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Forgiveness a correlational study between the spirit of forgiveness and physical health in senior citizens
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vii, 202 leaves : ; 29 cm.
Connery, Thomas J
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2002.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 168-201).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Thomas J. Connery.
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I have been blessed to receive the guidance and help from so many individuals.

First and foremost is my chairperson, Dr. Mary Howard-Hamilton, who, despite a

relocation to Indiana, has guided and directed me with love and patience. I am indebted

to my committee members, Dr. Silvia Echevarria-Doan, Dr. James Archer, and Dr. David

Miller, for giving me their time and expertise. I am indebted also to my dear friends who

wanted the degree almost as much as I did: Gert and Marcia King; Theresa Hand; Dr.

Anthony and Pat Cardinale, who painstakingly recorded, typed, and organized my work;

Kathleen Nonnenmacher, who encouraged me and spent countless hours in the library

assisting me; and Jong- hyo Park, whose expertise in statistics was a God-send. I am

grateful to Dr. Robert Enright, who initially put me on this track of forgiveness, for his

encouragement. I thank Dr. Sid Sarinopolous, whom I constantly consulted for advice,

direction, and clarification; I remain indebted to him and thank him for his patience. I

also thank Dr. Jerry Goldberg, who, though a stranger, willingly offered insight and

clarification; Mary Jane Schaer, who did an excellent job preparing my work; and Candy

Spires, who was most helpful in keeping my classes straight. I want to express my

gratitude to my mom and dad who, though they may not have had the opportunity to

further their education, encouraged me to be the best that I can be.

Finally, this is dedicated to Helen Smorto, who was called home to heaven and is

unable to rejoice with me. I miss her, and I thank her.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ............................................. ii

ABSTRACT ......................................................... vi


1 INTRODUCTION ................................... ..............1

Statement of the Problem .............................................. 1
The Role of Forgiveness ............................................ 7
Definition of Term ............ ...................................... 8
The Purpose of the Study ..............................................9
Hypotheses ............ ............................................ 9
Significance of the Study ............... ........................... 10

2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE ...................................... 11

Why Now Forgiveness? .............................................. 14
What Is Interpersonal Forgiveness? ................ ................... 16
Philosophical Perspectives of Forgiveness .............................. 24
The Unforgivable ....................................................26
The Possibility of Forgiveness ............... ....................... 28
Conflicting View of Forgiveness ................ ..................... 33
The Parameters of Forgiveness ..................................... 34
What Forgiveness Is Not ............................................. 37
Definition of Forgiveness ............... ........................... 45
What Is Forgiveness? .............. ................. .............. 46
Foundational Definition .............. ............................ 51
Challenge of Forgiveness ............... ........................... 57
The Process of Forgiving ............................................. 61
How Do People Forgive ................. ............................ 62
Anger and Forgiveness .............................................. 71
The Model of Forgiveness Based on Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development... 74
The Forgiveness Model .................. .......................... 78
Uncovering ........... ............................................ 85
Work ................. ............................. 87
Outcome ................................ ...................88


The Role of Empathy ................................................ 89
How Does One Know When Forgiveness Has Taken Place? .................. 92
What Are the Benefits in Forgiving ................ ................... 93
Hostility, Anger, and Physical Health ................. .............. 99
The Role of Anger ................................................. 105
Theoretical Claims On the Physical Health Enhancing Potential of Forgiveness .. 108
How Forgiveness Might Influence Health ............................. 112
Possible Physiological Mechanisms ................................ 117
A Theoretical Framework ................ ......................... 122

3 METHODOLOGY ................................................ 126

Overview .................. .......................... 126
Definitions ...................................................... 127
Participants ...................................................... 128
Procedure ....................................... ................. 128
Psychological Variable Instruments .................... .............. 129
Descriptive Statistics for the Normative Samples .......................... 132
Anger Expression and Anger Control ................................... 132
STAXI-2 Scales and Subscales ........................................ 133
The 27-Item Version of the Cook and Medley Hostility Scale ................ 133
Physical Health Status ............... ............................ 135
Health-Risk Variables .............. ............................ 136
Study ............................................. 137

4 RESULTS ............ .... ....................... ...... 138

Descriptive Data ............. ..................................... 138
Results .........................................................139

5 DISCUSSION ...................................... .......... 151

Research Implications ................ ............................ 155
Practical Implications .................. .............................156
Limitations ................ ..................... .............. 156
Future Research ................................... ............ 158



B INFORMED CONSENT ................... ....... ...............163

C BASIC INFORMATION QUESTIONNAIRE ............................ 164


REFEREN CES .................................................... 168

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............... ......................... 202

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Thomas J. Connery

Chair: Mary Howard-Hamilton
Major Department: Counselor Education

Clients who seek counseling are often motivated by the desire to move beyond or

overcome past hurts and injustices. Though the desire may be there, the skill to do so is

lacking. As counselors, we facilitate the process by our knowledge and expertise. One

strategy to recover from past injustices is forgiveness. Forgiveness can be the catalyst for

healing and regaining one's peace of mind. Clients are reluctant to choose forgiveness for

it carries the stigma of defeat. Knowing that forgiveness is connected to improved

outcomes may be the appeal to select forgiveness.

This study involved 203 senior citizens, male and female, whose ages ranged

from 65 to 82. Sixty-six percent were between 65 and 75, 47% ranged from 76 to 79

and 22% were 80 and older. The volunteers were primarily from a Central Florida

Catholic Church. The following instruments were given to each participant: Enright

Forgiveness Inventory, The Anger Expression Scale, The 27-Item Version of the Cook

and Medley Hostility Scale, and the Physical Health Status and Health-Risk Variables.

Separate correlation analyses were performed for the EFI and anger and EFI and

hostility, EFI Anger and hostility and predictor variables and physical health measures.

Multiple regression analyses were performed with predictor variables and physical

health. Unlike previous research, these results did not show any significant correlation

between forgiveness and physical health.


Statement of the Problem

Health-related quality of life or the capability to function in the physical,

psychosocial and sociological domain of health is of growing interest in the field of aging

(Badger, 2001). Today, there are 78 million American baby boomers-persons between

ages 35 and 53--comprising nearly one-third of the total U.S. population. According to

psychologist and entrepreneur Den Dychtwald (1999), the 20t century had been in the

domain of the young, but the 21" century will belong to the "new-old." Two-thirds of all

the people who have ever lived past age 65 in the entire history of the world are presently

alive today. He predicts that this population, the aging baby boomers, will crave vigor,

vitality, and life extension. The irony of past medical successes, he believes, is that they

have produced legions of long-lived elders who wrestle with the very problems that the

American health care system is ill-equipped to handle, such as heart disease, cancer,

arthritis, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's.

These are the health risks that elderly face as they are graced with longevity. A

severe problem, often unmentioned, that plagues the senior years is the struggle with

depression. Depression is a serious problem among persons aged 65 and older and often

is missed in primary care practice (Butler, Cohen, Lewis, Simmons-Clemmons, &

Sunderland, 1997). Though the prevalence of major depression among people age 65 and

over in community surveys stands at 15%, another 15% suffer from some degree of


adjustment disorder, chronic depression, and other forms of minor depression (Diagnosis

and Treatment, 1991). Prevalence in nursing homes is 12% to 22% for major depression

disorder and over 15% to 30% for minor depression (American Psychiatric Association,


This is noteworthy because depression is linked with physical health problems

(Koenig, 1999). Depression, along with anxiety, in medically ill seniors both increases

the morbidity and mortality and burdens not only the individual but society with higher

health costs and utilization. It is also linked to a poorer functional status and outcomes

for patients (Kim, Braun, & Kunick, 2001). Ormel and colleagues (1998) noted that

depressive symptoms contribute more to functional disability, poor health perception,

and poor well-being than most chronic medical conditions. In persons aged 65 and older,

the incidence of depression increases with the degree of physical health problems. Higher

levels of mortality among depressed patients may have as a contributor psychological

stress, which triggers the production of cortisol by the adrenal glands and thereby

adversely affects the immune system. Unfortunately 70% to 90% of late-life depression

is undiagnosed (Koenig, 1999).

Untreated depression among older people can be deadly. The suicide rate in old

age is the highest of any age group: 67.6 suicides per 100,000 in persons age 85 and

older, five times the national rate for all ages of 12 per 100,000 (Butler, 1997). An

estimated one out of six patients seen by a primary care physician is suffering from

depression. In about 25% of cases of depression, a contributing factor may be chronic

physical illness such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, lung disease, arthritis, and

Parkinson's disease (Butler, 1997). Depression, especially in older adults, is prevalent but

often unrecognized in patients with other medical disorders. If left untreated, comorbid

depression may lead to a worsening of certain medical conditions such as coronary artery

disease (Evans, 1997).

Depressed patients suffer from symptomatic and fatal ischemic heart disease at a

higher rate than nondepressed patients. Alterations in sympathetic and parasympathetic

tone possibly make depressed patients more vulnerable to ventricular fibrillation.

Comorbid depression and cardiac disease are commonly encountered by any clinician

treating older patients. Furthermore, depressed patients have poorer outcomes than

nondepressed patients with similar degrees of heart disease. Depressed patients have a

higher than expected rate of sudden cardiovascular death. Patients with depression

develop symptomatic and fatal ischemic heart disease at a higher rate when compared

with a nondepressed group (Roose, Devanand, & Suthers, 1999).

Depression in older persons is associated with significant decrease in physical

mobility and increase in disability associated with activities of daily living. Depression

can adversely affect biological processes that may enhance susceptibility to disease or

cause neuromuscular factional decline (Penninx & Leveille, 1999). People who are

depressed have significantly greater mortality following a myocardial infarction (MI) and

are more likely to have a reinfarction. Senior citizens suffering from myocardial

infarction often present with restless agitation or confusion. Congestive heart failure can

produce anxiety, fatigue, or poor concentration. Hypertension, which affects 40% of the

elderly, is often treated with medication that has a high potential of causing depression

(Vickers, 1988) Depression puts enormous stress on a person's psychological system.

Serotonin levels are decreased in the brain of anyone who is depressed. It has been

reported that serotonin levels in platelet cells also might be decreased in depressed

people, making platelets more coagulable and increasing the risk of MI (Koenig, 1999).

Besides depression, another disorder confronting not only the senior population

but also all Americans is cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the leading

cause of illness and death in the United States. An estimated 14 million Americans have

a history of MI with costs to the health care system reaching $60 billion per year. The

three risk factors that can be modified to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and

death are hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, and cigarette smoking (Pennington &

Tecce, 1997).

These are just two striking examples of a myriad of illnesses that affect, in

particular, the senior population. Understandably, depression is not solely linked to a lack

of forgiveness as there are many causes and factors, yet learning to forgive can be an

important antidote. Forgiving is effective in resolving feelings of remorse, guilt, anger,

anxiety, and fear (Cerney, 1988; Fitzgibbons, 1986) The field is now ripe for innovative,

challenging treatment with increased potential to positively impact the lives of senior

citizens with psychiatric symptoms and disorders (Stanley, 2001) Considering the high

rate of incomplete response to antidepressants, the negative effects on the quality of life,

and costly increases in health care, it poses a challenge to the medical fields to find a

suitable option (Scogin et al., 2001). Using psychosocial treatments as adjuncts to the

antidepressant medication is an appealing option. Psychotherapy is designed to get to the

root of the problem, which medicated treatment is unable to target. Psychosocial

treatments can present coping strategies to utilize when facing stressors and the means

for dealing with demoralization and feelings of hopelessness and despair (Scogin et al.,

2001). Forgiveness can be a major component in the healing process. Forgiveness

interventions have been related to reductions in anxiety (Al-Mabuk, Enright, & Cardes,

1995; Coyle & Enright, 1997; Freedman & Enright, 1996), reductions in anger (Coyle &

Enright, 1997), and reductions in depression (Freedman & Enright, 1996). Evidence has

emerged that positive emotional states, such as love, and conditions that foster positive

emotions, such as intimate relationships, have health-enhancing effects (Medalie &

Goldbourt, 1996; Medalie, Strange, Zyzanoki, & Goldbourt, 1992; Seeman & Syme,

1987). Forgiveness quite possibly can have an empirically discemable positive influence

on physical health.

Forgiveness involves the affective, cognitive, and behavioral systems. When one

forgives, certain elements are subtracted from each system. A key benefit is that negative

emotions, such as anger, hatred, resentment, hostility, sadness and/or contempt, are given

up (Richards, 1988). In the cognitive system, one gives up condemning and blaming

judgment and the plotting of revenge where this was occurring. In the behavioral system,

one chooses to no longer act out of revenge (North, 1987).

When one forgives, certain elements are added to each system. In the affective

system, the negative emotions are replaced by more neutral emotions and eventually by

positive acts, such as unselfish love (Cunningham, 1985; Downie, 1965; North, 1987).

On the cognitive system, the offender may realize he or she has a right to negative

emotions, yet is most willing to give them up (North, 1987). Positive thoughts now

emerge toward the offender (Smedes, 1984). There is the promising potential for the

forgiver to experience both inner release and healed relationship (Augsburger, 1981).

Although the relationship between forgiveness and positive emotions has yet to

be investigated empirically, present correlational data have shown significant positive

relations between forgiveness and a sense of well being (Ashleman, 1996; Nousse, 1997).

When one sincerely forgives, emerging positive emotions may greatly influence the


quality of the relationship between the two parties. Consequently, forgiveness may have a

substantial and lasting impact on the physical health of the offended.

The benefits from the effort to forgive outweigh the struggle to achieve it.

Significant among them are a decreased level of anger and hostility and increased

feelings of love and compassion (Medalie & Goldbourt, 1996; Seeman & Syme, 1987;

Shapiro, Schwartz, & Aston, 1996), improved ability to deflate anger (Coyle & Enright,

1997; Huang, 1990; Sarinopoulos, 1996), enhanced capacity to trust, and freedom from

the subtle control of individuals and events of the past. Of particular importance is the

decrease of the feelings of anger and hostility.

Although not entirely consistent, there is striking evidence for a relationship

between hostility and coronary heart disease (CHD). Miller and colleagues (Miller,

Smith, Turner, Guijarro, & Hallet, 1996) noted that hostility was independently

associated with objective evidence of CHD, for example, confirmed myocardial

infarction. Some evidence is beginning to emerge on some of the dire effects that

hostility might possibly have on the cardiovascular system. Hostility was found to be

associated with angiographic coronary stenosis (Barefoot et al., 1994; Williams et al.,

1980) and silent ventricular dysfunction (Burg, Jain, Soufer, Kerns, & Zaret, 1993).

Further, hostility has been connected to other life threatening illnesses and mortality

(Chesney & Rosenman, 1985; Friedman, 1992; Johnson, 1990; Matthews et al., 1986;

Smith, 1992). Schekelle, Gail, Ostfelt, and Paul (1983) found hostility scores to predict

mortality from not only CHD but from other illnesses as well. Impressively, Barefoot,

Dahlstrom. and Williams (1983) and Barefoot, Dodge, Peterson, Dahlstrom, and

Williams (1989) found that hostility singularly predicted all-cause mortality over 25-

and 28-year follow-up periods.

An impressive body of evidence has been gathered on the relationship between

anger expression and hypertension. Not only suppressed (Diamond, 1982; Harburg,

Blakelock, & Roeper, 1979; Harburg et al., 1973; Julius & Johnson, 1985; Thomas,

1997) but expressed anger (Engebretson, Matthews, & Scheier, 1989; Gentry, 1985;

Gentry, Chesney, Gary, Hall, & Harburg, 1982; Schalling, 1985; Spielberger et al., 1985)

have been found to be significantly related to elevated blood pressure and hypertension.

Links between stress or distress and immunity may have even more potent health

consequences for older adults because immune function declines with age, particularly

functional aspects of the cellular immune response (Murasko, Weiner, & Kaye, 1988;

Wayne, Rhyne, & Garry, 1990; Yoshikawa, 1983). Among adults over 75 years of age,

pneumonia and influenza together are the fourth leading cause of death (Yoshikawa,


Besides hostility, anger has also been shown to affect other common health

problems. Arena, Bruno, Rozantine, and Meador (1997) found that tension headache

sufferers stored significantly more suppressed anger compared to nonpain controls. In a

national sample of Black adults, Johnson and Broman (1987) found that increased levels

of outwardly expressed anger was associated with a greater number of health problems

(e.g., ulcers, cancer, hypertension, and diabetes). Supporting this premise, Vandervoort,

Ragland, and Syme (1996) found that both suppressed and expressed anger aggravated

health problems ranging from gastrointestinal to musculoskeletal health complaints.

The Role of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is closely, though not solely, connected to a religious/spiritual

outlook. Many elders turn to their religiousness to help cope with physical and emotional

problems (Koenig, 1999). Religiously committed older adults are notably healthier,

happier, and enjoy greater life satisfaction and are less depressed, anxious, and lonely

(Koenig, 1999). Religious coping has been related to lower rates of depression in both

cross-sectional (Idler, 1987; Koenig, Cohen, Blazer, Kudler, Krishnan, & Sibert 1995;

Pressman, Lyons, Larson, & Strain, 1990) and longitudinal studies (Idler & Kasl, 1992;

Koenig et al., 1992). A number of studies have demonstrated that religiously active older

adults have lower blood pressure (Larson et al., 1989), fewer strokes (Colantinio, Kasl, &

Ostfeld, 1992), fewer deaths from coronary heart disease (Goldbourt, Yaari, & Medalie,

1993), and longer survival overall (Gartner, Larson, & Allen, 1991; Zuckerman, Kasl, &

Ostfeld, 1984)

Definition of Term

Enright and the Human Development Study Group [HDSG] (1991a) developed

their definition from a threefold approach: how one thinks, feels and acts toward the

offender. The definition includes judgments (how the forgiver thinks about the offender)

emotions (how one feels toward the offenderr, and behavior (how the forgiver acts

toward the offender) in the forgiveness process. This definition has been operationalized

in the Enright Forgiveness Inventory (Subkoviak, Enright, & Wu, 1992), which provides

the means for quantitatively measuring levels of interpersonal forgiveness in the

affective, behavioral, and cognitive domains.

The definition is as follows:

Forgiveness is the overcoming of negative affect and judgment toward the
offender, not by denying ourselves the right to such affect and judgment but by
endeavoring to view the offender with benevolence, compassion, and even love,
while recognizing that he or she has abandoned the right to them. (Subkoviak et
al., 1992, p. 3)

The Purpose of the Study

This study is an investigation of the relationship between forgiveness and

physical health in senior citizens that has yet to be empirically investigated. The

scientific evidence that anger and its related concept of hostility are health hazards has

grown rapidly over the past few decades (e.g., Friedman, 1996; Kranz, Baum, & Singer,

1983; Stone, Cohen, & Adler, 1979; Williams & Williams, 1993) and will be analyzed.

As well, there is evidence that indicates that wholesome emotions such as love and

healthy relationships with those close to us have health-enhancing effects (e.g., Coleman,

1989; Omish, 1998).

