We are all aware of the preached necessity of forgiving. Starting from a personal development material I got from a training concerning the benefits of forgiveness, I asked myself the following questions:
- which are the causes of forgiveness? (what determines people to forgive?)
- what are the benefits of forgiveness?
- what are the barriers in forgiving?
I intend to share with you the results of 24 pieces of research in this field.
1. what supports forgiveness?
- religious commitment
- low levels of neuroticism
- the level of interactivity within the community (social network involvement)
- the offender and the victim’s willingness to consider a resolution
- the victim’s perception of change in the offender’s behavior
- personal values
- the degree of seriousness of the offense
- identification of forgiveness-related concepts
- low hostility
- evidence more adaptive coping in terms of the forgiveness categories of self, other, and situations (details here [en, pdf])
2. what are the benefits of forgiveness?
- Forgiveness appears to free mental and/or emotional energy that helps people sustain good performance, even on tasks completely unrelated to the forgiveness situation. (details here [en, pdf])
- reduces anxiety, anger, depression,
- reduces illness symptoms, stress & fatigue
- improves perspective taking
- increases self-esteem
- it is currently better understood in relation to pro-social behavior than religion.(details here [en, pdf])
- prevents future violence
- the first study to look at how forgiveness improves physical health discovered that when people think about forgiving an offender it leads to improved functioning in their cardiovascular and nervous systems (Van Oyen, C. Witvilet, T.E. Ludwig and K. L. Vander Lann, “Granting Forgiveness or Harboring Grudges: Implications for Emotions, Physiology and Health,” Psychological Science no. 12 (2001):117-23)
3. what are the barriers in forgiving? (other findings from Roy F. Baumeister’s research with collaborators)
- the fear of being hurt again
- a strong sense of narcissistic entitlement- that is, those who believe that they deserve a lot of good things and are highly invested in collecting all that they deserve
- self-righteousness, in which people cannot see their own potential for misdeeds
- lack of preparedness to be responsive and to seek pathways of reconciliation and resolution (details here or here [en, pdf])
The results of this research are objective. I have not taken into consideration for this article the spiritual and personal development advantages, but merely the psychological aspects of forgiveness.
PS: At the original date when I published this article, all the 24 research papers I have referred to at the beginning of the article were available on a website which now does not exist anymore. I have tried to reconstitute some of the links by the names and years of the authors involved, but unfortunately, I have only partially succeeded.