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FORGIVENESS, PERFECTIONISM, AND THE ROLE
BROOKE A. MISTLER
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
2010 Brooke A. Mistier
To the balance of process and outcome
I am grateful to everyone who helped me to complete this project, as well as offered me
support and guidance during graduate school. Thanks go out to my parents, for their unending
encouragement and understanding throughout my journey, and for always believing in me. I
appreciate your being such a great example for success in both professional and personal
capacities. I am tremendously thankful for my wonderful husband, Brian, for bringing laughter,
smiles, and warmth to my life and for being there for me throughout this process.
Many thanks go out to my adviser and chair, Dr. Ken Rice, for your keen research
knowledge and guidance, without which this project could not have been completed. I am
grateful to my entire doctoral committee for their time and input. Many thanks to Dr. Keith Berg
for encouragement and trust, beginning with the mentorship and research experience he offered
me as an undergraduate student. I enjoyed working with and learning from him and admire his
example. Thanks to Joe McNamara, for his support as a wonderful friend and confidant over the
years. Finally, I am grateful to Dave Suchman, for his valuable clinical supervision, emphasis on
qualitative process, and humanity. I could not have become who I am, nor gotten to where I am,
today without all of you.
TABLE OF CONTENTS page
A CK N O W LED G M EN T S ................................................................. ..................... 4
LIST OF TABLES .............. ............. ........... ........................... .7
LIST OF FIGURES ............................... ... ...... ... ................. .8
A B STR A C T ................................................. ..................................... .. 9
INTRODUCTION ...................................................... ..........10
1 LITERATURE REVIEW ........................................................................... 17
F o rg iv e n e ss ......................................................................................................1 7
P erfectionism ................................................................... 25
Self-Compassion................ ........ .. ... .... ..................35
S satisfaction w ith L ife ......................................................................... ...................4 3
Purpose of the Study ....................................................... .................... 44
H ypotheses ....................................................................................................... .....48
2 M E T H O D S ........................................................................................................... 4 9
P a rtic ip a n ts ........................................................................................................... 4 9
In stru m e n ts ........................................................................................................... 5 0
P ro c e d u re s ............................................................................................................. 5 4
A nalytic Strategies............................................. 55
3 R E S U L T S .............................................................................5 8
P relim in ary A n aly ses ............................................................................................ 5 8
Analysis of H ypotheses ............................................. .. ................ ..... ....59
Exploratory A nalyses............. .......................................................... ................. 63
4 D ISC U S SIO N ............... .......................... ....................... .... .............................72
A Heartland Forgiveness Scale (HFS; Thompson, et al., 2005)...................................80
B The Almost Perfect Scale Revised (APS-R; Slaney, et al., 2001) ...........................82
C Self-Compassion Scale (SCS; Neff, 2003b)......................................................84
D Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS; Diener, et al., 1985) ............... .....................86
E D em ographic/Other Inform ation ........................................ .......................... 87
F Inform ed C consent ............................................ .. .. ........... ......... 90
G Selected W rite-in R esponses............................................................ .....................9 1
L IST O F R E FE R EN C E S ................................................ ........................... ........... 99
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .................................. ................................ 12
LIST OF TABLES
4-1 Means, standard deviations, and Cronbach alphas.............................. ...............69
4-2 Scale and subscale partial correlations ............................................ ...............70
LIST OF FIGURES
4-1 The partial m edition m odel .............. ............................................... .............. 71
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
FORGIVENESS, PERFECTIONISM, AND THE ROLE OF SELF-COMPASSION
Chair: Kenneth G. Rice
Major: Counseling Psychology
Research supports psychological, emotional, and physical benefits of forgiveness
for well-being. Research also reveals the destructive impact of perfectionism on
individuals, particularly when there is a high perceived discrepancy between one's
performance and one's expectations. Self-compassion, though recently gaining
prominence in the current psychological literature, has held promise for improving
mental health and well-being for many years. The current study expands recent research
by investigating forgiveness and perfectionism, and the role of self-compassion in
mediating the forgiveness-perfectionism relationship. Based on a general adult sample
(N =309) in which participants completed measures online, findings indicated a
significant inverse relationship between forgiveness and perfectionism, in that adults
most likely to express forgiveness-related attitudes or beliefs were also those least likely
to be perfectionistic. Self-compassion was found to be a partial mediator of that
association. Contributions to future research on the development of perfectionism,
relationship to identity, and use of self-compassion or forgiveness in therapeutic practice
are also discussed. Common themes amongst experiences of forgiveness and
perfectionism are also discussed using qualitative response data.