As forgiveness is a process in which negative emotions are replaced by positive

emotions and wounded relationships can be healed (Hope, 1987), forgiveness might have

an empirically discernable positive influence on physical health. Thereby, the main goal

of the present study is to access the relationship of forgiveness, hostility, and suppressed

and expressed anger with physical health while taking into account the impact of a

number of demographic and health risk factors (e.g., sex, body mass, smoking, alcohol,

salt, caffeine, and exercise).


The following hypotheses were investigated in this study.

1. Forgiveness will be positively related to physical health. High scorers on
forgiveness will have fewer physical health problems, and vice versa.

2. Hostility and both suppressed and expressed anger will be negatively
related to physical health. High scorers on anger and hostility will have
more physical health problems, and vice versa.

3. Forgiveness, anger and hostility will remain significantly related to
physical health after controlling for age, sex, smoking, liquor, caffeine,
body mass, exercise, and salt.

4. Forgiveness will remain significantly related to physical health after
controlling for anger and hostility.

Significance of the Study

Forgiveness can play a major role in the healing process. A number of mental

health professionals have suggested the expression of anger as a more appropriate way to

deal with negative emotions (Freud, 1963; Janov, 1970; Novoca, 1975; Rubin, 1970).

The expression of anger is not only important but salutary; but when solely relied on for

relief, it is inadequate to prevent serious complications because of the degree and

strength of unresolved anger from previous disappointments encountered in childhood,

adolescence, and adult life (Fitzgibbons, 1986). Forgiveness may fulfill that vital role for


The goal of the therapeutic process is to help people resolve painful and self-
defeating patterns of behavior. All therapists are confronted in their work with the
facts of injustice, the abuse of the weak by the strong, betrayer of trust, loyalty,
and innocence. One sees the results of these actions in adult clients in the patterns
of self-punishment and self-limitation in their distorted images of the social world
in the rage directed inward acted out against other or anesthetized with
substances. (Hope, 1987, p. 241)

As clients may resist or be hesitant to change or employ the paradoxical act of

forgiveness, the hope of enhanced physical health may prove to be an invaluable

incentive. If forgiveness can be seen as a gift that we give ourselves (Freedman &

Enright, 1996), clients may be more willingly to avail themselves of this salutary act,

leading to freedom and healing of the mind, body, and emotions.


Without forgiveness, resentment builds in us, a resentment which
turns into hostility and anger. Hatred eats away at our well-being.
(Archbishop Tutu, 1995)

Forgiveness as a psychotherapeutic goal was virtually untapped until the 1980s.

If one would examine the published voices examining interpersonal forgiveness, the

likely conclusion would be that the psychological treatment of forgiveness has been

overlooked until recently (McCullough, Worthington, & Rachal, 1997). Besides the

theological circles, forgiveness appears to have been ignored throughout all of academia,

not just in the social sciences (Enright & North, 1998). The major theories of personality

appear to have not been interested in the process of forgiveness (Shontz & Rosenak,

1988). It has been a long time since Augustine's City of God (413) discussed

interpersonal forgiveness, and it is from that date in history that forgiveness between

people fell deafly silent in published literature (Augustine, 397/1963).

From this dormant state, forgiveness now claims a reputable place in the main

stream of psychotherapeutic literature from many and diverse perspectives. Looking over

the past 15 years, forgiveness has crossed over from its acknowledged domain in

religious literature and practice into the scientific community. Empirical research has

shown impressive results, and practitioners are developing both an enthusiasm and

interest for its wide angle potential (Lampman, 1999). Once relegated to religious circles

and considered as the extra mile of mercy toward the offender that is required from a

"believer," forgiveness is now a viable tool for those striving to overcome estrangement

and negative emotions (Smedes, 1996). Forgiveness is now emerging in philosophy

(North, 1987; Richards, 1988), psychotherapy (McCullough, Pargament, & Thoresen,

2000), marital counseling (Boon & Sulsky, 1997), family therapy (DiBlasio & Proctor,

1993) and developmental psychology (Enright & HDSG, 1991a) as an important

component for positive health outcomes (Coyle & Enright, 1997; Freedman & Enright,

1996; Kaufman, 1984) and even inner healing for HIV/AIDS patients (Childs, 2001;

Redfield, 2001) and physical health (Sarinopoulos, 1999; Luskin et al., 2001; Witvliet, in


Forgiveness has been rare in the empirical literature possibly because it has been

so closely tied to theology, not science (Fitzgibbons, 1986; North, 1987; Shontz &

Rosenak, 1988). Understandably, forgiveness has always been recognized as important

for the healing process in biblical literature, particularly in Christian literature. Most

likely due to its strong religious connotation, forgiveness was ignored in psychotherapy

with only two professional articles before 1988 (Fitzgibbons, 1986). Fitzgibbons (1986)

speculates that the absence of forgiveness studies in psychology is likely due to the

concept's identification with theology.

Secular psychology has not dealt adequately with the topic. Seemingly, this has

been in the past due to the "paranoia" of secular psychology concerning its much-desired

"scientific" status. Psychologists historically have not wanted to address any topic that is

philosophical or religious (Van Leeuwen, 1982). No doubt, this belief is partially rooted

in the historical separation between the therapeutic professions and religion (Denton &

Martin, 1998). DiBlasio and Benda (1991) found that there is a strong bias in the

psychological community against using concepts that have religious connotations. They

point out that religiously oriented concepts are frequently presented in highly abstract

ways without practical application to everyday problems. Even counselors with a

religious background similar to that of their clients may believe that religious issues

belong outside the secular counseling session (Worthington, 1989). Wulff(1996) wrote

that the psychology of religion is rather descriptive (documenting the varieties and types

of religious experiences) or explanatory (seeking the origins of religious experience and

psychological, biological, or environmental events). The explanatory approach

(harboring such distinguished names as Sigmund Freud, James Leuba, and B. F. Skinner)

typically has been hostile to religion seeing it as a cause of pathology. This separation

has been said to reflect humanistic values thought to underlie therapeutic systems and

therapists (Bergin, 1980; McMinn, 1984). Writers such as Ellis (1960, 1980) have

emphasized their perspective that religion is a clear source for pathology and that

humanism can supply all the values of religion with none of the neuroses. It is no wonder

that forgiveness with its strong religious connections had gone virtually ignored until the

mid-80s. This lack of acceptance towards forgiveness due to its close connection to

spiritual principles is also its source of strength. It is its connection to spiritual principles

that adds to, rather than subtracts from, its strength. There is a spiritual reality and

spiritual experiences make a difference in our behavior (Bergin, 1988).

A major contribution of a spiritual perspective is that it anchors value in universal

terms. This is important because therapeutic interventions are not value-free. Values

determine the goals of the treatment. They also play a vital role in the selection of

techniques and in the evaluation of outcomes (London, 1986; Lowe, 1976). What values

determine the goals of treatment? How do we set those goals? All goals, whether they are

goals for symptom relief or goals to modify a lifestyle, are supported by value systems.

Rather than being a stumbling block, forgiveness' spiritual roots should enhance, rather

than subtract, its favor in the psychological field.

Another possible reason that there has been no investigation of forgiveness in the

psychoanalytic literature is that psychoanalysis resolves conflict by excusing. When, for

example, clients work through childhood injuries, they develop insight into why their

parents might have treated them as they did. Instead of judging their parents with

primitive standards, they learn to interpret their parents in more moderated and mature

ways (Gabbard, 1990). This new understanding explains their parents' behavior in a way

that makes them helpless victims of their own conditioning. Rather than remain trapped

in the patterns that trapped their parents, patients choose to find new ways of living for

themselves. They go forward on their own rather than go back to work things out with

their parents who are excused rather than forgiven (Veenstra, 1992). As well, the

paradoxical nature of forgiveness leaves it vulnerable, not to be understood or

appreciated as a helpful healing element. It appears on the surface as too simple,

impractical, or not applicable to the serious problems of life (Hope, 1987).

Why Now Forgiveness?

To what can one attribute this relatively new interest and respect for the role of

forgiveness in the field of mental health? Two movements may have heralded the role of

forgiveness. First, the Alcoholics Anonymous approach expanded to assist the adult

children of alcoholic parents grappling with the emotional aftermath of their childhood

abuse (Ackerman, 1987; Middleton-Moz & Divinell, 1986), and secular abuse began to

uncover the importance of forgiveness in releasing their patients from destructive

relationships with their abusive parents (Bass & Davis, 1988; Farmer, 1989). This insight

provided a crack in the defensive wall against forgiveness. Along with this, the 1980s

saw an appreciation toward issues of care and responsiveness as ways to solve moral

dilemmas (Gilligan, 1982). Notably absent from the discourse of moral psychology has

been the issue of mercy, on how people deal with injustices that have already taken place.

Mercy, as a new area of research within moral development, emphasizes a person's

willingness to go beyond duty, a willingness to go beyond the requirements of justice

toward beneficially aiding someone who may not deserve the kindness. Forgiveness calls

for such an attitude and approach (Hebl & Enright, 1993).

Up until the 1980s, the field of moral development was primarily based on the

Kohlbergian emphasis on justice. The former field has broadened its parameters to

include constructs such as caring (Brabeck, 1989; Gilligan, Ward, & Taylor, 1988) and

forgiveness (Enright & HDSG, 1991b). By employing such constructs of care and mercy,

it has now been recognized by physicians working with cancer patients (Phillips &

Osbore, 1989) and by therapists interested in anger reduction in clients (Fitzgibbons,

1986; Hope, 1987; Kaufman, 1984).

This overdue recognition of the salutary effects of forgiveness has long been

awaited. Justice has dominated the study of moral development since Kohlberg's (1985)

landmark work. Yet, it is forgiveness, not justice, that is frequently labeled divine,

sublime (Morrow, 1984), humanizing (Calian, 1981), courageous (Cunningham, 1985;

Kaufman, 1984), healthy (Droll, 1984; Hope, 1987), restorative (Murphy, 1982), and

fulfilling (Beck, 1988). Psychiatrists (Kaufman, 1984), pastoral counselors (Cunningham,

1985), counseling psychologists (Eastin, 1988; Hebl, 1990), clinical psychologists (Cole,

1998; Fitzgibbons, 1986; Hope 1987), humanistic writers (Jampolsky, 1985), and

developmental psychologists (Enright, Santos, & Al Mabuk, 1989) all have begun

discussing and extolling the advantages of interpersonal or person-to-person forgiveness

within the helping professions. Philosophers such as Frankena (1973), however, are quick

to point out that a more complete view of morality must encompass not only justice but

mercy as well. The basic moral principle underlying justice is equality, whereas the

moral principle underlying forgiveness is the more challenging and noble task of love

tempered by its moral sense (Enright, Gassin, & Wu, 1992).

What Is Interpersonal Foreiveness?

Ancient Concepts

There are a number of ancient philosophical systems, which may not mention

forgiveness by name such as Buddhism and Confucianism but do emphasize the

constructs of mercy and compassion. These are the two key components in forgiveness.

Forgiveness is embedded in discussions of compassion, magnanimity, and altruism,

without sharp or even subtle distinctions among them. This approach is part and parcel to

its philosophy. From the many religious accounts of forgiveness, it is most thoroughly

and succinctly articulated by the world's great monotheistic faiths-Judaism,

Christianity, and Islam (McCullough & Worthington, 1999). These ancient systems, most

notably Judaism and Christianity, offer perhaps the most specific and clear cut ideas on

interpersonal forgiveness. Looking at these ancient religions along with Hinduism will

help contribute to our understanding and knowledge of the roots of forgiveness. Their

perspectives on forgiveness offer insight on how religion both influences and forms the

understanding and application of the psychological processes in forgiveness.

Pargament and Rye (1998) have proposed several ways in which religion can

contribute insight toward forgiveness. Forgiveness properly offered can be sanctified, or

imbued, with divine-like qualities. In theistic religions, forgiveness becomes the primary

means for imitation of God, fulfilling God's plan, or enhancing one's personal

relationship with the divine. In addition, religion provides numerous role models of

individuals who have forgiven despite profound injustices and who invite imitation.

Religion also offers world views that may be absent to help victims to reframe their

attitudes toward their offenders. Furthermore, religious faith can help individuals cope

with the uncertainty surrounding the choice to forgive.

The Hebrew Bible and the subsequent Jewish tradition represent the first

thorough expositions of divine and interpersonal forgiveness. The primary Hebrew word

salah occurs 46 times in the Hebrew Bible and is translated as "to forgive" (Vine, 1985).

In this religious context, it refers to God removing sin from the people. According to

Landman (1941), salah has both a spiritual and a moral connotation. It represents a

totally free act of God's removing sin or a person's removing of trespasses of another by

placing them out of sight. One of God's primary attributes is God's willingness to forgive

sinful individuals (Exodus 34:66-7), provided there are adequate repentance and a desire

to improve one's conduct (Landman, 1941). Two other words that incorporate

forgiveness in their range of meanings are kapar, to cover or atone for wrongdoing, and

nasa, to lift up a sin and carry it away (Vine, 1985). In Ancient Hebrew culture, there was

the well-defined practice of animal sacrifices, which was accompanied by repentance in

the removing of sin by the divine authority.

Forgiveness restores the offender to the relation once formerly enjoyed with the

other person and community. Such a relation in the Hebrew community demands

reciprocal love (Leviticus 19:18). Love here includes all psychological systems of affect,

cognition, and behavior (Deuteronomy 6: 5). Peace of mind is also restored (Landman,

1941). Forgiveness in Jewish tradition is not an option but a moral duty based on the

doctrine of "imitatio dei," the imitation of God as supreme forgiver (Newman, 1987;

Shapiro, 1978).

One of the most important and distinguishing elements of early Judaism was the

core belief that God was capable of forgiving humanity for its transgressions (Klassen,

1966; McCullough, Sandage, & Worthington, 1997; Telfer, 1960). What now perhaps

seems expected of God-forgiveness was so innovative that it became the distinguishing

mark between Judaism and the other religious traditions in the region of Palestine

(McCullough & Worthington, 1999). The possibility of teshuvah (Hebrew for "return" or

"repentance"), which could lead to the gift of forgiveness from God, became the focal

point of Jewish moral life (Dorf, 1992, 1998; Neusner, 1997; Telfer, 1960). Judaism

holds that God forgives on the basis of repentance and that people should be so inspired

to forgive repentant transgressors as well (Dorf, 1992, 1998; Neusner, 1997). Thereby,

forgiving one's offenders following sincere repentance is not a moral prerogative or

expectation within Judaism but a religious duty (Enright, Gassin, & Wu, 1992; Neusner,

1997; Newman, 1987).

In Jewish thought, forgiveness signifies that the very violation itself is removed.

The injured parties who forgive may still remove the transgression and retain the right to

take some precautions to make sure that they will not suffer that way again. By forgiving

the perpetrator, they now accept the individual and are open to a possible ongoing

relationship (Dorf et al., 2000). Forgiveness is a core element of the Jewish tradition. The

10 days between Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur are holy days in which Jews search

their hearts for the wrongs they have committed and ask one another for forgiveness.

They desire to begin the new year with a clean slate initiated by the cleansing power of

forgiveness. Indeed, forgiveness is the primary work for the Day of Atonement. The

Talmud states that God created repentance before he created the universe (Rodden,


Forgiveness in New Testament Literature

Hannah Arendt, one of the foremost philosophers of the 20th century, attributes

the discovery of the role forgiveness in the realm of human affairs to Jesus of Nazareth

(Arendt, 1958). The theological understandings of forgiveness discussed below are

rooted in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, both of which provide numerous

examples of interpersonal forgiveness (Gladson, 1992; Pingleton, 1989). Interpersonal

forgiveness is understood theologically within the context of divine forgiveness and in

reference to the problem of evil. Forgiveness may be understood as something one

discovers rather than something one does or an attitude one has.

The predominant theological understanding of interpersonal forgiveness, as it is

depicted in the Christian scriptures, first and foremost in the teachings of Jesus, is that

interpersonal and divine forgiveness are inextricably related. One cannot be separated

from the other. Theologically, one cannot consider the forgiveness of another person

outside unless viewed through the context of God's forgiveness. Soares-Prabhu (1986)

states that the reason the Christian Scriptures consistently relate forgiveness to God's

forgiveness is because our openness to forgive others is not "just a happy trait of

character or an acquired psychological disposition. It is a religious attitude rooted in the

core Christian experience of an utterly forgiving God" (p. 59). Rubio (1986) further

emphasizes that every experience of forgiveness has God as its ultimate foundation and

can only be explained in reference to God. God always plays the leading role in


A second predominant feature in our understanding of forgiveness is from the

theological perspective of sin and evil. Sobrino (1986), in his sober analysis of Latin

America as a place of both sin and forgiveness, states that sin is a physical evil for the

victim and a moral evil for the perpetrator. The role of forgiveness is to free the sinner

(the perpetrator) from this evil and convert and recreate him/her. For Sobrino, the

fundamental message regarding forgiveness is that for the radical healing of the sinner to

take place, it can be only accomplished through the power of love expressed through the

context of forgiveness (Sobrino, 1986). He compares this to how Jesus acted and how

many Christians are challenged to act: "Forgive with love in the hope that this love will

transform the sinner" (p. 51). Dumortier (1993) describes forgiving as being able to

envision a future that would not be a continuation of the past but at the same time, not

ignoring the transgressions that occurred in the past and acknowledging that it is part of

one's life. In the strength of the present and the strength of forgiveness coexists a tension

between the unerasable past and the promise of the future. In his view, forgiveness opens

one to the hope of a better future through a God of mercy and a God of forgiveness.

The New Testament writings preserved the terminology and carried over the

concepts and metaphorical images of forgiveness in the Old Testament and reapplied

them directly to the efficacious results of Christ's death, which provided sinners the

righteous basis for divine forgiveness. Human forgiveness resulted from the realization

that one has received the unmerited gift of divine forgiveness (Colossians 3:13). A

composite picture of God's forgiveness in the New Testament was gained by combining

the definitions of the 12 main Greek terms used by writers of the New Testament. As the

Lamb of God, Christ came to take away, or bear away, the sin of the world (John 1: 29; 1

John 3: 5). Those who repented and put their faith in Christ had their sins forgiven,

blotted out, or obliterated (Col. 2: 14) from their personal record. This action of blotting

out, or covering sin (1Peter 4: 8), flowed from God's love and mercy for the sinner.


Rather than treat the sinner in the way he deserved, as an act of unconditional favor, God

graciously forgave him (Col.l: 13; Luke7: 42, 43), canceled his debt (Coll: 14),

pardoned him, and removed his guilt; and he was discharged (Mark 2: 5), set free from

further obligation Matt 18: 27). Forgiveness resulted in the sinner being loosed from his

sins and washed clean from its stain (ICor 6:11). Preeminently, it is Christ's command to

his followers that they are to forgive as God has forgiven them (Lukel 1:4). This remains

the guide and model on how we are to forgive. Christians are to offer their enemy

forgiveness in return for a transgression. Through forgiveness one becomes like the

"heavenly Father" (Matt. 5:48) and is the means to obtain peace.

