 45 years who had forgiven others reported to have experienced the greatest benefits as they had greater life satisfaction and were less likely to experience symptoms of psychological distress.

Download the study here:
Forgiveness and Health: Age Differences in the U.S. Probability Sample

Wade et al. conducted a meta-analysis of different studies that have looked into the effect of various interventions aimed to promote forgiveness in victims. The paper lists interventions which the authors conclude are effective “in promoting forgiveness of the offender and hope for the future and reducing depression and anxiety”. They found that results from forgiveness interventions are long lasting.

Read more here:
Efficacy of Psychotherapeutic Interventions to Promote Forgiveness: A Meta-Analysis

Further Reading

The website Greater Good in Action offers practical advice for how to forgive

Read their steps:
Nine Steps To Forgiveness

Eight Essentials When Forgiving

Randy Taran, author and founder of ProjectHappiness.org writes about what forgiveness is and isn’t.

Read the article:
Forgiveness: Making Space for More Happiness

Leading forgiveness researcher Everett Worthington has developed and tested a five-step process, called REACH, designed to help people achieve what he calls emotional forgiveness. This is the type of forgiveness that replaces negative emotions with positive feelings.

Find more on Everett Worthington’s work here:
Everett Worthington

Read his article from Greater Good in Action:
The New Science of Forgiveness

Worthington et al. reviewed the impact of forgiveness on health and well-being and suggest what further research needs to be done in the area.

Read the paper:
Forgiveness, Health, and Well-being: A Review of Evidence for Emotional Versus Decisional Forgiveness, Dispositional Forgivingness, and Reduced Unforgiveness

Footnote*

(If you have any problems following links in our research, then please copy and paste the text below relating to the article you wish to see into your browser top bar)

Professor Robert Enright
The Enright Process Model of Psychological Forgiveness
http://couragerc.org/wp-content/uploads/Enright_Process_Forgiveness_1.pdf

Intervention studies on forgiveness: A meta-analysis.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.1556-6678.2004.tb00288.x/abstract

Fred Luskin et al.
Effects of a group forgiveness intervention on forgiveness, perceived stress and trait anger: A randomized trial
http://learningtoforgive.com/research/effects-of-group-forgiveness-intervention-on-perceived-stress-state-and-trait-anger-symptoms-of-stress-self-reported-health-and-forgiveness-stanford-forgiveness-project/

Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet et al.
Granting forgiveness of harboring grudges: Implications for emotion, physiology, and health
http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/uploads/VanOyenWitvliet-GrantingForgiveness.pdf

Michael McCullough, Everett Worthington et al.
Interpersonal Forgiving in Close Relationships II
http://www.psy.miami.edu/faculty/mmccullough/Papers/Interpers%20Forgiving_II.pdf

Jack Berry and Everett Worthington
Forgivingness, relationship quality, stress while imagining relationship events, and physical and mental health
http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2001-11480-010

Toussaint et al.
Why forgiveness may protect against depression: Hopelessness as an explanatory mechanism
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/229971096_Why_forgiveness_may_protect_against_depression_Hopelessness_as_an_explanatory_mechanism

Forgiveness and Health: Age Differences in the U.S. Probability Sample
https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/44638/10804_2004_Article_341950.pdf;sequence=1

Wade et al.
Efficacy of Psychotherapeutic Interventions to Promote Forgiveness: A Meta-Analysis
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/518a85e9e4b04323d507813b/t/52f40dd2e4b039b51c0c95ea/1391726034483/efficacy-of-psychotherapeutic-interventions-to-promote-forgiveness.pdf

Greater Good in Action
Nine Steps To Forgiveness
http://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/nine_steps_to_forgiveness
Eight Essentials When Forgiving
http://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/eight_essentials_when_forgiving

Randy Taran
Forgiveness: Making Space for More Happiness
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/randy-taran/learning-to-forgive_b_1322686.html

Everett Worthington – REACH
Everett Worthington
http://www.evworthington-forgiveness.com

The New Science of Forgiveness
http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_new_science_of_forgiveness

Worthington et al.
Forgiveness, Health, and Well-being: A Review of Evidence for Emotional Versus Decisional Forgiveness, Dispositional Forgivingness, and Reduced Unforgiveness
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6376329_Forgiveness_Health_and_Well-Being_A_Review_of_Evidence_for_Emotional_Versus_Decisional_Forgiveness_Dispositional_Forgivingness_and_Reduced_Unforgiveness