Is it really better to forgive? Recent research has supported the psychological,
emotional, and physical benefits of forgiveness for well-being (e.g., Lawler, Younger,
Piferi, Billington, Jobe, Edmonson, et al., 2003; Witvliet, 2001, 2005; Worthington,
2005; Worthington & McCullough, 2004). At the same time, the field of psychology has
gained much knowledge regarding perfectionism and its potentially destructive impact on
individuals (see Blatt, 1995). Though both forgiveness and perfectionism have been
researched independently thus far, significant evidence exists to support a relationship
between these two constructs that may prove an important contribution to both future
research and therapeutic practice. As psychology has advanced, research has begun to
shift from investigating the pathological to examining both the positive, healthy, and
adaptive characteristics of well-being as well as the more destructive aspects. In this vein,
the current study provides an in-depth investigation of the relationship between two well-
known constructs, perfectionism and forgiveness, and explores the role of self-
compassion in their relationship.
Research on perfectionism has developed extensively over time. It was originally
considered as a construct having only one definition and entirely negative consequences,
but further insights support the idea that perfectionism contains both positive and
negative dimensions. Though discussion continues regarding the adaptive and
maladaptive dimensions of perfectionism (e.g., Bieling, Israeli, & Antony, 2004;
Suddarth & Slaney, 2001), research has focused predominantly on clarifying and
solidifying the essential aspects of the maladaptive dimension of perfectionism. Since the
first research began on perfectionism, its characteristics have been linked to a variety of
psychological distresses and disturbances (Hamachek, 1978). These include personality
disorders (Hewitt, Flett, & Tumbull, 1992), obsessive-compulsive disorders (Hewitt &
Flett, 1991a; Rice & Pence, 2006; Ye, Rice, & Storch, 2008), eating disorders (e.g. Axtell
& Newlon, 1994; Hewitt, Flett, & Ediger, 1995; Shafran, Cooper, & Fairburn, 2002),
high shame (Ashby, Rice, & Martin, 2006), and low self-esteem (e.g Ashby & Rice,
2002; Mobley, Slaney, & Rice, 2005; Rice, Ashby, & Slaney, 2007). Perfectionists have
also been found to have high levels of anxiety (e.g., Rice & Slaney, 2002) and depression
(e.g., Blatt & Zuroff, 1992; Enns & Cox, 2005; Hewitt & Flett, 1990, 1991b). Nothing
ever seems to be quite good enough for perfectionists, they judge their work to be of
lower quality than non-perfectionists (Frost & Henderson, 1990; Frost & Marten, 1991),
have been reported to make lower salaries than those not suffering from perfectionism
(Burns, 1980), have lower quality intimate partnerships and premarital adjustment (Aldea
& Rice, 2006; Ashby, Rice, & Kutchins, 2008; Shea, et al., 2006) and exhibit lower
levels of academic adjustment and integration (e.g., Rice, Leever, Christopher, & Porter,
2006). Perfectionism has also been linked to increased brooding, rumination, and
negative affect (Hewitt, Flett, Besser, Sherry, & McGee, 2003), hopelessness (e.g.,
O'Connor, O'Connor, & Marshall, 2007), and a greater potentiality for suicide (e.g., Blatt,
1995; Callahan, 1993).
Important parallels exist within the forgiveness literature. Lower levels of
forgiveness have been found to relate to higher levels of hostile thoughts and rumination
(Thompson et al., 2005), vengeance (Stuckless & Goranson, 1992), negative affect
(Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988), and greater levels of depression (Thompson, &
Snyder, 2003). There exists much debate as to the conceptualization of forgiveness, and
most have considered forgiveness of transgressions interpersonally to be the
quintessential definition of forgiveness. However, strong trends in measuring forgiveness
have now advanced the notion of assessing forgiveness using multiple aspects in a more
comprehensive and dispositional manner. Forgiveness of self, forgiveness of others, and
forgiveness of situations beyond one's control now help to flesh out the theory and
measurement of forgiveness for more accurate future research. Thompson and colleagues
(2003) have introduced and provided strong evidence for considering forgiveness under
this new framework, in which it is defined as "...the framing of a perceived transgression
such that one's attachment to the transgressor, transgression, and sequelae of the
transgression is transformed from negative to neutral or positive" (p. 302).