In the New Testament, the most common words denoting forgiveness in the

original Greek are (a)eleao (and cognate nouns), show mercy (78 times) and (b) aphiemi-

release, discharge, put away (64 times). It signifies that sins are sent away, divine

punishment is removed, and a harmonious relationship between God and the formerly

sinful person is now restored (Vine, 1985). Another word used, though infrequently but

in a striking way, is splanchnizomai. This term is commonly understood as "feeling sorry

for" or "having a compassionate perspective for someone." Its origin is from the word

"intestines." A literal translation would be to pour out one's insides (Williams, 2000).

Three other Greek words that include forgiveness in their scope of meanings are

charizomai, to bestow a favor unconditionally; apouo, to release as quasi judicial act or to

give up negative judgments and/or behavior toward an offender; and agape, to

unconditionally love in a charitable or benevolent fashion (Strong, 1984; Vine, 1985).

Forgiveness possesses the dual qualities of God's casting away our sin (conditionally on

repentance and acceptance of Christ's sacrifice) and drawing the person in love (without


Interpersonal forgiveness in Christianity is to be strictly analogous to the divine

form, similar to the mentioned "imitatio dei" (Matthew 18:21-22, Vine, 1985). As one is

forgiven, the individual has the duty to practice forgiveness toward others. The forgiver

is exemplifying agape by unconditionally drawing the other in love. As in the Hebrew

community, love is an addition of elements to affect (positive feelings), cognition

(positive thoughts), and behavior (giving back to or serving the community). Similar to

the Jewish teachings, both the forgiven and forgiver are restored to a sense of peace and

well being (Galatians 5:22). Most Christian theologies still emphasize the constant need

to seek forgiveness from people and from God. It is expected of Christians to grant

forgiveness to one another as an exercise in the learning to live as brothers and sisters in

God's kingdom (MacKintosh, 1927).

The Hebrew and Christian conceptions of forgiveness are more developed than

the ancient systems. Some notable differences are (a) they do not embody the concept

into general discussions of mercy, (b) they clearly see forgiveness as occurring in the

face of considerable injustice, (c) they specify the interpersonal and the interpersonal

quality of forgiveness, (d) they consciously bring forgiveness into the arena of ethics by

postulating moral love as the foundational principle, and (e) they expound on the precise

outcomes (inner peace, communal harmony) through its practice (Enright, Eastin,

Golden, Sarinopoulos, & Freedman, 1992)


God's desire and ability to forgive all sins is an essential quality of God's

character in Muslim theology (Ayoub, 1997). Islamic scriptures and piety similar to

Christianity encourage its inherents to forgive others to the same extent that they

themselves desire to be forgiven (McCullough & Worthington, 1999). In the eyes of

some scholars, the desire to be more forgiving is more virtuous and endearing to God

than is the pursuit of justice (Hathout, 1997). Those who forgive instead of gaining

revenge can expect a special blessing from God (Rye et al., 2000).

The concept of forgiveness in the Qur'an is expressed primarily in three terms: (a)

'afw, used 35 times; (b) safhu, used 8 times; and (c) ghafara, used 234 times. 'Afw means

to pardon, to excuse a fault, an offense, or a discourtesy, waiver of punishment, and

amnesty. Examples of usage in the Qur'ran are verses 42:40, 2:187, and 5:95. Safhu

means to turn away from a sin or a misdeed. Examples of such usage in the Qur'an are

verses 2:109, 15:85, and 43:89. Ghafara or maghfira means to convert, to forgive, and to

remit. Examples of usage in th Qur'an are verses 2:263, 42:37, and 43:43 (Asad, 1980).

The God Allah is the ultimate power who can forgive. One of Allah's 99

attributes is Al-Ghafoor, the Forgiving One. Forgiveness means "closing, an account of

offense against God or any of his creation"(Ali et al., 2000, p. 21). However forgiveness

must meet the criteria of sincerity. An offense may be against (a) a person; (b) a group of

persons or society; (c) other creations of God such as animal, plants, land, atmosphere,

and bodies of water and the life therein; and (d) God, Allah. Muslims understand that an

offense against the creation of God is an offense against God (Ali et al., 2000, p. 21)

Like Christianity, those who desire to be forgiven for their own offenses must

learn to forgive others (Luke 11:4). Especially if they seek forgiveness from God, they

should learn to forgive others for their offenses. If they desire that God overlook their

weaknesses, they should learn to overlook the weaknesses of others. Forgiveness is

important for two reasons:

1. It is very important, for the afterlife. We forgive to gain forgiveness. Seeking
forgiveness exemplifies humility, and forgiving others is a sign of magnanimity.


2. Seeking forgiveness and granting forgiveness brings happiness in the present life.
Further, forgiving improves relations with people by bringing good reputation and
gaining respect. (Ali et al., 2000)


Ksama, or ksamata, is the word most commonly used to signify forgiveness. It is

usually joined with words for mercy such as kripa, prasada, daya, or compassion, karuna.

The far-reaching concepts of forgiveness, duty, righteousness, forbearance, compassion,

and patience are explored in the epics and the dharma sastras (treatises on righteousness).

It is paramount to put these virtues into practice. Through karma (principle; role of cause

and effect), individuals deal with the consequences of their actions in subsequent

reincarnations. Therefore, one can presume that if one fails or refuses to forgive the

negative feelings and unresolved issues along with the hostility and seething anger,

negative karma is destined to spill over into future births. Those who desire to follow the

path of dharma must follow the path of forgiveness, compassion, and forbearance.

Forgiveness holds great importance in the Hindu tradition (Beck et al., 2000).

Philosophical Perspectives of Forgiveness

Moral philosophers have largely ignored the concept of forgiveness, certainly

when one compares it to attention received by the related concept of punishment.

Plausible reasons may be that forgiveness is viewed as supererogatory, possessing an

ethical significance but yet standing peculiarly outside the range of moral obligation or

fault. From this framework, the pedestrian conception of forgiveness as the prerogative

of someone wrongly harmed by another might be understood to imply that forgiveness is

like a favor or a fortuitous act. As a favor, it cannot be demanded. At a farther extreme

still, one could imagine the ideal of forgiveness as harmful or an outright wrong, by

analogy. For example, Spinoza's rationalist criticism of repentance, often understood to


be a condition for forgiveness--"He who repents what he did is twice miserable" (Ethics,

Part IV, Prop. 54, 1994), suggests that someone who forgives a person who repents may

be worse off than before.

Most of the great moral philosophers of the past have recognized the intrinsic

worth of retribution as a response to wrongdoing. Kant (1964) tied retribution in the

framework of the moral law by arguing that the desire for retribution arises from the

perception that one's rights have been violated by the wrong doer, and these rights

belong to us in virtue of our rational nature. Kant held that all persons are of equal

intrinsic worth. As a consequence, we ought to punish the wrongdoer for the willful

disregard for us as ends in ourselves. Further, Kant not only regards forgiveness as

problematic but literally impossible. Once wrong has been committed, it cannot be

undone, even by God. God is a Divine Judge against whose law the wrongdoer has

consciously and willfully transgressed (North, 1987). On one hand, Kant is correct. The

wrong can never be erased, but the effects it has on us can be defused to the point that it

has no effect on us. It no longer has to ensnare and control the victim. Hegel (North,

1987) proposes that the violator has freely chosen violence and pain as the maxim of his

action and therefore has a right to be punished. Punishment is an act of respect for the

wrongdoers. Forgiveness does not demand that there be no accounting of justice.

Equitable punishment is permissible, even when another forgives. Forgiveness frees the

individual from the chain of hostility and hate. The offender may have freely chosen to

inflict violence as Hegel suggests, but only forgiveness puts an end to the cycle of

mistrust and hatred and brings peace of mind and healing to the wounded (North, 1987).

The Unforgivable

Golding (1984) posits the question of whether there are wrongs that are so

heinous, so atrocious that they cannot or should not on moral grounds be forgiven. He

implies by example the holocaust, and perhaps now we can imagine the bombing of the

Twin Towers, that certain acts are beyond forgiveness. He states "granting forgiveness to a

malefactor who is not regretful often seems tantamount to condoning the wrong" (p. 22).

This is the great challenge of forgiveness that can easily, at times, tax our human

capability. This is the great inner struggle to suggest forgiveness or to hold onto the scars

of hate and vengeance. It is foolhardy and destructive to suggest forgiveness as a means

to mental health if by forgiving are we condoning or tacitly complying with the evil. We

may not only be unable to forgive but would be prudent and wise not to forgive all

misdeeds if simply overlooking or condoning acts of evil on whatever scale they may be.

The book The Sunflower (1976) wrestles with this very dilemma. The book

relates how a German soldier on his deathbed asks Simon Wiesenthal, a prisoner, to

forgive him for the atrocities he has committed against the Jewish people. As the prisoner

clasps Wiesenthal's hand, he walks away refusing to offer any forgiveness, despite the

fact that the soldier, who is clearly about to die, seems remorseful and is pleading for his

forgiveness. Golding a philosopher who responds to the book, argues that Wiesenthal's

conduct is correct because the only people who could possibly forgive the German for

killing Jews are the victim themselves, but they are in no position to render forgiveness.

Furthermore, Golding says, despite the deep regret apparently felt by this German

soldier, the wrongs "may be" of such a magnitude that they lie beyond the scope of

forgiveness. These wrongs (and by implication those who committed them) exemplify

unforgivable acts.

The moral dilemma described by Wiesenthal cannot be resolved or simply

dismissed by maintaining that Wiesenthal was in no position to forgive. The fundamental

question is whether the Nazis are unforgivable because their deeds were so atrocious that

they owe an unpayable moral debt or, despite the atrocity, can be forgiven. To argue his

position, Golding presents four factors that would count toward establishing deeds as


1. The only people who could appropriately forgive the atrocity are dead.
2. The deed is clearly inexcusable.
3. The deed is of such great magnitude that direct or indirect victims could never
appropriately be compensated for it in one's lifetime life.
4. The deed is so atrocious that resentment of it will forever be justified. (Govier,

The philosopher Lang (1994) concurs with Golding-there are such deeds that

are unforgivable. He offers his five features of acts relevant to their status as

unforgivable. These are

1. voluntarism, especially if evidenced over a prolonged time;
2. the violation of an important, valued moral principle;
3. the magnitude of the consequences;
4. the lack of acknowledgment or repentance by the offender for the evil of the act
or acts; and
5. the inability or refusal of the offender to provide compensation to the victim.

Lang (1994) holds that there can very well exists unforgivable deeds and that these

conditions would justify for holding a deed or deeds as unforgivable.

All these claims link the unforgivability of wrongdoers to the unforgivability of

their deeds at times horrendous beyond description (Govier, 1999). Admittedly, if people

have committed barbaric acts of atrocity, it is far more difficult to forgive, or even to

have the desire to forgive them, than those acts which, though wrong, are not as severe.

The psychological obstacle, the emotional stumbling block that prevents forgiveness or

the desire to forgive, is that the deeds are appalling and that the victims have suffered so

much. The insult to both humanity and to moral principles is just too profound. In this

context, it would appear nearly impossible, if not impossible, to envision the wrongdoer

as a person and, just as challenging, to comprehend why anyone would commit such acts.

These and similar acts make it nearly impossible to feel empathy with, or compassion

for, the offender (Govier, 1999). It would appear beyond the capability of the ordinary

individual. In the face of such evil, forgiveness is nearly if not impossible.

The Possibility of Foreiveness

Despite the difficulty, the possibility of offering forgiveness still remains

plausible. Working through this innate resistance and maintaining that the principle of

forgiveness remains a viable option, the result is that objections to the gift of forgiveness

are no longer infallible. Forgiveness is offered to a person, not an act. The insistence that

some people cannot reform is objectionable. By clarifying this position, it may allow one

to overcome the major obstacle to the gift of forgiveness and have the confidence in

utilizing it as ajustifiable and honorable tool. One errs if one stubbornly insists that some

people have become so indelibly evil that there is no possibility of their moral change.

One can, and does, admit that there exist deeds that are "unforgivable" as a way of

making our strong and intense moral disapprobation for them. At its essence, it is people

who are the recipients of forgiveness or the lack of forgiveness, not the deed. People can

change. Many persons have, do, and will change, and even those who have been guilty of

horrendous acts have changed.

In an experimental study at a drug rehab where the residents have struggled with

addictions for years and where some had resorted to a life of crime, homelessness, and

violence, some were introduced to forgiveness as a counseling variable while the control

group received only their normal drug treatment. Those who received forgiveness in

conjunction with the drug treatment showed a marked decrease in anxiety, hopelessness,

and depression. Despite years of addiction and failure, change was possible (Enright,


I wrote about a man who had murdered a 7-year-old girl. I asked, can such a man
be forgiven? In the months since I first met him, this man has undergone a
remarkable change. Whereas at first he was emotionally numb and saw his crime
as the inevitable, if awful, result of society's ills, he has now begun to accept full
responsibility for his own actions. And he has begun to agonize over his need for
repentance-to weep for others, not for himself. Can such a man be forgiven? If
we truly believe in the power of forgiveness, we will be certain that he can. We
will never condone his crime, but we will not deny him God's grace either, and
we will not doubt that even he can repent and be changed. (Arnold, p. 158, 1997)

To dismiss cavalierly and dogmatically reject these possibilities, to treat some

person as forever and necessarily incapable of moral change is in the final analysis to be

blind to acknowledge and recognize the innate and moral capacities of people to choose

another path. To regard a perpetrator of evil as conditionally unforgivable because they

have not acknowledged and do not wish nor make any effort to separate themselves from

the evil acts is morally justifiable. It expresses our innermost conviction that those acts

are what they are-evil- and our profound alienation from them and any individual that

willingly and knowingly partake in them. But to regard a perpetrator, even a perpetrator

of the worst atrocities imaginable, as absolutely unforgivable is another matter. By that

position one is declaring that no one should ever forgive an individual-no matter how

they feel, no matter what one says and does. That attitude is morally indefensible

(Govier, 1999).

Margaret Holmgren (1993), based on her unwavering belief for the respect for the

individual, upholds the position of unilateral forgiveness. She claims that victims of

transgressions must work through the delicate process of responding to unjust acts in

order to attain a state of genuine forgiveness. This process remains central to the

restoration of a victim's self-respect, and forgiveness is both psychologically and

ethically inappropriate whenever it is incomplete. Holmgren takes the courageous stand

that forgiveness is always appropriate, whether the offender repents or not. Holmgren's

views stem from a respect-for-person's theory. All human persons are capable of choice

and thereby are autonomous. All, she holds, have intrinsic value, and equal intrinsic

value. Grounded on this framework, the morally appropriate attitude to extend toward all

human beings-wrongdoers included-is an attitude of sincere goodwill. For these

ultimate moral reasons, attitudes of resentment, hatred, and ill-will are morally

objectionable and ultimately inappropriate responses to a wrongdoer. Sustained and

festered anger and ill will presume that the wrongdoer's character and potential are

immutable and limited to his wrongdoing. Consequently, the wrongdoer as a person is

nothing more than his wrongful deeds and is incapable of reform or for any morally

autonomous transformation. In its attribution of moral fixativity and inability or

unwillingness to recognize the offender's capacity for moral change, the unforgiving

attitude amounts to a staunch attitude of disrespect for the wrongdoer as a person.

Robin Casarjian (1992) believes that within everyone is an essence. When people

act in abusive ways, we do not see the totality of that individual but only the fear-based

fragments of them. Forgiveness helps us see beyond the limits of their persona to the

potential of their essence that is worthy of respect and love. Gerald Jampolsky (1985)

said forgiveness is a choice to see the "light instead of the lampshade" (p. 76). According

to Calian (1981), "forgiveness is an attitude of lavishness and utter openness where we

refuse to be bound by the brokenness of our life together" (p. 441). Forgiveness does not

permissively condone violence, but it is our option of freeing ourselves from our need to

judge others and ourselves (Borysenko, 1990). Forgiveness allows us to absorb the full

impact of the evil committed while not losing sight of the perpetrator's common

humanity (Gartner, 1988).

To forgive someone is to overcome our resentment or anger toward that person

and to be willing to regard the individual again as a member of the moral community.

Forgiving the individual is overcoming the toxic emotions of anger, resentment, or moral

hatred towards the individual. To adamantly refuse to forgive is to make no effort to

overcome such feelings. It is to stubbornly cling to them, perhaps even to cultivate them,

and perhaps to harbor visions of revenge. This hardness of heart and frame of mind can

only lead to stagnation and the continuance of pain for the individual.

Forgiveness is either something we extend or do not extend toward a person, and

it fundamentally affects the core of the relationships between persons. And yet it remains

the deeds, not the individual, that are said to be unforgivable. Persons are clearly distinct

and separate from their actions and remain capable of choice, originality, deliberations,

autonomy, and moral reform. These are core tenets of existentialism, humanistic

psychology, and respect-for-persons ethical theory and hold viable not only in theory but

even in the face of human injustice. We may hate, despise, and decry the wrongdoing

without at the same time and in the same way hating, decrying, and refusing to forgive

the wrongdoer. There lies the challenge of forgiveness.

A person who has murdered is a murderer, one who has stolen is a thief, and one

who has tortured is a torturer. In a deeper and real sense, a human and existentialist one,

such people are not only murderers, thieves, or torturers. Their essence cannot be defined

by their works. They are first and foremost human beings, whose past lives have included

evil but whose future remains open to the possibility of new and more noble choices. It is

always persons, the moral agents not their deeds, who are forgiven or held bound

(Govier, 1999).

Jean Hampton defines forgiveness as "a change of heart toward the wrongdoer in

which one drops any emotion of hatred or resentment toward them and their deed, takes a

pro-attitude toward them, and is disposed to make the offer of reconciliation" (Murphy &

Hampton, 1988, p. 84). Hampton cautions about an unwillingness to forgive or even

consider the option because it is much too easy to be unfair in evaluating others or

naively presume that we can see into their hearts and fully comprehend what they are

doing and why. Hampton observes that wrongdoers are too often pathetic, frustrated, and

abused. Moral hatred blinds us. If we were to come to know their desires and emotions,

their pained past, we may alter our thinking. We may come to regard even the

perpetrators of atrocities as human beings, like ourselves, and not as brute monsters. We

may come to understand that perpetrators may have serious problems and feel

compassion, empathy, and benevolence toward them (Murphy &Hampton, 1988).

Supporting this position is Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chairman of South

Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Objecting to a newspaper column in

which perpetrators of atrocities under apartheid were referred to as moral monsters, Tutu

(1997) said

However, monstrous deeds do not turn the perpetrators into monsters. A human
person does not ultimately lose his or her humanity, which is characterized by the
divine image in which every individual is created. The premise underlying the
commission is that it is possible for people to change, insofar as perpetrators can
come to realize the evil of their actions and even be able to plead for the
forgiveness of those they wronged ... the scales can fall from the eyes of those
who believed firmly in apartheid, and they can in fact see that what they believed
was wrong. (p. 3)

Who, in reality, can forgive the most heinous atrocities committed against another

individual and race of people? Simon Wisenthal, the prisoner in a Jewish concentration

camp, struggled with the same dilemma, when asked by a dying Nazi soldier for

forgiveness. Simon could not and would not offer forgiveness but still remained troubled

by his decision. The book, The Sunflower (1976), asks prominent citizens what they

would have done in the same situation. There is no consensus. Some would forgive,

others not. In a study conducted in Israel (Mazor, Gampel, Enright, & Orenstein, 1990)

where the subjects were Holocaust survivors, many felt an obligation not to forgive their

Nazi perpetrators. They reasoned that this would be the same as forgetting and, therefore,

tacitly condoning the atrocities, which would be condemnatory.

A crucial point is the distinction that must be made between the deeds and the

agents. Forgiveness, and hence unforgivability, applies to the agents and not deeds.

Based on this premise, no moral agents are ever absolutely unforgivable (Govier, 1999).

Forgiveness is virtuous because one's anger is relinquished but without abandoning

correct judgment about the severity and perhaps cruelty of the offense and the culpability

of the offender (Roberts, 1995).

Conflicting View of Forgiveness

The basis for the reluctance and fear of forgiving an offender who is guilty of a

serious crime (especially an unrepentant offender) is the supposition that, by forgiving,

we are essentially agreeing with the claim that we do not deserve a full measure of

respect. In effect, we are saying "That's okay, it doesn't matter that you mistreated me.

I'm not that important." The refusal to forgive may be based not so much on a motive for

revenge but on a healthy desire to maintain one's own self-respect (Holmgren, 193).

Paradoxically, it is in forgiving that one not only maintains but increases in self-respect


or rises above the base drive for retribution. To accomplish this, one begins by looking at

the incident from one's own perspective. One must recognize that the wrongdoer is/was

mistaken about the individual's worth and status as a person. One must be unwavering in

this conviction, in our worth, and value. The individual acknowledges feeling intense

grief and anger about the incident and that each person is not only owed but deserves

restitution. Accomplishing this, one can acquire a more objective point of view.

Once accomplished, the person now views the offender now in a different light.

The individual acknowledges and honors sharing the same human condition. That

individual can recognize the offender as a valuable human being, as is the victim who

struggles with the same needs, pressures, and confusions. The individual can then ponder

the circumstance and come to understand it, though not necessarily agreeing with why

the perpetrator did what was done. In doing so, one will recognize that the incident really

may not have been about oneself in the first place. Instead it was about the wrongdoer's

misguided and painful attempt to meet his/her own needs. Regarding the offender from

this point of view (regardless of whether the perpetrator repents and regardless of what

was done or suffered), one places oneself in a position to forgive the wrongdoer. This

true self-respect leads to genuine forgiveness of the offender. When one acts out of self-

respect, one's self-respect increases. Every action taken toward forgiveness increases the

individual's self-respect (Holmgren, 1993).

The Parameters of Forgiveness

What Needs to Be Forgiven?

Veenstra (1992) holds that not every problem that occurs between two people

requires forgiveness. Sometimes there are just difficulties that merely require mutual

problem solving. However, acts that are injurious and unjust usually create a sense of


being wronged, offended, or insulted and seek a more salutary method to heal and mend

the wound and initiate the necessary corrective process.

Who Can We Forgive?

O'Shaughnessy (1967) claims that forgiveness can exist only in relationships that

are preexisting, close, and loving ones, as it would be inappropriate and improbable for

strangers. Kolnai (1973-74) restricts forgiveness only to interpersonal equals. It is the

opinion of this author and others (Cunningham, 1985; North, 1987) that forgiveness is far

broader, for it is a gift freely bestowed upon anyone who has offended another.

A Skeptical View of Forgiving

Nietzsche (1887) claimed that forgiveness is a sign of moral weakness and that

those who forgive are weak and unable to assert their right for a just solution. On the

contrary, forgiveness is performed by the strong, not the weak. Acceptance or absorption

of pain without counteracting with similar emotions, thoughts, or behavior is at the very

heart of forgiveness. The offended person soaks up the pain, as a sponge does water, so

that they do not transfer that pain back to the offender or others. This highlights the gift

like quality of forgiveness, as the forgiver puts an end to the cycle of revenge that

otherwise may harm or destroy the offender and others. "To be able to forgive, you must

have the guts to look at the wrongness, the hardness, the wickedness of what somebody

did to you. We cannot camouflage, we cannot excuse, we cannot ignore, we eye the evil

face to face and we call it what it is" (Smedes, 1996, p. 7). This task is not for the weak

but rather for the strong.

A modem psychological study (Trainer, 1981) elucidates why perhaps this view

is not uncommon. Trainer found various approaches to forgiveness, one of which he

labeled role-expected, which coincides to Nietzsche's viewpoint that forgiveness is not

chosen but forced upon another. In this approach, the forgiverr" senses a moral or

religious imperative from an outside authority to forgive even though he or she neither

desires nor is convinced of it merits. Unable to retaliate against the superior who

offended, the forgiverr" grudgingly forswears justice all the while harboring resentment

and low self-esteem. This, though falling under the heading of forgiveness, is a

description of pseudo, or false, forgiveness. Genuine forgiveness, in contrast, is centered

in a courageous free act of giving as North (1987) defends. North maintains that

forgiveness is truly an act of courage, not cowardice, involving time and demanding

emotional struggle, which is hardly characteristic of the weak. Holmgren (1993) further

advanced North's position by arguing that forgiveness is an act of self-respect. In

contrast to the Nietzchian position, others claim that "forgiveness" rather than

subjugating the forgiver, puts the individual in a one-up position, thus dominating the

"forgiven" (Augsburger, 1981; Cunningham, 1985; Smedes, 1984).

Droll (1984) impressively believes that forgiveness might separate us from our

lower nature as aggressive beings. Initially, retaliation is more natural. Many in the

helping profession claim that it is the deep and long lasting anger, not the gift of

forgiveness, that can be alienating to self and others (Brandsma, 1982; Fitzgibbons, 1986;

Hunter, 1978). Forgiveness. rather than destroy our regard for self and the other, restores

positive evaluation and affect toward the other and self. It has the subtle potential to

restore relationships, which is the antithesis for alienation.

Another negative view against forgiving is that it may not only work against

justice but even perpetuate injustice. This points to another misconception of forgiveness.

Forgiveness does not require that we forgo punishment altogether or that we should, in

forgiving, attempt to annul the existence of the wrong done (North, 1998). Rather,

forgiveness entails the cessation of negative affect and replacing it with positive affect,

such as compassion and love. Forgiveness puts an end to condemning judgments and

allows for the presence of more positive judgments. If present, there also can be the

cessation of negative behaviors (e.g., revenge) and the presence of positive behaviors

(helpfulness, overtures toward reconciliation) (Enright & HDRG, 1991a). There remains

the fear that the abuser, if forgiven, will continue to abuse as long as the recipient of

one's mercy. This fear is based on a false notion of forgiveness. To forgive does not

mean to easily acquiesce blindly to harsh demands. To forgive first demands an inner

conversion and to begin seeing the other in a new way, as a member of the human

community rather than as evil incarnate. This enlightenment and the offer of a gift of

forgiveness leaves open the possibility of the other's transformation, which may lead to

not only negotiation but also for heartfelt mutual respect, understanding, and goodwill.

"What is annulled in the act of forgiveness is not the crime itself but the distortion effect

that the wrong has upon one's relations with the wrongdoer and perhaps with others"

(North, 1987, p. 500).

What Forgiveness Is Not

Before defining forgiveness, it is perhaps wise and better suited if first we

distinguish what forgiveness is not. Too easily, forgiveness is misinterpreted, associated,

or confused with similar but distinct terms, which impedes an adequate understanding

and appreciation for it.

Forgiveness Is Not Condonation

To condone an evil is simply to ignore it, not acknowledge it or to pretend as if it

were good (Smedes, 1984). Condoning involves refusing to label a given act as

objectionable; condoning may be viewed as refusal to acknowledge that a debt exists.

Forgiveness, in contrast, first and foremost requires recognition that harm did occur,

along with a conscious decision to release the perpetrator from the debt (Exline &

Baumeister, 2000). Those who condone injustice overlook the unfairness. Philosopher

Robert Roberts (1995) pointed out that condoning is double-minded. When we condone,

we admit that an action is morally wrong but then at the same time deny the seriousness

of the action. Condoning moral offenses does not lead to character development,

adequate solution, or mental health (McCullough, Sandage, & Worthington, 1997). The

forgiving person in contrast, open to perhaps a harsh reality, acknowledges the injustice

but determines to no longer judge the person exclusively in terms of what they did. The

forgiver sees beyond the immoral action and discovers a person who possesses inherent

worth (Al-Mabuk, Enright, & Cardis, 1995).

Forgiveness Is Not the Same as Excusing

To excuse is to judge the seemingly harmful event as not worth a quarrel (Kolnai,

1973-74). In forgiveness one does acknowledge the right to a quarrel, but willingly

abandons it (Enright, Gassin, & Wu, 1992).

Forgiveness Is Not Indifference

The forgiver does not minimize or negate the harm done by the act by dismissing

the injury as unimportant, but recognizes the harm done and chooses to overcome it,

which at times can demand great effort and energy (Eastin, 1988).

These first three misconceptions of forgivingness-condoning, excusing, and

indifference-are theoretically not really forms of forgiveness. In all of these, the

injuring person has done nothing wrong. There has been only a misunderstanding, a

difference of opinion, or a disagreement that has created the conflict between the two

people. Where there is no wrongdoing, there is no need for the forgiveness. No doubt


these three concepts are often called forgiveness but, in truth, are false representations of

it (Veenstra, 1992).

The moral development of forgiveness takes place in the context of a serious

injustice that is recognized as serious. Those who condone injustice choose to overlook

the unfairness. Forgiveness, in contrast, is not blind to but acknowledges the injustice, for

the forgiver no longer judges the person exclusively in terms of what they did. The

forgiver looks beyond the action to discover a person who possesses inherent worth

(Enright & Human Development Study Group [HDSG], 1994). Because a forgiver

acknowledges the other's injustice, forgiveness cannot be equated with condoning or

excusing the other's actions. To condone is to put up with the injustice because of

mitigating circumstances, fear of confrontation perhaps while still smoldering with

resentment (Enright et al., 1992). Whereas condonation denies resentment, forgiveness

strives to overcome it with compassion and love (North, 1987).

Forgiveness Is Not Forgetting

Calian (1981) considers the cliche "forgive and forget" and states that it is not

humanly possible, humanly or even biblically sound. He believes that precisely because

we are asked to forgive without forgetting, forgiveness becomes more the challenge

involving possibly a painful, lengthy process.

Elizondo (1986) contends that the real virtue of forgiveness reveals itself not

when the sting of the injury may etherized in the recesses of one's memory but in

forgiving precisely while remembering and still feeling the hurt. For Elizondo, to forgive

is not to forget but while still conscious of the wrong, one chooses to be liberated from

the inner anger, resentment, and desire for vengeance that consumes an injured person.

Deeds forgiven need not require to be forgotten. When we forgive we may certainly still

remember wrongs that were done, and we are more than likely to remember them if these

wrongs were serious. It is hardly plausible, if not impossible, to think that someone like

Nelson Mandela (1999) can forget his 27 years in prison and afterward forgive his

oppressors, whose apartheid regime had put him there. Poignant are his words regarding

healing from the wounds of injustice.

We recall our terrible past so that we can deal with it, forgiving where forgiveness
is necessary-but not forgetting. By remembering, we can ensure that never again
will such inhumanity tear us apart, and we can eradicate a dangerous legacy that
still lurks as a threat to our democracy. (1999, p. 2)

To forgive is not to be overcome by some peculiar form of amnesia regarding the

wrongs suffered but rather to regard ones' perpetrators and the wrongs themselves in the

moral light of acceptance and compassion rather than in sting of resentment and hatred

(Govier, 1999). Father Lawrence Jenco, a hostage in Beirut in 1980 for 19 months,

admitted that though he had forgiven his captors, he has not forgotten. Admittedly, he

would have to suffer some grand blackout to forget such a wrenching painful ordeal.

Clearly a deep psychological trauma is rarely wiped from memory (Kolnai, 1973-74;

Smedes, 1984) unless other psychological defenses come into play, which is never a cure

or healing but a quick entrance to other emotional and psychological scars.

Forgetting ignores the justified needs of the offender by driving the sense of being

wronged deep into one's own being where resentment awaits to do its slow destructive

work. Whereas forgetting is negative, passive, forgiving is positive and creative

(Augsburger, 1988). "Forgetting is dangerous. To forget is to repress and deny what

happened, which is self-destructive. It allows you to suffer the same hurt repeatedly"

(Smedes, 1996, p. 7).

Forgiveness is not simply a slow diminishing of angry feeling across time

(Horsbrugh, 1974). Forgiveness demands action and ownership and requires energy

(Fitzgibbons, 1986; Horsbrugh, 1974). It is a constant struggle to release the other while

you are still in the grips of hurt and anger (Enright, Gassin, & Wu, 1992).

Forgiveness Is Not Tolerance

Tolerance can only eventually lead to pain and turmoil. Tolerate everything

someone does, and you will be in for a lot of bad trouble (Smedes, 1984). Forgiveness

confronts the evil rather than be dominated by it; it overcomes its toxin through love.

Forgiveness Is Not Self-centering

Forgiving another is not solely motivated by the desire to be rid of strong

negative emotions (Richards, 1988). The forgiver also looks toward the other, with an

openness and willingness to join in community with him or her (Enright & HDSG,

1991b). Forgiveness is both a gift to oneself and to the other.

Forgiveness Is Distinct from Justice

Justice involves reciprocity of some kind, whereas forgiveness is an unconditional

gift given to one who does not deserve it (Enright, Gassin, & Wu, 1992). The objective of

justice is to restore equality where inequality exists. In forgiveness, the offended person

does not restore equality (nor do they seek its restoration from the other-this is the

realm ofjustice). Instead, in forgiveness the offended, relative to the offender, recognizes

the equality of their commonly shared humanity. This equality existed before, during,

and after the hurtful event. Thus, we do not restore what was never taken away--our

humanity, our basic worth. Forgiveness helps us recognize that such equality has existed

unconditionally toward another. In sum, the equality we strive for injustice concerns


how we treat one another. The equality implied in forgiving others concerns who we are

regardless of how they treat us (Enright, Gassin, & Wu, 1992).

Forgiveness Is Not Pardonine

Forgiveness is an inner personal choice. Pardon is usually thought of as a public,

behavioral release, such as where a prisoner is set free from jail (Hunter, 1978) Yet, one

can forgive even as the other is serving a judicial sentence (Enright, Gassin, & Wu,

1992). Forgiveness is not incompatible with punishment. Forgiveness can follow

punishment. In fact, it may lead to a reconciliation as a result of the punishment. The

offender, through the punishment, may be led to acknowledge and feel remorse for one's

wrongdoing (Govier, 1999). Forgiveness demands the renunciation of vengeance, but it

does not require the abandonment ofjustice. Pope John Paul II, who forgave his would-

be assassin, never suggested that he should go unprosecuted or be released from prison.

There remains a consensus in the philosophical literature that pardon involves the

world of jurisprudence, not interpersonal relations (Downie, 1985; Hunter, 1978; Kolnai,

1973-74; Lauritzen, 1987; Murphy 1982; Murphy & Hampton, 1988; Smart, 1968;

Twambley, 1976). Forgiveness is separate from the judicial system. No court or law can

enforce forgiveness. A judge who deliberates on the fate of a criminal should never be

the one directly hurt by the breaking of the law. Forgiveness is a personal response to

one's own injury. We can still offer forgiveness and still bring legal justice to bear as

required by the situation. Cases of pardon usually involve a just authority overseeing

laws by which the degree of punishment is established for each violation. The authority

that commutes the sentence is rarely, if ever, the one personally hurt by the defendant

(Enright & HDSG, 1991b).

To exonerate by applying a statute of limitations (primarily a legal concept) has

practical consequences similar to those of forgiveness but also excludes a number of the

latter's conditions. It entails neither acknowledgment of wrongdoing nor offers assurance

of altered conduct in the future; it requires no assent on the part of the person harmed and

may in fact be contrary to the individuals wish. When a statute of limitations wipes the

legal slate clean, it cannot on its own clear the moral slate. It must come from the

individual. If anything, it possibly may add weight to the latter as the injury nullified

legally remains morally unrequited, leaving the person responsible for inflicting the

injury unmoved, untouched, and unrepentant by the judgment (Lang, 1994).

Forgiveness Is Not Reconciliation

Perhaps the most common misconception of forgiveness is to equate it with

reconciliation. A common argument against forgiveness is that it potentially leaves the

forgiver open to further abuse. This is invalid because it confuses reconciliation with

forgiveness. Forgiveness is a single individual's or group's stance toward another.

Reconciliation, though predicated on forgiveness, is distinct from it. Reconciliation

occurs when two people come together in a behavioral way. In the case of continual

abuse from an offender, a forgiver may realize that the other still does not wish or is

unable to offer respect and, under these circumstances, does not reconcile. The forgiver,

however, on his own volition can still reduce negative thoughts and behaviors and

increase positive ones toward the other and wait with expectant hope that the other

changes. Those who forgive are not blind to the other's faults but take steps to protect

themselves from any future harm (Enright & HDSG, 1996).

Forgiveness and reconciliation are occasionally confused even in the published

literature (e.g., Lauritzen, 1987) Forgiveness is an internal release; reconciliation is a

behavioral coming together again. Forgiveness may be a necessary prerequisite for

reconciliation, but reconciliation demands more. Forgiveness is not reconciliation or a

coming together again (Trainer, 1981). One may be able to forgive but not able to

reconcile with his/her transgressor. In fact, in certain contexts this distinction works in

favor of the victim. When a feeling of having been violated or victimized by another, or

when one senses that something unfair or unjust has transpired, one may be incapable to

consider reconciliation. In these contexts, therapeutic efforts that deliberately make the

distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation might facilitate the client's willingness

to address one's anger or hurt, which they may have previously resisted doing because to

do so would have seemed to imply that they were willing to contemplate reconciliation

(Fow, 1996).

Though reconciliation may be the result of forgiveness, forgiveness can be

obtained without the aid of reconciliation. Though there may not be reconciliation, there

is always the openness and willingness for that to take place (Smedes, 1984). While

forgiveness is an internal, psychological response to injury, reconciliation is a behavioral

coming together again, often following negotiation. It is possible for someone to forgive

without reconciliation, but one who forgives has the hope that the other may change

(Piaget, 1932). Forgivers leave open the door to reconciliation, but no one can compel the

offender to walk through it. In order for reconciliation to take place the offender must be

willing to change one's harmful behavior (Eastin, 1988).

Reconciliation can only occur if the offender is fully aware of the reality of the

wrong committed and is able to listen without defenses. The offender promises never

intentionally to hurt the forgiver again (Smedes, 1984). Forgiveness does not mean that

you knowingly or naively lay yourself open to certain abuse. You can forgive and then


limit or even end the relationship. The one who is forgiven is placed under no obligation

to the forgiver as a condition for forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a quid pro quo but rather

it is a gift freely bestowed. If there is to be an ongoing relationship, then the one forgiven

must try to learn from the mistakes and not reinjure anyone who has offered the gift of

forgiveness (Coleman, 1989). A forgiver extends loving acceptance, but the recipient

may either reject the offer or change and be willing to enter again into a relationship for

reconciliation to take place. Forgiveness occurs internally within a person, whereas

reconciliation occurs behaviorally between two people (Horsbrugh, 1974; Kolnai, 1973-

74; Enright et al., 1992).