Under this current approach, forgiveness is considered as a primarily
intrapersonal phenomenon, having to do with a person's internal process of transforming
the valence of their attachment to an event or outcome. Perfectionism conceptualization
has been parted along similar lines, with the introduction of self-oriented, other-oriented,
and socially prescribed perfectionism dimensions (Hewitt & Flett, 1989; Hewitt, Flett,
Turnbull-Donovan, & Mikail, 1991). Self-oriented and other-oriented perfectionism are
both described as originating from within an individual, while socially prescribed
perfectionism has gathered some controversy due to its focus on the expectations of
others. According to Shafran, Cooper, & Fairburn (2003), interpersonal processes are not
necessary, perfectionism may occur predominantly by the imposition of self-imposed and
personally demanding standards. This means that, similar to forgiveness, the construct of
perfectionism has been described using both interpersonal and intrapersonal terms,
though trends support the notion that the intrapersonal aspect may be most salient, in
particular when it comes to psychologically destructive consequences. The negative
effects of perfectionism have occurred most strongly for self-oriented perfectionists,
providing further support for emphasizing an intrapersonal focus in research. Continued
perfectionism research has given us a measure that more closely approximates the
essence of maladaptive perfectionism the distress resulting from a negatively perceived
difference between one's standards and one's evaluation of one's performance, termed
Discrepancy (Slaney, Rice, Mobley, Trippi, & Ashby, 2001). Discrepancy appears to be
an intrapersonally evaluative phenomenon in which maladaptive perfectionists engage in
harsh self-criticism and judgment of their performance, continually finding themselves
lacking when compared with their self-imposed and impossibly high standards.
The similarities between forgiveness and perfectionism highlight the possibility of
an important relationship between the two, which has not previously been investigated in
research on either phenomenon. It is possible that a destructive element at play here may
be an inability for perfectionistic individuals to forgive themselves. Low propensity for
forgiveness in an individual could foster the kind of mental landscape that supports an
"all-or-nothing" critical mentality. The current study investigated the primary hypothesis
of a strong inverse relationship between forgiveness and perfectionism, in order to
expand the window into the particularly destructive internal processes occurring within
individuals with maladaptive perfectionism. Once a perceived failure or inadequacy
occurs, these individuals become incredibly vulnerable to future perceived failures,
engaging in evaluative and critical condemnation of themselves or others, potentially
demonstrating a low level of dispositional forgiveness. Those with higher levels of
forgiveness would refrain from engaging in this condemning, judgmental evaluation,
instead transforming their negative affect into neutral or positive affect, and thus
successfully avoiding the pitfalls of maladaptive perfectionism. Given the parallels
between the processes of perfectionism and forgiveness, and the respective ramifications
or benefits found with regard to well-being, this conspicuous gap in the literature merits
Understanding perfectionistic and forgiving individuals may unearth new personal
qualities useful for encouraging forgiveness and reducing maladaptive consequences of
perfectionism. Self-compassion, though recently introduced into the current
psychological literature (Neff, 2003a), has held promise for improving mental health and
well-being for many years. This has been particularly prevalent within eastern
philosophical perspectives. More recently, self-compassion has made its way into the
psychological arena, with strong empirical support for its benefits. Self-compassion has
been found to have a significant inverse relationship with perfectionism (Neff, 2003b), in
that the more self-compassion the lower the maladaptive perfectionism. Self-compassion
has not previously been related to forgiveness, making the current study the first to do so.
Self-compassion, containing components of mindfulness, the ability to see one's
experiences and feelings as part of a common human experience, and kindness toward
oneself, offers a potential link between the processes of forgiveness and perfectionism.