These inadequate definitions of forgiveness warrant a suspicious attitude toward

forgiveness. This may be the reason why forgiveness is not viewed as a healthy option.

When one behaves from these false conceptions of forgiveness or even denies that one

had been offended or wounded, the individual has chosen a path that leads to unhealthy

responses. An individual certainly may choose to "be nice" and avoid confrontation in

the name of forgiveness, but this is definitely not forgiveness. Such tactics, rather than

heal, can ultimately result in seething anger, resentment, hatred, and grudge bearing that

ultimately leads to visions of revenge. Rather than change and improve the situation, it

can lead to a greater harm under the ideal of mercy and kindness. This surrendering or

"giving in" is a false type of forgiveness and likely will produce just the opposite effect.

Taken to its extreme, "giving in" may lead to a masochistic martyrdom that undermines

and severely damages one's self-esteem and personal integrity (Cunningham, 1985).

Definition of Forgiveness

It is by clarifying this concept of forgiveness that it can be better understood that

learning to forgive can be an important and perhaps core element in the therapeutic

process (Hope, 1987). Individual researcher's conceptualizations of forgiveness are quite

diverse. In particular, no consensual definition of forgiveness exists (Worthington, 1998).

In fact, some interpret the lack of consensus in definition to be one of the most glaring

drawbacks for promoting this counseling tool (Elder, 1998; Enright & Coyle, 1998;

Enright, Freedman, & Rique, 1998; Enright, Gassin, & Wu, 1992). That stated, the

following are offered as commonly understood definitions of forgiveness, concluding

with the operational definition for this study. All of the existing definitions seem to be

built on one core feature: When people forgive, their responses toward (or in other words,

what they think of, feel about, want to do to, or actually do to) people who have offended

or injured them become more positive and less negative. One moves from the negative

toward the positive.

Although a specific interpersonal offense (or a series of offenses) caused by a
specific person (or a group of persons) once elicited negative thoughts, feelings,
motivations, or behaviors directed toward the offender, these responses have
become more prosocial over time. (McCullough, Pargament, & Thoreson, 2000,
p. 9)

What Is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness is simply a special case of mercy directed at an injuring person.

Clinicians who help clients forgive agree that the forgiving journey may take time and

can be quite an ultra psychic struggle (Coleman, 1989; Enright & HDSG, 1991a;

Fitzgibbons, 1986; Hope, 1987). Despite the necessary effort, forgiving and receiving

forgiveness may be positively transforming and benefiting for self, the injurer, and the

communities (Gentilone & Regidor, 1986).

The philosophical literature is in general agreement that forgiving another person

occurs in the face of deep, unjust hurt (Kolnai, 1973-74; Murphy & Hampton, 1988). In

forgiving such an offense, the individual who forgives freely relinquishes the resentment,

hatred, and/or anger toward the other and replaces it with a stance of love and

compassion (North, 1987). The forgiver, well aware that the offender has no right to such

benevolence, offers it nonetheless (Piaget, 1932).

To clearly understand and appreciate the gift that is forgiveness, clarification is

given by the following four concepts, which are often are mistaken for the true gift of

forgiveness (Enright et al., 1998).

First, forgiveness is far more than a mere accepting or tolerating the injustice. In

contemporary culture, people talk about "moving on" or "putting the past behind us," but

this is not forgiveness. It falls short because the attitudes involved (benevolence,

goodwill, empathy) need room in our lives or hearts for the offender. When we forgive,

we make room in our lives or hearts for the perpetrator. North clarified forgiveness as

"outward-looking and other-directed" (North, 1998, p. 19).

Second, forgiveness is not the same as forgetting. A deep injustice suffered is

rarely, if ever, wiped from one's consciousness. When someone forgives, he or she still

remembers but in different ways from those before forgiveness occurs.

Third, forgiveness is more than holding back our anger toward the injurer. A

complete forgiveness position includes not only the cessation of the negative, most

notably the anger, but also the inclusion of the gift-like positive qualities, such as

compassion, goodwill, and empathy.

Forgiveness demands more than a neutral stance toward our perpetrator. It is not

enough to no longer desire retribution or revenge. One must be willing to extend a

positive outreach toward the offender. This challenging task is not embraced by all.

McGary (1989), representative of this position, believes that a forgiver need do nothing

more than cease resentment for the good of self and to others with whom one interacts.

Fourth, forgiveness is more than a self-remedy, a prescription to make oneself as

forgiver feel better. Forgiveness is outside focused and is a gift to others. The paradox is

that when a forgiver abandons the focus on self and gives this gift to the injurer, the

forgiver commonly experiences psychological healing (Enright et al., 1998).

In examining the psychological literature, one discovers that forgiveness is

described as a powerful therapeutic intervention and as an intellectual exercise in which

the injured makes the decision to forgive (Fitzgibbons, 1986). Forgiveness is a voluntary

act and decision about how one will positively deal with the past (Hope, 1987). It is an

erasing of the record of wrongs and a need for vengeance and resentments, as one

relinquishes the seat of condemnation and/or judgment of the offender (DiBlasio, 1992).

As Holmgren (1993) clarified, our intrinsic worth is not commensurate with some

imaginative score on a moral scale. All people are capable of error and good; and because

all people have this capacity for good, even the malefactor, we can then respect all

people, including the offender. Forgiveness displays respect toward the offender as a

moral agent.

The failure to understand this point of separating the person from the deed often

prevents forgiveness from taking place. Holmgren (1993) confirms that this thought is

based on Augustine's (397/1963) dictum of separating the offenders and offenses. We

continue to view realistically an unjust offense for what it is, wrong. Yet we still retain

good will toward the offender, not because of the unjust act but because he or she is a

person capable of good will. The forgiver, therefore, is showing respect for morality by

judging the offense as wrong, but the offender as at least capable of committing good

acts in the future.

Philosopher J. Kellenberger (1995) holds that forgiveness is morally possible

because of the inherent value of all persons. Kellenberger notes that the moral status of

an offender may be troublesome and difficult, but that does not diminish or eradicate his

or her inherent worth as a person. Forgiveness is a relational stance of acceptance and

belief in the unchanging inherent worth of another person even after judging the action

wrong. This arduous task of mastery over a wound and the process through which an

injured person first fights off, then embraces, then conquers a situation that nearly

destroyed him/her (Flanigan, 1992), both intrapsyhically and interpersonally (Benson,

1992), and giving up one's right to hurt back proceeds through forgiveness (Pingleton,


Forgiveness is a broad topic whose definition encompasses many facets. There

are many angles that one may focus on in defining the term. A truly comprehensive

definition of forgiveness needs to integrate not only the cognitive, affective, and

behavioral components but also the volitional, motivational, spiritual, religious, and

interpersonal aspects of forgiveness (Gorsuch & Hao, 1993). Pingleton (1989) holds that

the spiritual dimension of forgiveness is an important and essential component of

forgiveness as well as the volitional element. Monbourquette (1992) stresses how

forgiveness encompasses the whole person, for in forgiving all our faculties are

mobilized: intellect, judgment, imagination, and faith.

Studzinski (1986) defines forgiveness as a willful process in which the forgiver

chooses not to retaliate but rather respond to the offender in a compassionate way.

Walters (1984) sees forgiveness as a voluntary process that usually demands courage and

multiple acts of the will to complete. He views forgiveness as a needed and essential

process due to the destructiveness of not forgiving, and he asserts that to forgive is to


give up all claims on the offender, including letting go of the emotional consequences of

the hurt. In Walters' stringent view, the offended has two alternatives in dealing with the

hurt: to be destroyed by resentment leading to death psychologically, emotionally, or

even physically or to forgive which leads to healing and life. This sense of forgiveness as

eradicating the negative consequences of the offender's injustice and a merciful reaching

out to the offender is consistent with ancient Hebrew, Christian, Islamic, and Confucian


Cunningham (1985) views forgiveness as more than an act of the will in changing

one's heart to one's offender:

Forgiving is an act of the will that seeks wholeness and opens one's self to the
expensive process of change and transformation. It is a process of willing that
allows one to be less willful, less demanding, and less dogmatic. Forgiving is a
process whereby one is restoring a relationship with God that gracefully comes as
a harmony with life and a renewed courage to be vital and live in risk It is an
experience that confirms us in the knowledge that as we forgive, we are forgiven
(p. 149)

The process of forgiveness enables one to change, grow, and evolve into a more

mature individual characterized by an enlightened self-awareness. Forgiving another

requires that a person confront one's feelings, values, motives, and needs as well as one's

own inclinations toward pride and self-righteousness. The forgiver challenges his/her

own demands for perfection, both for oneself and others as well as the unrealistic

demands for others to relate perfectly to oneself and to meet and fulfill one' needs.

Forgiveness involves the humble task of confronting one's own level of immaturity, state

of sinfulness, imperfection, and irresponsibility (Cunningham, 1985).

Augsburger (1981) defines forgiveness as "a release from a whole spectrum of

negative emotions like fear; anger, suspicion, loneliness alienation, and mistrust" (p. 68).

Pargament (1997) offers a rather lofty, metaphysical definition of forgiveness:

Forgiveness is a process of re-creation a transformational method of coping, often
religious in nature, that involves a basic shift in destinations and pathways in
living. Through this process, the individual departs from a life centered on pain
and injustice and begins to pursue a dream of peace. Toward this end the person
starts to think, feel, and act in very different ways about him- or herself, the
offender, and the world more generally. (p. 303)

From these definitions we process five essential points in understanding

forgiveness (Enright & HDSG, 1996):

1. The one who forgives has suffered a deep hurt, which elicits resentment.
2. The offended person has a moral right to resentment, but overcomes it
3. A new response to the other emerges, including compassion and love.
4. This loving response occurs despite the realization that there is no obligation to
love the offender (Hebl & Enright, 1993).
5. We realize the other person has no moral right to that love, but we nevertheless
freely give it (North, 1987).

Foundational Definition

The foundational definition of forgiveness is shaped primarily from North's

(1987) perspective. She defines forgiveness in the following passage: "Forgiveness is a

matter of a willed change of heart, the successful result of an active endeavor to replace

bad thoughts with good, bitterness and anger with compassion and affection" (p. 506). It

should be noted that North acknowledges two psychological characteristics of a

forgiver's affect: a cessation of negative affect (e.g., resentment, anger) and the presence

of positive affect (e.g., compassion, love). The same holds true for judgments or

cognitive components. There is the letting go of condemning judgments and the presence

of more favorable judgments (Enright & HDSG, 1991a). There also can be the cessation

of negative behaviors (e.g., revenge, for example) and the presence of positive behaviors

(e.g., helpfulness, overtures toward reconciliation). This process of forgiveness includes

six key components: absence of negative affect, judgment, and behavior toward an

offender and the presence of positive affect, judgment, and behavior toward the same

offender. These occur in the face of deep, unwarranted hurt (Enright & HDSG, 1991b).

It is from this foundation that Enright and the Human Development Study Group

developed their working definition adhering to those same core elements: a change in

cognition and affect but now including behavior, how one acts toward one's offender, as

well. It is this definition of forgiveness that involves the three key components,

cognition, affection and behavior that is the basis for this research and is arguably the

most comprehensively formulated and clearly articulated definition in the psychological

literature. In addition, this definition has been operationalized in the Enright Forgiveness

Inventory (Subkoviak et al., 1992) thus providing a means for quantitatively measuring

levels of interpersonal forgiveness in the affective, behavioral, and cognitive domains.

The definition is the following:

Forgiveness is the overcoming of negative affect and judgment toward the
offender, not by denying ourselves the right to such affect and judgment but by
endeavoring to view the offender with benevolence, compassion, and even love,
while recognizing that he or she has abandoned the right to them. (Subkoviak et
al., 1992, p. 3)

This process is quite involved and complex when we realize that forgiveness

involves the total person's affective, cognitive, and behavioral systems and spiritually.

When one forgives, certain elements are subtracted from each system. Negative

emotions, such as anger, hatred, resentment, sadness, or contempt, are given up

(Richards, 1988). Often this may occur slowly, but it is eventually accomplished if

pursued diligently. In the cognitive system, one ceases condemning judgments and the

planning of revenge where this was occurring. In the behavioral system, one no longer

acts out the primordial motive of revenge (if such were occurring, however subtle)

(Enright & HDSG, 1991b).

When one forgives, certain elements are added to each system. In the affective

system, the negative emotions are replaced by more neutral emotions and eventually by

positive affect, such as agape (see Cunningham, 1985; Downie, 1965; North, 1987). The

latter includes the willingness, through compassion and love, to help the other. In the

cognitive system, the offender may feel justified in holding onto the negative emotions,

yet is willing to forego them (North, 1987). Where there once were negative thoughts,

now positive thoughts emerge toward the other, such as wishing them well (Smedes,

1984) and viewing them respectfully as a moral equal (Cunningham, 1985). In the

behavioral realm, there is a willingness to join in "loving community" with the other,

with the hopes of possible friendship. There may even be steps taken to initiate and

foster a friendship. Such overtures will depend on true change in the other. There is the

potential for the forgiver to experience not only an inner release but a healed relationship

(Augsburger, 1981).

This description of forgiveness can be further deepened and clarified by the

following 13 points (Enright & HDSG, 1991a).

1. Interpersonal forgiveness is between people, not between a person and an
inanimate object (Kolnai, 1973-74; Lambert, 1985; Murphy, 1982;
Smedes, 1984).

One does not forgive hurricanes or floods. The willingness to join again in loving

community with a hurricane most certainly would be absent.

2. Forgiveness follows a deep, personal, long lasting injury or hurt from the
other person.

The injury will vary; it might be psychological, emotional, physical, or moral

(Kolnai, 1973-74; Murphy, 1982; Murphy & Hampton, 1988; Smedes, 1984). In real life

a deep injury may very well involve all of these areas at once (Eastin, 1988).


O'Shaunghnessy (1967) claims that the relationship must be personal, which would then

exclude those who hurt us but are strangers to us. The forgiver, therefore, does not

forgive the Nazis for the Holocaust unless he or she was personally involved (Gingell,

1974). Nevertheless, we acknowledge personal, indirect involvement, for example,

children whose parents are Holocaust survivors. On their part they are able to forgive the


3. The offense is an objective reality, not merely a perception by the one

Kahrhoff(1988), in contrast, claims, "Everything that happens outside our minds

is neutral" (p. 3). In this view, an offense can be so only if we perceive it as such. We

acknowledge, for example, individual differences in physical abuse victims' perception

of the violence. No one due to various factors will experience the same depth or duration

of emotional distress as another, yet all will experience a certain emotional pain because

of the objective occurrence.

4. Forgiveness is possible only when a person has a sense of justice.

One cannot feel a deep sense of moral injury without a sense of fairness

(Brandsma, 1982; Hunter, 1978; Kohlberg & Power, 1981). This implies that children as

young as four or five might not only need but be able to forgive (Enright, Franklin, &

Manheim, 1980).

5. There is usually an initial reaction by the injured party toward the injurer.

The injured may pass throughout the stages similar to grief, that is, one of

experiencing the hurt as profound, followed by shock or disbelief, and culminating in

anger or even hatred (Eastin, 1988; Fitzgibbons, 1986; Linn & Linn, 1978; Smedes,


6. With the passing of time, the injured party no longer seeks retaliation
(Hughes, 1975).

This is an internal response by the one injured (Droll, 1984), and may involve

giving up of narcissistic tendencies of disavowing the hurt (Cunningham, 1985).

7. It is not necessary for the offender to apologize for the injured person to
forgive (North, 1987; Twambley, 1976).

Forgiveness is not based on the other's repentance (McCullough, Sandage, &

Worthington, 1997). In his book, Bound to Forgive, Father Jenco (1995) describes an

encounter with yet another captor shortly before his release. Sayeed, a guard who had

beaten Father Jenco several times asked the priest if he remembered the first six months

of his captivity (when most of the abuse took place). Father Jenco responded that he did

remember all the pain and suffering Sayeed had caused him and the other hostages.

"Abouna, do you forgive me?" Father Jenco recounts his reactions:

These quietly spoken words overwhelmed me. As I sat blindfolded, unable to see
the man who had been my enemy, I understood I was called to forgive, to let go
of revenge, retaliation, and vindictiveness. And I was challenged to forgive him
unconditionally. I could not forgive him on the condition that he changes his
behavior to conform to my wishes or values. I had no control over his response. I
understood I was to say yes. (p. 14).

If this were not true the offended may be caught in a web of unforgiveness. If the

offender were to die before a change of heart, the offended is trapped in unforgiveness

(O'Shaughnessy, 1967). Further a gift given need not await a prior inviting response

from the other person. In fact, many see it as wedded to the unconditional self-giving

character of forgiveness (Cunningham, 1985; Downie, 1965; Smedes, 1984; Torrance,


8. The offender need not have intended the wrong (Downie, 1965).

9. Naturally, the difficulty in arriving at a forgiveness solution will vary with
such external variables as the severity of the offense our disposition at the

time and the quality of the relationship prior to the injury (Newman,

It will also vary with such internal psychological qualities in the offended person

as their ability to understand forgiveness and to chose a forgiveness, in contrast to a

justice, problem-solving strategy.

10. It is not always the case that only one party offends and the other is

As Beatty (1970) insists, forgiveness is relational. Thus, it is conceivable to have

an offended offender. Consider an unjustly fired worker who writes a scathing letter to

their former boss. The boss is both offender and now offended by the letter. Both may

need to forgive the other.

11. Trust is vital when one is entering into a relationship again with the

In certain cases, such as continual and chronic abuse, one can forgive without

trust in this one problematic area and without reconciling. The forgiver does see the other

as human but realistically acknowledges their inability at that present time to change in

the one area (Enright, Gassin, & Wu, 1992).

12. Forgiving has the power both to transform self and the other because of
the sincere love extended to the other.

Forgiveness in some cases may not only restore the relationship to its original

quality but also may enhance and improve what was once damaged (Enright, Gassin, &

Wu, 1992).

13. Forgiveness must always be a free choice and should never be forced
either overtly or subtly onto a person. A gift must be freely offered and
freely received (Enright et al., 1992).

In summary, Enright & HDSG (1991a) describes a psychological response, which

is forgiveness that includes six components: absence of negative affect, judgment, and

behavior toward an offender and the presence of positive affect, judgment, and behavior

toward the same offender. These occur in the face of a deep offense against them.

Challenge of Forgiveness

Forgiveness has been an extremely complex phenomenon to operationalize for

empirical investigation. The act of forgiveness must not be forced on a person who is not

open or ready to forgive. The utility of encouraging forgiveness is also in question if

clients lack desire to forgive (Cunningham, 1985). Forgiving out of a sense of duty or

fear of retaliation may produce the opposite effect of increased negative emotions and

thoughts regarding the offense and the offender over time (Trainer, 1981). Counselors

who suggest forgiveness as a means of healing should also be sure that the client's

motive for forgiving is to achieve the positive benefits of forgiving and not employ it as a

means for revenge or self-righteousness. If so, it may exacerbate the negative emotions

concerning the offense and the offender (McCullough & Worthington, 1994a).

As forgiveness is such a demanding and complex task many often fail to meet the

above mention criteria. In the effort to forgive, such challenging questions may arise in

the process of forgiving. Have I truly forgiven if I still retain some resentment? Have I

forgiven if I am unable to resume a former relationship; if I am wary of my offender?

Understanding that the process of forgiveness is so involved and ongoing, Nelson (1992)

developed Categories of Forgiveness. They were designed to help clarify the various

degrees and levels of forgiveness. Nelson has introduced into the literature three types of

forgiveness: detached forgiveness, limited forgiveness, and complete forgiveness.

Detached forgiveness is a "reduction in negative affect toward the offender, but no

restoration of the relationship" (Nelson, 1992, p. 4381). Limited forgiveness is a

"reduction in negative affect toward the offender and partial restoration of an increased

emotional investment in the relationship" (p. 4381). Full forgiveness includes "total

cessation of negative affect towards the offender and full restoration and growth of the

relationship" (p. 4381). Nelson's findings suggest that the type of offense and the degree

of relationship prior to the offense are predictors of the type of forgiveness a person

attempts (Flanagan, 1992). These categories, though helpful, do not equate to North's

(1987) or Enright and the Human Development Study Group's (1991a) definition. Their

goal of forgiveness is to achieve a complete wiping away of resentment and is a desire

for communion, if possible, which would only correspond to the third category of

complete forgiveness. As well, it makes the common mistake of mistaking forgiveness

with reconciliation. Forgiveness is not reconciliation (Trainer, 1981)

In analyzing this process of forgiveness, Trainer (1981) was the first to undertake

an empirical research on the psychology of interpersonal forgiveness. Examining 73

divorced and separated participants, she found three characteristic patterns:

1. Role-expected forgiveness that is behaviorally demonstrated, but internally void
of the proper attitude. The person may say he or she forgives, but still harbors
fear, anxiety and resentment. Forgiveness is externally motivated by a grim
obligation to do so.

2. Expedient forgiveness, also entails an overt gesture of forgiving behavior but is
accompanied by condescension and hostility. Forgiveness is seen as the means to
the end of showing a certain superiority over the other because the offended had

3. Intrinsic forgiveness, which is a genuine form of forgiveness and actually the only
example of true forgivingness, is demonstrated by an overt gesture of kindness
toward the offender and internal transformations from resentment to beneficence
and goodwill. The forgiving is active, genuine, and healing.

Trainer, by her work, has contributed to the understanding of forgiveness by

developing a conceptual framework with types of forgiveness and the common and

unique processes associated with these types can be operationalized. Though she uses the

word forgiveness for each type, which would not adhere to this paper's position based on

Enright's definition (Enright & HDSG, 1991a), it does highlight the stages that one goes

through in the process of forgiving. It also initiates and points the way to empirically test

some of the hypothesized relationships. Trainer pioneered the development of a

Forgiveness Scale and a three-fold typology of forgiveness to facilitate investigation into

the dynamics underlying forgiveness attitudes and behaviors of 73 divorced and

separated male and female respondents. The category, called General forgiveness,

encompasses all the elements of the three typologies proposed by Trainer: role-expected,

expedient, and intrinsic forgiveness. General forgiveness involves one or more of the

following elements: (a) overt gestures of forgiveness; (b) cessation of overt hostile

responses;(c) management of hostile impulses, gradual letting go of resentment; (d) re-

emergence of positive attitudes and feelings toward the one who has done the injury; and

(e) gestures of good will. This compares quite favorably to the definition of both North

(1987) and Enright & HDSG (1991b).

The first typology of forgiveness is Role-expected forgiveness, which exhibits the

outward manifestation of forgiveness but lacks the internal motivation to forgive. It

displays an overt manifestation of forgiving behavior but is accompanied by such

negative emotions as fear, anxiety, and resentment. According to Trainer, Role-expected

forgiveness includes: (a) overt gestures and words of forgiveness, (b) cessation of hostile

responses, together with (c) a tremendous amount of resentment. The underlying

motivation in Role-expected Forgiveness is not from the individual's belief system but

from a forced compliance to externally exposed norms. The Role-expected forgiver may

outwardly comply with the expectations of self or the expectations of some external

authority because of the lack of will to fight back or feeling too weak or helpless to

confront the transgressor. The Role-expected forgiver conforms to perceived role

expectations without any inner transformation and release (Trainer, 1981, p. 71).

The expedient forgiveness typology consists in an overt manifestation of

forgiving behavior performed as a means to an end and accompanied by condescension,

resentment, and hostility. Expedient forgiveness, like Role-expected forgiveness,

contains the first two elements of General forgiveness (a) overt gestures and words of

forgiveness, and (b) cessation of overt hostile responses. Trainer (1981) claimed,

expedient forgiveness functions as a power strategy whereby one asserted
superiority devaluing both the injury and the one who injured. It accomplished
revenge in subtle ways through a condescending forgiveness or through the
transference of the task of retaliation to God or to life. (pp. 71-72)

Intrinsic forgiveness stems from an inner conviction that is characterized by an

inner change in attitudes and feelings toward the one who had done the injury, as well as

by benevolent behavior. Intrinsic forgiveness derives from a personal decision to freely

disengage from hostile behaviors and to dismiss harboring hostile attitudes, thoughts,

fantasies, and feelings. Intrinsic forgiveness involves all five elements in the general

definition: (a) overt gestures of forgiveness, (b) cessation of overt hostile responses,

(c) management of hostile impulses, gradual letting go of resentment; (d) re-emergence

of positive attitudes and feelings toward the one who has done the injury; and (e) gestures

of good will.

Trainer (1981) stated that intrinsic forgiveness entails five steps: (a) disengaging

from hostile impulses, (b) restoring a person's sense of self-worth or personhood,

(c) moving out into activities where one encounters the possibility of being hurt again,

(d) displaying a willingness to reexamine the hurtful event and broader ways of

constructing others that may give rise to reemergence of benevolence towards the other,


and, the final step, (e) "the person re-experiences closeness to the other, and the vitality

and joy of reconciliation with self, and under certain conditions between self and the

other" (p. 47).

The Process of Foreivine

"Forgiving is not pretending that things are other than they are. Forgiveness is not

cheap. It is facing the ghastliness of what has happened and giving the other person the

opportunity of coming out of that ghastly situation"(Tutu, 1995).

Forgiveness is not cheap nor is it an easy process. It can be at times messy,

challenging, and demanding. Forgiveness is seldom simple, linear, fast, or even

necessarily complete. "Forgiveness is not a clear-cut, one-time decision (Simon &

Simon, 1990, p. 17). No matter how sincere and earnest one may be to forgive,

forgiveness takes time. In fact, anger may remain after forgiveness (Van Biema & Cole,

1999). Forgiveness as an option is not easy. It requires time, risk, and the possibility of

being wounded again. It is a decision to let go of the past and recommit oneself to the

future unaware of what lies ahead.

Forgiveness originates from the decision to act lovingly even though you are

justified in refraining from loving. By forgiving you are not stating that you agree with

what was done but that you refuse to reject the other for their unjust act. Forgiveness

requires a strength and at times an extraordinary leap of faith. It allows the forgiver to be

vulnerable to being hurt again. Forgiveness does not require that you knowingly place

yourself in harm's way (Coleman, 1998).

Forgiveness is difficult precisely because it requires that we make comprehensive

changes in who we are and how we relate to others. It involves the whole person.

Forgiveness is such a demanding task that it requires a certain maturation on the part of

the individual. In this process one confronts one's own shortcomings and weaknesses.

There is no way that we can live a rich life unless we are willing to suffer
repeatedly, experiencing depression and despair, fear and anxiety, grief and
sadness, anger and the agony of forgiving, confusion and doubt, criticism and
rejection. A life lacking these emotional upheavals will not only be useless to
ourselves; it will be useless to others. We cannot heal without being willing to be
hurt. (Peck, 1987, pp. 226-227)

Enright et al. (1991a) examined a unique developmental issue in forgiving. They

focused on the conditions under which a person is willing to forgive. Their

developmental analysis suggested that children sometimes confuse forgiveness with

revenge. Adolescents on the other hand, forgive under the conditions of social pressure,

such as demands or pressures from peers, family, or certain institutions. Only in late

adolescence and adulthood do they see and have unconditional understanding of

forgiveness based on the internal working moral principles of beneficence and love

towards an offender.

How Do People Forgive

How do people forgive? It is quite rare that it is immediate, one step, one act

behavior. Typically, there is a process with its loops forwards and backwards and with its

struggles and successes. The following describe various processes in the path of

forgiveness. Though distinct, they share these five common interpersonal processes:

(a) experiencing an awareness of negative psychological consequences, (b) developing a

sense of need for resolution; (c) deciding among restitution strategies; (d) examining

motives for forgiveness; (e) deciding to forgive. (Enright & HDSG, 1991a; Romig &

Veenstra, 1998).

Forgiveness requires that we develop a forgiving character (McCullough,

Sandage, & Worthington, 1997). Forgiveness follows a deep, long-lasting injury from the

other person. The injury may be psychological, emotional, physical, or moral (Smedes,

1984). The need for forgiveness begins with a wound. A wound violates physical, moral,

or psychological boundaries. Having suffered, the person then organizes his or her

thoughts and psychological defenses to protect injured boundaries (Means, Wilson,

Sturm, & Biron, 1990). The injury often damages the injured person's worldview or

philosophy of the world as they comprehend that we do not necessarily live in a "just"

world (Flanigan, 1987).

Essentially, when we are deeply hurt, it is about one or a combination of three


1. Loss of love or lovability.
2. Loss of self-esteem.
3. Loss of control or influence.

The person wishing to forgive must begin by asking, "What loss have I incurred?"

Determining the areas) of loss then points the person in a direction of healing. It informs

the person what needs to be repaired. Now the individual, if willing, can commence the

arduous task of forgiveness (Coleman, 1998).

Forgiveness declares both an assertion and an affirmation. As an assertion, one

confronts the unhealthy, destructive, ill-motivated, unacceptable behavior head on. One

neither condones the offense nor overlooks the wrong done, but one refuses to limit the

person to this behavior nor hold that this behavior is the sum measure of what the person

is in their deepest self. One asserts at times with enormous effort that this person

possesses worth no matter what decisions, choices, or actions were committed or

intentions are held. In forgiving another, one honors the healthy, the constructive, the

right motivated, the responsible center of the person. One consciously chooses to affirm

and to believe that this is the real, the possible, the acceptable, and the accountable core

of the person. One returns to that real center no matter what has surfaced into the

relationship (Augsburger, 1988).

How does an individual arrive to this healing state? How may a counselor enable

a client wounded by an injustice to attain a positive, healthy outlook? In some therapeutic

strategies, one may typically have the client explore the past, discover and express

repressed feelings about past events, but is that sufficient? How does a person free

oneself from the pain of a major disappointment, injustice, humiliation, victimization, or

assault in order to live more productively in the present? There are differences of

opinions and approaches regarding this essential stage in therapy. In individual therapy it

is the stage in which working through old wounds via the transference relationship is

important. There is the model of mourning the past and letting go of old injuries, and

through this process one learns to accept the past. Yet, both the concepts of letting go and

acceptance are somewhat passive in nature. What is being required is that one accept or

let go of incidents that bum with injustice and unfairness, that have resulted in patterns of

feelings and behavior so upsetting and destructive that it has brought the person to

therapy in the first place.

How does one accept the unacceptable? This problem so challenged the

psychotherapeutic field that it led some to consider and examine forgiveness as a viable

means for restoration of one's well being. Forgiveness is seen as part of the

psychotherapeutic process by a number of authors (Coleman, 1989; Fitzgibbons, 1986;

Hope, 1987; Wapnick, 1985). Psychotherapy initially includes a shedding of

psychological defenses, which involves the client admitting that they were deeply hurt by

another. Subsequently, this is followed by a dialogue between the two people to better

understand how and why the hurt occurred. Eventually, forgiveness occurs in which the

one hurt abandons resentment in favor of understanding and unity.

This process of forgiveness is necessary to restore one's self-respect and peace of

mind. Margaret Holmgren (1993) claims that victims of wrongdoing must work through

a process of responding to that wrongdoing in order to reach a state of genuine

forgiveness. This process is central to the restoration of a victim's self-respect, and that

forgiveness would be psychologically and ethically inappropriate whenever this is

incomplete. Holmgren argues that this process is always appropriate regardless whether

the offender repents or not. The following is an outline to identify the task an individual

may need to complete if they are to respect oneself and truly forgive their offender.

First, the victim of wrongdoing must recover their self-esteem. Implicit in the

wrongdoer's act of abuse is the claim that the victim is not valuable. If John were to

sexually abuse Jane, he is implicitly claiming that her needs and feelings are not

important or at the very least that they don't count as much as his. Thus, the victims must

clarify for themselves that the claim implicit in the act of wrongdoing is false. Crucial is

the recognition that the individual is just as valuable as every other person and that their

needs and feelings matter very much. They must come to see that the wrongdoer is

seriously confused about her/his status as a person. If the individual were to attempt to

forgive the wrongdoer before this step is taken, the forgiveness will not be fully

appropriate. Until the victim is assured about one's own worth, he or she would fail to

sufficiently respect his/herself. Further, this type of forgiveness is not complete nor is it

fully genuine. It amounts to condoning the wrong rather than forgiving the wrongdoer. In

order truly to forgive the offender, the victim must first understand the nature of the

wrongdoing and to do so, one must recognize one's own status as a person.

A second task for the victim of wrongdoing is that they must recognize that the

perpetration against them was wrong, and they must also understand why it was wrong.

That is, they must understand that they have certain rights and that anyone who violates

those rights wrongfully harms them.

Third, the victim of wrongdoing faces the task of acknowledging one's feelings.

A decent person will typically feel anger toward someone who harms her/him. The

individual will also grieve over the loss, and, depending on the circumstances, may

experience an array of conflicting emotions. In order to respect oneself, the injured

person must honor such feelings and give oneself permission to experience them in full.

One must recognize that these feelings are basic and legitimate human reactions to what

has happened-reactions that will help to understand what is so stressful about the

incident. The victim must also recognize that it is psychologically destructive to deny

these feelings, and that by doing so, one is prolonging the harm. Thereby, victims who

attempt to cut off their emotions in order to forgive the offender fail to respect

themselves. By denying this integral part of one's humanity, one deprives oneself of an

opportunity to understand the incident with all its ramifications and treats oneself in a

psychologically destructive manner. This type of forgiveness, if one may use this label, is

inappropriate to the extent that it is incompatible with the victim's self-respect. In

genuine forgiveness, the injured person must overcome any negative feelings held toward

the offender because of the offense. These feelings cannot be overcome in any

meaningful sense until they are acknowledged. Until the victim fully experiences

emotions with all the pain, a genuine internal resolution of the issue will be forestalled.

Fourth, depending on the circumstances, it may be important and necessary for

the victim to express these beliefs to the wrongdoer. The individual may need to tell the

wrongdoer that the action was wrong, and that it is not acceptable to be treated in this

manner. The individual does so unless this course of action would be dangerous or

detrimental to oneself or to others. At the very least, the individual should not withhold

feelings under the false assumption that these feelings are not valid or important, or not

as important as the wrongdoer's.

Fifth, the victim of the perpetration faces the task of assessing the situation with

respect to the offender. If the victims are to respect themselves and avoid being hurt

again, they must consider the wrongdoer's attitude and behavior patterns. The injured

person must determine the steps necessary to avoid further victimization. The

self-respecting victim's goal, then, is to not forget the incident altogether but to reach a

point where the incident is no longer remembered vindictively or is not allowed to

interfere with an attitude of real goodwill toward the offender.

The final task for the victim of wrongdoing is to determine whether to seek

restitution from the offender. In order to achieve self-respect, the victim must recognize

that he/she has been wrongfully harmed and deserves restitution where possible. Respect

for one's own integrity also requires that the individual look objectively and with some

compassion at the wrongdoer's situation. One must then make a mature, reasoned

judgment about how one wishes to proceed. If the victim overlooks this task in an

attempt to hasten the process of forgiveness, the victim exhibits a lack of self-respect;

and the state of genuine forgiveness is also forestalled or forfeited. In this case, the victim

has not achieved a full internal resolution of the issue. The incident will not be brought to

closure until the victim determines the course of action with respect to seeking


These steps permit the victim to heal and restore self-respect. Once initiating

these steps, the victim can now let go of the hurt and pain and focus inward. The victim

now has the freedom and opportunity to take a more objective and compassionate

perspective (Holmgren, 1993).

There are other processes that are worth examining. McCullough and

Worthington, (1994a) constructed a developmental progression of understanding

forgiveness that is far more involved than most. Their progression is consistent with the

investigations of both Trainer's (1981) and Enright et al. (1989) in that the patterns

concern people's reasoning in the areas of strategy used to forgive, the external and

internal manifestation of forgiving, and the conditions under which forgiving is offered.

The progression follows the logic of Selman's (1980) social perspective-taking and

Kohlberg's (1985) moral development descriptions. There is movement from concrete to

subtler abstract thought forms, and from emphases on the external to the internal. There

is an increase in cognitive complexity as more involved reciprocal perspective follows.

Finally, there is the transformation from the situational, as the person may or may not

offer forgiveness to the exercise of more internally consistent principles. This suggests

that as individuals develop cognitive skills, they become more able to take the

perspectives of others, to empathize with their predicaments and shortcomings, and to

value and accept them as people despite the pain they have inflicted in the past

(McCullough &Worthington, 1994a). (See Table 2-1).

Romig and Veenstra (1998) postulate a simpler, more concise four step process:

1. View the offender's behavior in context (Hargrave 1994).
2. Develop empathy toward the offender (Cunningham, 1985).
3. Identify with the act by the offender to gain compassion (Benson, 1992).
4. Realize the individual has needed forgiveness from others in the past
(Cunningham, 1985).

Fitzgibbons (1986) further condensed the process to two monumental steps. He

states that forgiveness emerges after the therapist has analyzed the origins of the client's

pain and after the client has spent considerable time on the cognitive level of

understanding what forgiveness is. The intellectual decision to forgive is then followed

by emotional forgiveness, which reduces anger, making healing possible. Hope's (1987)

view of forgiveness is somewhat paradoxical. As the client gives up the right to revenge

or power and assumes a more humble position, it is then that the client feels empowered.

Wapnick (1985) encourages the client to reinterpret past events. The objective is to

challenge the client's distorted ways of thinking and of perceiving other people, thus

liberating the client from unwanted and excessive guilt, anger, and other dysfunctional

patterns that result from the distortions.