Self-compassionate individuals look with understanding upon their experiences rather
than criticize them, take a balanced perspective toward negative feelings, see
commonalities between their experience and those of others, accept inadequacies as
implicitly part of the human condition, and create a mental space in which to be mindful
of their feelings and internal processes (Neff, 2003a). With maladaptive perfectionism
enacting a harsh judgment on inadequacies or negative experiences, it makes sense that a
mindful, understanding, and kind perspective toward oneself may help save an individual
from becoming entrenched in a perfectionistic mindset. The common humanity aspect of
self-compassion, the ability to see oneself as similar to others, with implicit failures,
mistakes, and inadequacies, increases a sense of interconnectedness (Neff, 2003b). This
sense of belonging is often absent in maladaptive perfectionists, who exhibit low levels of
social connection (Rice, et al., 2006). The current study hypothesized that self-
compassion will relate to higher levels of forgiveness and lower levels of perfectionism.
Higher forgiveness levels may activate self-compassion, thus leading to lower
maladaptive perfectionistic tendencies. Forgiveness is considered to be the intrapersonal
transformation of the valence of an event from negative to neutral or positive. Releasing
oneself from the negative valence of an event may help to create the mental space needed
to experience feelings of commonness with humanity and a kindness toward self, all of
which are present in self-compassion. The current study examines the potential
mechanism employed by individuals who are more forgiving to encourage self-
compassion and avoid the potential destructive elements of perfectionism, providing new
insight into the forgiveness-perfectionism relationship.
Though self-compassion has been related to perfectionism, and the ability to see
oneself as similar to others has been found to be correlated with forgiveness (Exline,
Baumeister, Zell, Kraft, & Witvliet, 2008), the possibility of a link between forgiveness
and perfectionism, particularly one mediated by self-compassion has never been
investigated. In addressing this question, the current study helps link two popular bodies
of literature, that of forgiveness and that of perfectionism. The current study provides
necessary theoretical and empirical foundation for future research in perfectionism and
forgiveness, as well as a foundation for development of psychologically therapeutic
interventions that address forgiveness and self-compassion when working with
perfectionistic individuals in a clinical setting.
In order to explore the relationship of forgiveness to perfectionistic tendencies it
is important to flesh out the recent literature in both areas. The review will pay particular
attention to similarities and differences between the concepts of interest on a descriptive
level, as well as the measures of well-being that have been found to have significant
relationships with both forgiveness and perfectionism. Attention will also be paid to how
self-compassion may influence or help explain forgiveness and perfectionism, given the
theoretical and empirical support presented.
There exists much debate as to the conceptualization of forgiveness. Most
consider forgiveness interpersonally as the defining feature of forgiveness. However,
approaches to measuring forgiveness range from presenting events of specific
transgressions hypothetically committed towards a respondent and asking their
propensity to forgive such an event, to more broad statements intended to gauge one's
disposition to forgive events beyond one's control. The most recent and comprehensive
approach has been to consider forgiveness as an intrapersonal phenomenon, and having
to do with a person's transforming the valence of their attachment to an event or
occurrence. The spectrum of forgiveness conceptualizations and measurement, and the
evolution of the construct as both a vital aspect of well-being and ultimately as a
dispositional, intrapersonal experience will be discussed in this section.