Table 2-1. The Development of Forgiveness

Pattern (1)
Revengeful Forgiveness Strategies: One considers ways to get back at the
offender. Overt aggression is considered.
External manifestations such as words or gestures are indicative of the
person's forgiveness; internal hostility may remain and may be openly
Physical or psychological revenge or compensation must occur before
forgiveness is possible.
External Forgiveness Strategies: One uses passive coping strategies while
remaining angry.
Pattern (2)
External manifestations are indicative of forgiveness. The person is aware
of inner frustrations festering but suppresses them.
Pressures from social groups to forgive are sufficient to elicit forgiveness.
Internal Forgiveness Strategies: One actively seeks to understand the
other's motives and thoughts and to reinterpret the event in light of the
perspectives of self and other.
Pattern (3)
Forgiveness is primarily an internal activation of the beneficence principle
which promotes inner release and possibly reconciliation.
Forgiveness occurs unconditionally out of the principle of beneficence or

Source: McCullough & Worthington, 1994a

Cunningham (1985) offers his own four stages in the process stressing the

challenge and strenuous task in the act of forgiving.

1. Judgment versus denial. Forgiving is not a nice and neat endeavor to undertake.
On the contrary, it means willingness to die to oneself within realities that are
painful in others as well as in one's self.

2. Humility versus humiliation. When offended and wounded, many of us have a
natural tendency to internalize the injury and turn it against ourselves. This results
in the painful state of humiliation that leads to the view of one's self and one's
offender as adversarial and alien to one another.

3. The opportunity of mutuality and negotiation. In this stage the forgiver becomes
different; he or she becomes open to change and growth. He or she becomes free
from the need and desire to accuse and the compelling need to punish and to seek

4. Forgiveness. This is characterized by the actual living out of the forgiving process
where perspectives on one's self, others, and God take place. This transforming
stage of forgiving is the ongoing process of redefining one's relationship with the
offender based upon an enlightened awareness of one's self and the offender. It is
being conscious of not only of his or her limitations and capacities for sin and
evil, but also of his or her kinship and commonality in humanness under God.
Here, relationships are renegotiated and entrusted with new promises and new
hope and new covenants are formed.

Underlying all these processes there are three commonly recognized general

stages, whether stated or implied, preceding the final stage, forgiveness. There is the hurt

stage, the anger stage, and the information-seeking stage (Linn & Linn, 1978). These

factors are ordinarily found in most processes of forgiveness. To enflesh this process, it is

helpful to look at other factors that are involved in the challenge of forgiveness. There

are at least eight factors that relate to the ability to forgive-four to consider in

relationship to the offended party and four that relate to the offender. The factors

associated with the offender are the following:

1. Severity of wrong-the more severe the more difficult it is to forgive.

2. The offender acknowledges the offense and is genuinely sorrowful for the
outcome. It is more likely that forgiveness will be experienced.

3. Intentionality.

4. Frequency-infractions that are committed again and again are harder to forgive
when all other factors are constant.

The four factors relating to the offended that facilitate or impede forgiveness are

the following:

1. If the offended person has a deep commitment to the individual who offended
them, the person is more likely to be willing and able to forgive in order to restore
the relationship.

2. Ego-strength of the offended person. Those who do not posses a strong healthy
self-love will be more likely to hold grudges and not be as able to reframe
situations so as to find good coming from bad situations.

3. Decision to forgive on the part of the offended can be a crucial mitigating factor.

4. The person's personal history with forgiveness may make a difference. If a person
has been forgiven, they may find it easier to forgive. (Rosenak & Harden, 1992)

Anger and Forgiveness

Fitzgibbons (1986) clarifies the process of forgiveness through the understanding

of anger and its role in healing. "Anger is a strong feeling of displeasure and antagonism

aroused by a sense of injury or wrong" (p. 64). Soon after a hurt or disappointment, this

emotion occurs and is closely associated with a degree of sadness from the hurt. Anger

and how to deal with it is often a stumbling block in the forgiving process.

Anger develops as a natural inborn response of the failure of others to meet one's

needs for love, praise, acceptance, and justice and may be experienced any place where

there is human interaction, be it in the home, school, community, and place of

employment. The experience of anger can lead to a desire for revenge, which does not

diminish until the presence of the resentful feelings is recognized and subsequently

resolved. Without this recognition and release, anger can be displaced for many years and

erupt decades later toward the undeserving as in loving relationships or with significant

others. It will not be fully resolved until a conscious decision is made to liberate oneself

from the desire for revenge and to forgive.

Three basic mechanisms are used to deal with this emotion: conscious or

unconscious denial; active- or passive-aggression expression, and forgiveness. Denial is

the major coping strategy for dealing with anger in early childhood. As a result of denial,

most people carry into their adult lives significant amounts of unconscious anger from

their family of origin. The active expression of anger may be appropriate, excessive, or

misdirected. The passive-aggressive expression of anger directs this emotion toward

others in a covert manner while the person acts as though they are not angry.

Many mental health professionals have viewed the appropriate expression of

anger as the more healthy way to deal with this emotion (Freud, 1963; Janov, 1970;

Novoca, 1975; Rubin, 1970). In Fitzgibbons' (1998) view the expression of anger is

valuable and healthy; but when relied on solely for relief, serious problems can develop

because of the degree and intensity of unresolved anger from previous disappointments

encountered in childhood, adolescence, and adult life. The reenactment of past traumatic

events accompanied by the expression of anger toward those who inflicted pain does not

fully resolve the anger experienced in different life stages. Nor does the expression of

anger result in a veritable sense of justice or freedom from responses by making them

even more angry or aggressive with one another (Strauss, 1974). It adversely affects

children (Gardner, 1971), increases guilt and shame (Lemer, 1985), reinforces

inappropriate ways of relating, ruins friendships, and aggravates psychosomatic illness

(Tavris, 1984).

Recognizing and understanding the harm anger can cause, it is expedient that a

sound and healthy strategy be found to cope with it. Forgiveness may be that remedy.

Forgiveness works directly on the emotions of anger (and related constructs), such as

resentment, hostility, and hatred, by diminishing its intensity or level within the mind and

heart. Each time it is successfully applied to a disappointing or traumatic life experience

within someone, it removes some of the anger from that hurt. Understandably, the more

severe the emotional wound, the greater will be the time and effort needed to arrive at a

control or resolution of the associated anger. Fitzgibbons (1998) explains how an

individual can be assisted in this process of forgiving. An individual can be helped to

move toward forgiveness by concentrating on a specific memory or a long series of

painful memories. This process may then proceed in one of three levels: cognitive,

emotional, or spiritual.

On the cognitive level, an individual, after analyzing the origins of their pain,

makes a decision to forgive, that is to let go of anger or the desire for revenge. Initially,

the person may not be inclined or have the proper disposition to forgive. For most people

the forgiveness process begins with this cognitive level and usually remains on that level

for a period of time. Fitzgibbons (1998) labels this step the cognitive level because the

person decides to forgive, thinks it is good to do, but as yet does not feel compassion or

love toward the offending one. As the anger level diminishes through regular forgiveness

exercises, the intellect is bothered less by the negative effects of anger and subsequently

grows in understanding the offender and his/her weaknesses.

Emotional forgiveness is that phase of forgiveness process in which the client

comes to understand deeply the offender and his/her struggles, develops a certain degree

of empathy for the "wounded boy or girl" within the adult, and as a result, feels truly

inclined to forgive. This level or stage of the process of forgiveness is usually preceded

by a significant amount of time in the utilization of cognitive forgiveness exercises.

Growth in understanding the weaknesses and life struggles of the offender is the major

path that leads to emotional forgiveness. Some clients feel upset or even guilty when this

process moves slowly. They may even balk at the cognitive forgiveness, for they believe

that it is not forgiveness at all since they do not truly feel like forgiving. The crucial need

here is to recognize that forgiveness is a process with several stages, and that in time,

perhaps slowly, the feelings will follow.

The third approach to the use of forgiveness is spiritual. This approach is utilized

when someone suffers from such severe pain that they cannot let go of resentment

against the offender either cognitively or emotionally. In utilizing a modification of the

AA Twelve Steps program, the person tries to reflect: I am powerless over my anger

and want to turn it over to God" or "Revenge or justice belongs to God" or "God, forgive

him, I can't" or "God, free me from my anger" (Alcoholics Anonymous, 1952).

Hopefully this will lead to the former step of the cognitive exercises, which in turn

emotional forgiveness may follow (Fitzgibbons, 1998).

The Model of Forgiveness Based on Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development

Perhaps the groundbreaking work on moral development is Kohlberg's (1969,

1973, 1976) explanation of the development of sense ofjustice. It is this standard that

Enright and colleagues and others (Enright, Gassin, & Wu 1992; Enright & HDSG,

1991b; Enright, Santos, & Al-Mabuk, 1989; Nelson, 1992; Spidell & Libeman, 1981)

have used to describe the acquisition of reasoning about forgiveness. These models

suggest that as individuals develop cognitive skills, they become more able to take the

perspective of others, to empathize with their predicaments and frailties, and try to value

and accept them as people despite the hurts they have inflicted in the past. In Table 2-2 the

models of Enright's group (Enright, Gassin, & Wu, 1992; Enright & HDSG, 1991a) are

placed alongside Kohlberg's to show how they correspond to each other. Each stage

Table 2-2. Developmental Models of Forgiveness and Their Relationship to
Kohlberg's Theory

Kohlberg's Theory

Enright Model

Stage 1. Punishment and obedience
orientation. Justice should be decided by
an authority or one who punishes.

Stage 2. Relativist justice. A sense of
reciprocity defines justice. ("If you help
me, I will help you.")

Stage 3. Good boy/good girl justice.
Group consensus determines what is right
and wrong. The morality of behavior is
based on the approval of others.
Stage 4. Law and Order Justice. Societal
laws determine conceptions ofjustice.
Laws are upheld to maintain an orderly
Stage 5. Social contract orientation.
Interest in maintaining the social fabric,
with the realization unjust laws exist. It is
just and fair to work in the system for
Stage 6. Universal ethical principle
orientation. Sense of justice is based on
maintaining the individual rights of all
persons. Conscience rather than laws or
norms determines moral behavior.
Stage 7. Life is valued from a cosmic

Source: Enright, Santos, & Al-Mabuk, 1989

Stage 1. Revengeful forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not possible without
punishment to a degree of pain similar to
the pain of the offense.

Stage 2. Restitutional/compensational
forgiveness. Forgiveness can occur out of
guilt or if the offender offers some form of

Stage 3. Expectational forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a response to social

Stage 4. Lawful expectational forgiveness.
Forgiveness occurs in response to societal,
moral, or religious pressure.

Stage 5. Forgiveness as social harmony.
Forgiveness restores social harmony and
right relationships.

Stage 6. Forgiveness as love.
Forgiveness promotes love. The offense
does not jeopardize love. Forgiveness
increases the likelihood of reconciliation
between the offender and the forgiver.

in Kolberg's model corresponds with one, and only one stage, in Enright's model. In the

lowest stages-Revengeful Forgiveness and Restitutional Forgiveness-forgiveness can

only occur after the wrongdoer has been subjected to revenge or appropriate punishment.

In the middle stages-Expectational Forgiveness of Forgiveness as Social Harmony-

forgiveness can be gained only if pressures from significant others are present. It is only in

the highest stage of the model-Forgiveness as Love-that forgiveness is conceived as an

unconditional attitude and is seen as promoting positive regard and good will. This

ultimate stage in theory best illustrates the difference between the Piaget and Enright

conceptions of forgiveness. According to Enright and the Human Development Study

Group (1994), forgiveness due to its gift-like character, does not entail any kind of

reciprocity as conceived by Piaget (1932). Nelson (1992) and Enright's Group (Enright,

Gassin, &Wu, 1992; Enright & HDSG, 1991a; Enright et al., 1989) considered the earliest

signs of reasoning concerning forgiveness to occur when cognition is predominately

egocentric and preoccupied with avoiding pain and seeking pleasure. Nelson (1992) called

this stage of reasoning about forgiveness the precognitive. Individuals resent authority and

have a limited capacity for intimacy with and empathy for others.

Forgiveness' prime motivation is a self-interest and desire for revenge and

restitution. Such individuals feel hurt by even minor offenses. Enright's group (Enright,

Gassin, & Wu, 1992; Enright & HDSG, 1991a; Enright, Santos, & Al-Mabuk, 1989)

divided this period into two stages. During the stage of revengeful forgiveness,

forgiveness is motivated by an egocentric desire for revenge. During the stage of

restitutional-compensational forgiveness, forgiveness is driven by a desire to receive

compensation and restitution for offenses that one has experienced. This period of


forgiveness reasoning coincides with the stages of justice reasoning that Kohlberg (1969,

1973, 1976) called punishment and obedience orientation and relativist justice.

Nelson (1992) and Enright's group (Enright, Gassin, & Wu, 1992; Enright &

HDSG, 1991a) considered an intermediate period of reasoning concerning forgiveness to

occur when individuals are preoccupied with rule-governed behavior and desire to appear

good in the eyes of others. Enright and associates subdivided this period into expectational

forgiveness, during which forgiveness results from social pressure. Lawful expectational

forgiveness grants forgiveness due to the influence of institutional, moral, or religious

pressure; or as social harmony in which forgiveness is used to maintain social harmony

and good relationships. This period of forgiveness reasoning coincides with Kohlbergs's

(1969, 1973, 1976) stages of justice reasoning called good boy/good girl justice, law and

order justice, and social contract orientation.

The third period of reasoning concerning forgiveness is characterized by genuine

interest in the well being of others and for promoting love and interpersonal harmony.

Enright and associates labeled this stage simply as love. This period of forgiveness

reasoning parallels Kohlberg's (1969, 1973, 1976) universal ethical principle orientation

stage ofjustice reasoning.

Enright et al. (1989), Huang (1990), and Park, Enright, and Gassin (1993) found

evidence for a developmental view on reasoning concerning forgiveness in American,

Taiwanese, and Korean samples. In these studies, reasoning concerning forgiveness

(according to the model of Enright et al. (1989)) was moderately correlated with justice

reasoning. Reasoning concerning forgiveness also increased with age.

The Forgiveness Model

The following model proposed by Enright and the Human Development Study

Group will be utilized in this study. It incorporates the ideals of the prementioned models.

It is, at best, an estimate of the general pathway many people follow when they forgive.

This model is not a rigid, step-like sequence but is instead a flexible set of processes with

feedback and feed-forward loops. In the process of forgiving some may skip entire units.

When people do decide to forgive, they seem to need time to accommodate slowly

to the idea. Enright and the Human Development Study Group observed two patterns of

change. In the first pattern, most people will consider forgiving another person when their

emotional pain is so intense and discomforting that they must do something to change this

stressful situation. When they do decide to forgive, it is primarily a self-interested activity;

the person forgives in order to feel better. Only after a period of time does the forgiver

understand the gift like quality of forgiveness. Gradually, the forgiver does focus on the

other person rather than on the self. Over time, people who continue to practice

forgiveness may actually alter their primary worldview or their own sense of identity to

integrate forgiveness into their own philosophy of life and that view of themselves.

In the second pattern, once focusing on the other with the intent of forgiving, the

forgiver operates by one of three moral principles. The first is finding that practicing

merciful restraint is sufficient in itself. Merciful restraint is the holding back of a negative

response, such as punishment, when the offended has the power or the "right" to punish.

In merciful restraint, the forgiver gives up the initially attractive option of revenge or

condemnation. Later, he or she may have the strength and inner fortitude to give

generously to the other. Generosity goes further than refraining from the bad; it includes

the dimension of giving such positive elements as occasional friendliness and attention to

the offender. Still later, some forgivers may offer the gift of moral love, in which the

forgiver willingly enters into the other's life in the hope of positively transforming the

other and the community. The forgiver's degree of trust toward the other and the amount

of time passed since the offenses) play a significant part in these unfolding patterns

(Enright et al., 1998).

The moral judgment literature suggests that forgiveness is developmental (Enright,

Santos, & Al-Mabuk, 1989; Piaget 1932/1965). As forgiveness is both a psychological

and social process, it should be subject to developmental influences (Romig &Veenstra,

1998). As people mature, they may be more willing to forgive a deep offense against them

(Subkoviak et al., 1992). Piaget highlighted some pertinent factors that influence and

affect our ability to forgive. Piaget (1932/1965) placed forgiveness within a

developmental framework because in his view it possessed certain developmental

characteristics. The first is maturational aspect. Young children have a difficult time

understanding forgiveness. It is only in late middle childhood that the concept emerges.

The second is manipulation of the object. Without practicing forgiveness, it is difficult to

forgive. Third is social input. Certain religious beliefs and cultural supports and models

from significant others encourage forgiveness. Fourth is equalization. When a person tries

to forgive there can be periods of confusion, stress, and struggle before the "balance of

forgiveness" (Fitzgibbons, 1986; Kaufman, 1984). Forgiveness according to Piaget (1932)

emerges late in childhood, once the child passes through heterogamous and into

autonomous moral reasoning.

Forgiveness is more than a moral matter; it is an interpersonal process that

represents a possible response to wounds or injustice we encounter in relational context.

How a person conceptualizes and experiences relationships, particularly the more personal

and intense relationships, should influence the process of reconciling a relationship

unraveled by unjustly induced pain. One's psychosocial development may also have a

significant influence in how one reacts to a painful injury and the processes selected for

coping with such injury. Erikson's theory of psychosocial development provides means

for understanding the process of resolving significant relationship injuries (Romig &

Veenstra, 1998).

Erikson (1963) developed a sequence of eight developmental stages that are

hierarchically ordered and expand over one's entire life. At each particular stage one is

confronted by a unique crisis or conflict, although each conflict remains present in some

form throughout the life span and is never entirely resolved. Romig and Veenstra (1998)

analyzed the primary stages and how they relate to forgiveness The key stages are the first

(trust vs. mistrust), sixth (intimacy vs. isolation), and seventh (generativity vs. stagnation),

which examine primarily relational issues. A person who does not resolve the trust versus

mistrust crisis in an adequate manner perceives the world as unpredictable, menacing, and

unsafe; is likely to view people with suspicion; and is hyper vigilant on being exploited. It

would be most challenging for this individual to respond to an injustice with forgiveness.

Even if forgiveness were offered, it would be primarily from the vantage of self-


The failure to resolve the intimacy versus isolation crisis satisfactorily could direct

one toward self-absorption, fear of intimacy, and profound ambivalence toward being in

committed relationships. A defensive wall goes up to protect the individual from what he

or she most craves and needs. An unjust injury would only aggravate this tendency to

remain distant and fearful of and isolated from intimate relationships.


Failing to resolve the generativity versus stagnation crisis would greatly contribute

to a person living primarily for selfish gratification and remaining inconsiderate to the

well being of others. Forgiveness requires making a decision to promote justice for the

sake of showing mercy and compassion and a concern for the well-being of the offender,

and this would most likely not be present in anyone who fails to resolve this stage (Romig

& Veenstra, 1998).