Many researchers agree upon the benefits of forgiveness and the drawbacks or
consequences of not forgiving (see Neto & Mullet, 2004 table for review). Narcissism,
neuroticism, anger, anxiety, depression, hostility, and resentment have all been associated
with low levels of forgiveness (Ashton, Paunonena, Helmesa, & Jacksona, 1998; Enright
et al., 1992; Worthington, 1998). An inability to forgive has also been found to
correspond with higher levels of hostile thoughts and rumination (Berry, Worthington,
Parrott, O'Connor, & Wade, 2001; McCullough et al., 2001; Thompson et al., 2005),
vengeance (Berry, Worthington, O'Connor, Parrott, Wade, 2005; Stuckless & Goranson,
1992), negative affect (Watson, et. al, 1988), a neurotic defense style (Macaskill, Maltby,
& Day, 2002; Maltby & Day, 2004), the personality dimension of Neuroticism (Neto &
Mullet, 2004), anger and fear (Berry et al., 2005), physiological stress and coronary heart
disease (Witvliet, 2001), greater anxiety, and higher levels of depression (Seybold, Hill,
Neuman, & Chi, 2001; Thompson, & Snyder, 2003; Subkoviak, Enright, Wu, Gassin,
Freedman, Olson, et al., 1995). Conversely, high levels of forgiveness have been
associated with many factors of psychological, emotional, and physical well-being (e.g.,
Denton & Martin, 1998; Lawler, Younger, Piferi, Jobe, Edmondson, & Jones, 2005),
such as happiness (Maltby, Day, & Barber, 2005), better sleep quality, less fatigue, and
fewer somatic complaints (Lawler, et al., 2005), greater life satisfaction, less anxiety and
reduced depression (e.g., Al-Mabuk, Enright, & Cardis, 1995; Coyle and Enright, 1997;
Freedman and Enright, 1996; Hebl and Enright, 1993), greater altruism (Ashton, et al.,
1998), empathy (Berry et al., 2005), and gratitude (McCullough et al., 2002; Neto &
Mullet, 2004). Forgiveness has also been associated with the personality dimensions of
Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Emotional Stability, Religiousness, and
Responsibility (Ashton, et al., 1998; Berry et al., 2001), a secure adult attachment style
(Lawler-Row, Youger, Piferi, & Jones, 2006; Webb, Call, Chickering, Colbum, &
Heisler, 2006), increased hope, and spiritual well-being (Maltby, Day, & Barber, 2004;
Saucier & Goldberg, 1998).
However, researchers do not agree upon a clear definition of forgiveness, and a
consensus has not yet been reached regarding whether forgiveness truly occurs inter- or
intra- personally. As such, debate continues as to whether it ought to be measured using a
situation-specific or dispositional approach. Mauger and colleagues (1992) were among
the first to differentiate between types of forgiveness, created the Forgiveness of Self
(FS) and Forgiveness of Others (FO) scales, which fall under the greater umbrella of the
construct of forgiveness. These measures generally take the approach of measuring
forgiveness from the negative standpoint, in that they appear to be using endorsement of
unforgiveness as an indication of one's lack of forgiveness of self or others. This implies
that unforgiveness and forgiveness would exist on a continuum in which one is said to
have more or less forgiveness overall, regardless of the negative or positive standpoint of
the measure. The FO items revolve particularly around taking revenge, justifying
retaliation, holding grudges, and seeing other people as apt to cause one hurt, while the
FS items tapped feelings of guilt, seeing oneself as sinful, and having a variety of
negative self-attitudes (Mauger et al., 1992).
Enright and others (Subkoviak et al., 1995; Hebl & Enright, 1993) preferred to
assess forgiveness using transgression-specific means, subscribing to the mindset that
forgiveness is something that occurs between two people, or solely interpersonally. They
define forgiveness as "a willingness to abandon one's right to resentment, negative
judgment, and indifferent behavior toward one who unjustly hurt us, while fostering the
undeserved qualities of compassion, generosity, and even love toward him or her"
(Enright et al., 1998, pp. 46-47). This definition clearly exhibits the necessity for
benevolence in order for forgiveness to occur. Enright and Zell (1989) also assert that,
"the fruition of forgiveness is entering into loving community with others" (p.99),
suggesting that reconciliation may be a required part of forgiveness as well. Though
respondents are asked to respond to hypothetical as well as one real situation, the narrow
focus of a transgression-specific approach constricts the external validity and limits the
applicability of forgiveness to other more trait-based psychological constructs.
Berry and colleagues (2001) also endorse a transgression-specific definition of
forgiveness. Similarly, McCullough (2000) and colleagues conceptualize forgiveness as a
construct emphasizing prosocial changes in motivations. Under their definition one
specifically experiences decreased motivation to avoid personal and psychological
contact with the offender, to seek revenge or to see harm come to the offender, and
increased benevolence motivation toward the offender, implying that forgiveness of
others is the basic component. Under this framework, again, forgiveness is defined in
terms of interpersonal process rather than an experience that may occur intrapersonally.
The two components of their definition are motivations to avoid contact, and motivations
to seek revenge or see harm come to the transgressor (McCullough et al., 1998),
emphasizing mostly the negative aspects as representative of one's lack of forgiveness.
Hargrave and Sells (2007) offer a definition of forgiveness that includes the component
of love: "effort in restoring love and trustworthiness to relationships so that victims and
victimizers can put an end to destructive entitlement" (p.43). They assert two broader
levels of forgiveness, exonerating (involving insight and understanding) and forgiving
(involving the overt act of forgiving as well as giving the opportunity for compensation,
meaning the ability for interactions with the transgressor in a way perceived by that
person as non-threatening and encouraging of emotional bonding. Hargrave and Sells
(1997) see forgiveness as having two components, forgiveness and pain, and have
developed a measure with four interesting subscales: insight, understanding, giving the
opportunity for compensation, and the overt act of forgiving. Here we see a
conceptualization of forgiveness that approaches intrapersonal emphasis, but still falls
short. Examination of the construct of forgiveness using specific descriptions of events
does not allow for a broader generalizability of forgiveness as attributed to the respondent
as well as to be related to other psychological constructs.
Kamat and colleagues (2006) found evidence for forgiveness as a more stable
dimension of personality, and current trends in the forgiveness literature support the idea
that forgiveness is more accurately and appropriately characterized as dispositional in
nature (Thompson et al., 2003). The current study argues that the superior approach to
measurement of forgiveness is both through a non transgression-specific framework, and
is incorporative of the self, others, and situational components of the forgiveness
construct, in line with the definition of forgiveness put forth by Thompson and Snyder
We define forgiveness as the framing of a perceived transgression such that one's
attachment to the transgressor, transgression, and sequelae of the transgression is
transformed from negative to neutral or positive. The source of a transgression, and
therefore the object of forgiveness, may be oneself, another person or persons, or a
situation that one views as being beyond anyone's control (e.g., an illness, "fate," or a
natural disaster). (p. 302)
This definition is arguably the broadest and most encompassing definition yet
available, in that it includes the possibility of feeling transgressed upon in an impersonal
manner, and thus allows for the forgiveness of situations to exist as a distinct and
important aspect of dispositional forgiveness. The authors' most compelling argument for
the understanding of forgiveness as dispositional rather than transgression-specific is the
assertion that forgiveness itself occurs only intrapersonally. In other words, the target of
forgiveness does not matter; it is the motivation and behavior of the forgiver that
exemplify forgiveness as a disposition. This measure created by Thompson and
colleagues, the Heartland Forgiveness scale (HFS; Thompson et al., 2005), measures
forgiveness of self, others, and situations. This is the measure chosen for the current
study and will be discussed in detail later.
In the realm of clinical practice, models have begun to be established for
forgiveness. Denton and Martin (1998) found that experienced clinicians identified
forgiveness as an inner process that was central to psychotherapy. Clinicians corroborated
the idea that forgiveness is a predominantly intrapersonal process, in which an individual
releases those negative feelings and no longer seeks to return hurt within (Denton &
Martin, 1998). Worthington and Wade (1999) have set forth a model incorporating
forgiveness and its related areas, in which the personal attributes of the participants and
of the relationship at hand before a transgression factor into the propensity and likelihood
of an individual to forgive. First, the person's perceptions of the events take place, and
their initial emotional reaction to the events occurs. Then interpersonally active
responses, such as revenge/retaliation, pro-relationship behavior, and perception of the
offender's response occur, as well as the intrapersonally passive response of rumination.
Within this model, an emotionally dissonant event occurs that changes one's initial
reaction to the event, leading to emotional dissonance. This aspect is considered crucial.
"Underlying forgiveness is an emotional dissonant event. Thus, a victim's ability to
forgive will be influenced partially by his or her ability to comprehend and successfully
resolve incompatible emotions, which is the core of the hypothesized construct of
emotional intelligence" (Worthington & Wade, 1999, p. 395). At this point, self-
compassion may play its part in the forgiveness process. The more one is able to take a
compassionate standpoint toward one's own actions or feelings that may provoke an
initially negative response, the more likely one may be to be open to and familiar with the
choice of extending this understanding and compassion to events involving others (or
situations). In kind, the more one considers oneself to have a kinship or similarity with
others, who also have broadly imperfect human experiences, the more forgiving and the
less self-critical or perfectionistic the person may be.