Finally, what does the process of forgiveness look like? Recall that forgiveness has

been defined as a "voluntary forgoing of negative affect and judgment by an injured party

directed at someone who has inflicted a significant, deep, and unjust hurt; this process also

involves viewing the wrongdoer with love and compassion" (Enright & HDSG, 1991 a;

North, 1987).

Forgiveness is a process of struggling with and ultimately abandoning negative

thoughts, feelings, and behaviors directed at the injurer, while gradually and actively

incorporating positive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors toward the same. This general

process may involve some or all of at least 20 subprocesses based on Enright's model

(Gassin & Enright, 1995).

The foregoing model has been shown effective in three works to date. Freedman

and Enright (1996) in an intervention with female incest survivors, used the model in a

once-per-week educational program. The participants explored the ideas of each unit at

each woman's own pace for an average of 1 year to complete the program. This was an

experimental and controlled design that was randomized. After the experimental group

completed the educational program, the women who composed the original control group

participated in the discussion, thus becoming the second experimental group.

Table 2-3. Process of Forgiving

Uncovering Phase
1. Examination of psychological defenses (Kiel, 1986).
2. Confrontation of anger; the point is to release not harbor, the anger (Trainer, 1981)
3. Admittance of shame when this is appropriate (Patton, 1985)
4. Awareness of catharsis (Droll, 1984).
5. Awareness of cognitive rehearsal of the offense (Droll, 1984)
6. Insight that the injured party may be comparing self with the injurer (Kiel, 1986).
7. Realization that oneself may be permanently and adversely changed by the injury
(Close, 1970).
8. Insight into a possibly altered "just world view (Flanigan, 1987).

Decision Phase

9. A change of heart conversion, new insights that old resolution strategies are not
working (North, 1987).
10. Willingness to consider forgiveness as an option
11. Commitment to forgive the offender (Neblett, 1974).
Work Phase
12. Refraining, through role taking, who the wrongdoer is by viewing him or her in
context (Smith, 1981).
13. Empathy toward the offender (Cunningham, 1985).
14. Awareness of compassion, as it emerges, toward the offender (Droll, 1984)
15. Acceptance, absorption of the pain (Bergin, 1988).

Outcome Phase
16. Finding meaning for self and others in the suffering and in the forgiveness process
(Frank, 1959).
17. Realization that self has needed others' forgiveness in the past (Cunningham,
18. Insight that one is not alone (universality, support).
19. Realization that self may have a new purpose in life because of the injury.
20. Awareness of decreased negative affect and, perhaps increased positive affect, if
this begins to emerge, toward the injurer; awareness of internal, emotional release
(Smedes, 1984).

Source: (Gassin & Enright, 1995, p. 39)


Three findings are worth noting (Freedman & Enright, 1996). First, a comparison

of the experimental group with the control group after the 1st year of education, showed

that the experimental participants gained statistically more than the control group in

forgiving and hope. The experimental group decreased statistically significantly more than

the control group in anxiety and psychological depression. Second, after the 1st year,

participants from the original control group became an experimental group for the entire

2nd year. Thus, one could compare their outcomes within the 2nd year (as experimental

participants) with their own outcomes during the 1st year (as control participants). This

comparison yielded results similar to the first aforementioned finding about the

experimental group and the control group. The changes in the 2nd year compared with

those of the 1st year within this group were statistically significant: There was a greater

decrease in anxiety and depression. The third comparison examined the original (1st year)

experimental group scores at the I-year post test within their scores at a 1-year follow-up

(1 year after intervention ceased for this original experimental group). These participants

maintained their change patterns on all scales, thus showing that there was no washout


The two other interventions also validated this model of forgiving. Al-Mabuk,

Enright, and Cardis (1995) reported positive mental health outcomes following short-term

workshop on forgiveness education for college students who had been deprived of

parental love. Hebl and Enright (1993) demonstrated forgiving responses in the elderly

following an 8-week program. In the latter study, both experimental and control groups

decreased in anxiety. The overall pattern across these diverse samples suggested that the

model of forgiving is effective in bringing people to a forgiving stage toward an offender.

Units 1 through 8 represent the preforgiveness interpersonal conflict following a

deep, unfair hurt. Psychological defenses (unit 1) mask emotional pain that may be too

intense. Anger (unit 2) is one of the initial signs that the individual is confronting the

offense. Anger, though uncomfortable, is considered a necessary part of the forgiveness

journey in its initial phases (Hope, 1987). Common behaviors such as shame, attaching a

greater deal of emotional energy to the problem (carthexis), rehearsing the event over and

over in one's mind (cognitive rehearsal), and similar patterns are common (units 3 through

5). In some cases the person must at some point confront a permanent negative change

(e.g., paralysis from an accident, broken relationship, loss of sexual innocence) in unit 6.

Unit 7 can be particularly painful, as the injured party (who acknowledges his or her own

loss) sees no such deficit in the injurer. All of this may lead a person bitterly to conclude

that life can be profoundly unfair (unit 8).

In units 9 through 11 the injured party becomes aware that there are other

possibilities and paths that one can choose to travel. There lies a glimmer of hope that life

still offers worthy opportunities. There is no set time, situation, or condition that the

individual may discover this possibility.

Units 12 through 20 compare the processes of change directed toward forgiveness.

The injured can now rise above the hurt and look beyond the self to consider the other.

Refraiing (unit 12) is the process of viewing and understanding the offending person in

context-examining the developmental history, their deficits, and the pressures they were

under at the time of the injury. One does not condone but desires to understand the

phenomenological view. Many, including Guest (1988) and Trainer (1981), advocate this

strategy. Empathy (unit 13) is the essential emotional counterpart to cognitive reframing.


From this understanding, compassion (unit 14) can emerge, making the acceptance

of the injustice and the gift of forgiveness a possibility. The insights gained from unit 15

enable the forgiver to realize that both self and other are imperfect and fallible, which may

make the next unit easier to achieve. When one absorbs the pain (unit 16), it prevents the

conflict from being directly transmitted to individuals in present and/or future generations

(Bergin, 1988). Unit 17 helps the offended find life meaningful and forms the solid

foundation of positive psychological adjustment (Frank, 1959). Some people, as they head

toward psychological healing, develop a new purpose in life. Out of the ashes comes a

new promising life and vision (unit 18). The incest survivor, for example, decides to use

the insight gained and counsel other survivors. As the person experiences a decrease in the

negative emotions (e.g., resentment, hostility), forgiveness, which once seemed

unattainable, now becomes a real possibility (unit 19). Finally, in unit 20, the wounded

party experiences a release of most (if not all) negative, toxic emotion directed at the


Fitzgibbons (1998) offers insight into what occurs under the broad categories of

the forgiveness process during this challenging task. The stages are listed below.


In the uncovering phase the nature and role of anger is discussed, including the

methods of dealing with this potent emotion and the many forms that anger reveals itself

at various life stages. In this phase, the clients learn how they can resolve any anger that

they may discover within themselves. Quite often, people are more likely to admit and

own their anger if there is an option for dealing with it that does not require expressing it.

Cognitive exercises are put into practice at this stage. The cognitive exercises

enables one to admit anger, perhaps previously denied, and to work with it, thereby

initiating the process of the healing journey.

In the decision phase, forgiveness is presented as the preferred method, along with

promoting its many advantages as the avenue to pursue for healing. To inspire and

motivate the individual, successful cases, histories of others with conflicts, are presented

to encourage. To clarify any false misconceptions, forgiveness is explained for what it is

and for what it is not. Many people in this initial stage of their healing are so

overwhelmed that they cannot even consider offering compassion, generosity, and love

toward those who have hurt them grievously. Many will only decide to begin the process

after they have been reassured that they do not have to become vulnerable toward the

person whom they wish to forgive. They are reassured that forgiving does not preclude

expressing anger or pursuing justice where appropriate. The resolution of anger with an

offender and the investment of trust toward that person are related but remain distinct


During this phase, for those fortunate enough not to be suffering from severe pain

or betrayal, they are informed that, as they work on surrendering their anger, they most

likely will come to experience compassion and love toward those who have hurt them.

Forgiveness is possible through a process of sincere attempts to understand the emotional

development and to empathize with their life stresses of those who have inflicted the pain.

As that process occurs, there is a keen awareness that the behavior of many offenders can

be attributed not as an innate evil but to their own emotional scars. If possible, the stage

methods of forgiveness are presented-cognitive, emotional, and spiritual.


In the work phase the therapist describes refraining as understanding. For most

people, forgiveness begins first, as an intellectual pursuit in which there is no emotional

attachment to the thought of forgiveness. If their anger existed toward a parent, they

would be asked to identify a number of areas in which they were disappointed with each

parent and to spend time forgiving the parent of any or perceived injustices at different

developmental stages. Most likely, this would be met with resistance. Also, some come to

realize that they have been hurt so deeply that they cannot even utter the word

forgiveness, and they are more comfortable stating that they are willing to rid themselves

of their desire for revenge. For those with deep embedded anger, the release of resentment

can be facilitated by a process that begins with the physical expression of anger. Caution

is exercised so that no one will get hurt. This is immediately followed by cognitive

forgiveness exercises directed at letting go of the desire for revenge.

It is during this crucial stage that the major obstacles to forgiveness are reviewed.

These may include a lack of parental modeling for the task, significant others who

continue to disappoint and frustrate in a regular manner and/or a personal basis,

narcissism, and a compulsive need to control. Also, since anger is often used to defend

against feelings of inadequacy and fear, particularly the fear of betrayal, many individuals

are not able to relinquish their anger and move ahead with the forgiveness process until

their self-esteem and basic ability to trust are reestablished.

It is important to point out that, although forgiveness diminishes the level of anger,

it does not completely heal the wounds of sadness and mistrust. For many who have

sustained major loss, only through a sense of being loved in a new and unique way can

allow them to accept the pain.


The benefits from the effort to forgive far outweigh the struggle it entails. The

significant benefits range from a decreased level of anger and hostility to an increased

feelings of love and a marked ability to control anger, improved capacity to trust, and the

freedom from the subtle control of individuals and events of the past. Other advantages

are a letting go of negative, parental, emotional, and behavioral patterns, improved sleep

patterns, self-confidence in relationships, improved academic and work performance,

improved concentration skills, and a resolution of physical symptoms and illnesses caused

by hostility (Barefoot et al., 1983; Schekelle et al., 1983).

These preceding stages seem to occur (a) slowly, (b) with a little understanding

toward the other (such as seeing the other person as imperfect), (c) in confusion over the

emotions (as you sort out the mix of emotions), (d) with a residue of anger left over (it

seems to go away then emerges, but over time it lessens), (e) a little at a time, (f) freely or

not at all (the other is no longer under obligation to you for what they did) (Eastin, 1988).

When one has received forgiveness, it is easier to forgive others (Smedes, 1984).

In reviewing the literature, the following five components appear to be crucial in

the process of forgiveness:

1. The acceptance into awareness of strong emotions such as anger an sadness.
2. Letting go of previously unmet interpersonal needs.
3. A shift in the forgiving person's view of the offender.
4. The development of empathy for the offender.
5. The construction of a new narrative of self and other.
(Malcolm & Greenberg, 2000)

Though this process may appear fixed and orderly, forgiveness does not always

flow as smoothly as it may seem. The first and most vital step in the process is making the

commitment to forgive. Forgiveness is first and foremost an act of the will. There is no

universal process that fits each person's situation. "There is no cookbook formula for

forgiveness. I inform people that they must choose to be forgiving. If they wait until they

feel forgiving before they choose to forgive, it may be a long and arduous wait"

(Coleman, 1998, p. 76)

The Role of Empathv

Perhaps the sine qua non character trait for the role of forgiving is empathy.

Studzinski (1986) sees the capacity to forgive another as the hallmark of a mature

personality, a considerable advance over the brute desire for revenge. It is through an

advanced maturity that we are able to look beyond our needs and our wounds and forgive

and empathize with another. Forgiveness requires focusing our understanding on the other

person, as well as seeing oneself just as capable of hurting others, intentionally or

unintentionally (Lampman, 1999). A key ingredient in our ability to forgive apparently

originates from the injured person's ability to identify or empathize with the offending

individual (Rowe et al., 1989). The ability to feel with another person represents a

transformation of one's narcissistic tendency to a socially beneficial direction. Empathy

lays the emotional foundation for the later cognitive capacity for taking social perspective

for examining situations from the other person's vantagepoint. The injured person

concludes that the offender is also human and capable of committing mistakes and also

might perceive that the offender needs to be forgiven in the same fashion that the injured

person would want to be forgiven if the situation were reversed. Through this maturation,

one may even consider that there is a common bond, a sense of unity between the forgiver

and the offender, for they share the most fundamental quality, that of being human

(Studzinski, 1986).

A number of theorists (Brandsma, 1982; Cunningham, 1985; Fitzgibbons, 1986;

Hope, 1987; Enright & HDSG, 1991a; McCullough, 1997) have identified the capacity for

empathy as the primary element in successful forgiveness. McCullough, Worthington, and

Rachal (1997) have proposed and investigated an empathy model of forgiveness and

McCullough, Worthington, and Rachal (1997) have concluded that empathy and

forgiveness are intimately, maybe even causally, linked. Empathy can be defined as "an

active effort to understand another person's perception of an interpersonal event as if one

were that other person, rather than judging the other person's behavior from the

perspective of one's own experience of that event"(Malcolm & Greenberg, 2000, p. 180).

Worthington (McCullough & Worthington, 1994b) developed an empathy-

humility-commitment model of forgiveness. In this three-part model, forgiveness is

hypothesized to be initiated by empathy for the offender, advanced by humility in the

offended, and then reinforced through a public commitment to forgive the offender. The

driving force is empathy. Narcissism, the inability to move beyond oneself, has an

inhibitory effect on the forgiveness process. Difficulty in empathic functioning is a glaring

shortcoming in narcissism, and empirical evidence of a negative association between

empathy and narcissism has emerged (Ehrenberg, Hunter, & Elterman, 1996; Porcerelli &

Sandler, 1995; Watson, Grisham, Trotter, & Biderman, 1984). Worthington states that

"forgiveness is the natural response to empathy and humility" (Worthington, Sandage, &

Berry, 2000, p. 64). The hypothesized link between empathy and forgiveness has been

empirically confirmed in a series of correlative and intervention studies by McCullough,

Worthington, and their associates (McCullough, Worthington, & Rachal, 1997). The lack

of empathy is an unfortunate characteristic of a narcissistic personality and accounts in


part for the difficulty people with such a disorder have in forgiving injuries done to them

(Wilson, 1994).

In this whole process of forgiveness, as challenging as it may be, the core element

that facilitates forgiveness is empathy. Empathy for the offending partner acts as the

central facilitative condition that induces forgiveness. A variety of pro social phenomena,

such as cooperation, care, altruism, and the inhibition of aggression may facilitate the role

of empathy for the other person (Batson, 1990, 1991; Batson & Oleson, 1991; Eisenberg

& Fabes, 1990; Eisenberg & Miller, 1987; Hoffman, 1981, 1990; Moore, 1990; Rusbult,

Verette, Whitney, Slovik, & Lipkus, 1991; Tangney, 1991). French philosopher and

educator Jean Piaget, writing in 1932, saw forgiveness as an advanced stage of moral

development, arguing that empathy is the cognitive operation making forgiveness possible

because it entails the compassionate recognition that the other is also human.

Empathy is the cognitive awareness of another's internal states that reflect their

thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and intentions (Ickes, 1997). Empathy is the involvement

of the psychological process that makes a person have feelings that coincide with

another's situation more than with their situation (Hoffman, 2000).

Robert Enright (1999) suggests the following questions to help "the injured person

view the offender as a vulnerable human being":

1. What was it like for the person as they were growing up? Did the offender come
from a home in which there was conflict or even abuse?
2. What was happening in the person's life at the time they hurt you?
3. Can you see the person as having worth simply by being a member of the human

In answering these questions one may gain the necessary insight and emphathetic

understanding to forgive one's perpetrator.

How Does One Know When Forgiveness Has Taken Place?

Having put into practice the aforementioned steps, how does one know that one

has achieved an adequate level of forgiveness? Flanigan (1998) found that interviewees

considered forgiveness complete when they had achieved one of these four end-states or

some combination of them.

1. When they no longer harbored resentment or hatred toward the offenders.
2. When they felt neutral toward their offenders.
3. When they once again experienced some degree of trust in their offenders.
4. When they have achieved reconciliation with their offenders.

Smedes (1984) states simply and clearly that you will know forgiveness has begun

in you when you recall that person who hurt you and now are able to wish him/her well.

Rosenak and Harden (1992) state that internal signs for the forgiver are lack of pain, an

inner sense of peace, the ability to enjoy life, the discovery of the resources to pray, and

not being preoccupied with past hurt (Wilson, 1994). Eventually, over time, with full

expression of thought, feeling, and behavior, the one who is injured gradually becomes

aware that he/she has relinquished the right, insistence, need, or desire for revenge (Hope,

1987; Smedes, 1984). Retaliation is no longer an option that seems beneficial to healing

the self (Jampolsky, 1985). One can truly and with heartfelt sincerely begin to wish the

other well (Smedes, 1984).

Forgiveness is a process primarily concerned with the experience of resolution, of
moving on: of healing the past. It strives to get unstuck from the agony and burden
of past injuries. The future holds an immediate sense of being on the verge of
bright, new beginnings and is again available where previously it was not; the past,
although neither forgotten nor rationalized away, no longer is a haunting, heavy,
and troubling issue. (Rowe et al., 1989, p. 242)


Fow (1988) believes that forgiveness has taken place when "being angry ceases to

be as figural and disturbing... one no longer experiences the violation as an unresolved

blocking of everyday life, of one' unfolding future" (pp. 89-90).

Over time the injured person receives the gift of no longer being held bound to

repressed anger, resentment, and desired revenge. At this stage of forgiveness, the person

would no longer feel, think, or act as if they were in bondage to the harmful event or to the

individual that injured them (Flanigan, 1987). A possible side effect or by-product of this

release is that the injured person may not only be free from negative emotions but actually

have positive feelings toward the injurer (Eastin, 1988). When this occurs, one can safely

assume that one is well on the road of forgiveness.

The critical dimension of forgiving is that one experiences an alteration in one's
understanding of, and relationship to the other, oneself, and the world.... There is
an experience of reclaiming oneself, which at the same time, implies a shift into a
larger perspective. (Rowe, 1989, pp. 241-242)

What Are the Benefits in Forgiving

Despite the effort and the strenuous demands in the forgiving process, there are

many benefits derived from it. We have modem examples of those who suffered

tremendous injustices and yet were able to forgive. In 1985, Pope John Paul II went into

the bowels of Rome's Rabiibia prison to visit Menet Ali-Akhga, a hired assassin who tried

to kill him in 1981 and almost succeeded. In 1992, Christipher Wilson, a Black

Californian, forgave two White teens who doused him with gasoline and set him afire,

yelling at him "Die nigger, die" as he rolled in agony. Reginald Denny, who is White,

forgave two Black men who pulled him from his truck and tried to beat him to death

during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. They claimed that by forgiving they have a greater

sense of peace and calm. These examples point to the salutary effects and healing power

of forgiveness.

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