Another model of forgiveness has been proposed within the psychotherapeutic
context that highlights intrapersonal process, and the role of attending to the similarities
and humanity of another person. Rosenak and Harnden (1992) describe a model in which,
after an offensive event, victims experience hurt that leads to anger. After the realization
and expression of hurt and anger comes, a therapeutic information-gathering stage occurs
within a client, in which the client needs to glean more knowledge about the transgressor.
This information is thought to then promote a better understanding from the other
person's perspective, leading to a true forgiveness.
Current trends in forgiveness research support the idea that forgiveness occurs as
an intrapersonal process. In a meta-analysis of forgiveness interventions, Baskin and
Enright (2004) found that, when compared with control groups on forgiveness and other
emotional health measures, process-based individual interventions showed large effects
and process-based group interventions showed significant effects, while decision-based
interventions had no effect. These findings highlight the effectiveness of focusing on the
process of forgiveness occurring within a person. The Heartland Forgiveness Scale (HFS;
Thompson, Snyder, Hoffman, Michael, Rasmussen, et al, 2005) has been developed
based upon this very conceptualization, and serves as the most encompassing defining of
the construct of forgiveness to date. Under this framework, someone can be relieved of
the negative attachment through transforming the negative cognitions, emotions, and/or
behaviors to either neutral or positive, as well as through weakening the attachment by
releasing the perception of a strong connection between oneself and the transgressor or
transgression (Thompson & Snyder, 2003). This does not necessitate a forgetting of the
event, nor preclude the person from taking any actions, legal or otherwise. The emphasis
is on the valence of the attachment, and forgiveness is said to occur as long as the
motivation does not involve negative attachment (e.g., vengefulness). Instead,
forgiveness is understood as process "through which people synthesize their prior
assumptions and the reality of the transgression into a new understanding of the
transgression, transgressor, transgression sequelae, and potentially, of themselves, other
people, or the world" (Thompson et al., 2005, p. 318). The authors are groundbreaking
and unique in their perspective that only the shift from a negative to a neutral attachment
is necessary and sufficient to constitute forgiveness, rather than needing empathy or
compassion to be demonstrated.
Over the years and through a variety of research avenues, perfectionism has
evolved from a simple to a multidimensional construct. Researchers have increasingly
become interested in perfectionism in relation to psychological well-being, and there is
currently a growing debate with regard to what conception and aspects of perfectionism
may or may not be detrimental, or maladaptive. Burns (1980) continued this work with
more detailed descriptions of a perfectionist's self-defeating thoughts and attitudes that
can lead to higher anxiety, depression, and mood swings. Blatt (1995) later elaborated on
the self-destructiveness of perfectionism, linking it to a self-critical depression and
general psychopathology. However, Hamachek (1978) and others advanced the notion
very early on that perfectionism may be more complex than it seems at first glance, and
may contain adaptive as well as maladaptive functions, which he described as "normal"
perfectionism and "neurotic" perfectionism.
The adaptive functions of perfectionism serve to motivate an individual to achieve
and strive to meet high standards, while the more maladaptive perfectionistic
characteristics may lead individuals to experience a variety of psychological distress and
disturbance, such as personality disorders (e.g., Flett, Endler, Tassone, & Hewitt, 1994;
Rice, et al., 2007), obsessive-compulsive disorders (e.g., Hewitt & Flett, 1991a; Rice &
Pence, 2006; Ye, et al., 2008), low self-esteem (Ashby & Rice, 2002; Gzregorek et al.,
2004; Mobley, Slaney, & Rice, 2005) and high shame (Ashby, Rice, & Martin, 2006),
high levels of anxiety (e.g., Flett, Hewitt, & Dyck, 1989; Mobley et al., 2005), eating
disorders (e.g., Axtell & Newlon, 1994; Hewitt, Flett, & Ediger, 1995), and Type A
behaviors (e.g., Flett, Hewitt, & Blankenstein, 1994). Those with high levels of
perfectionism have an extreme vulnerability to failure, experiencing each fault as
catastrophic. Across cultures, they very often exhibit higher levels of depression (e.g.,
Shahar, Blatt & Zuroff, 2003; Enns, Cox, & Clara, 2002; Wang et al., 2007).
Perfectionists judge their work to be of lower quality than non-perfectionists (Frost &
Henderson, 1991; Frost & Marten, 1991), have been reported to make lower salaries than
even those not suffering from perfectionism (Bums, 1980), have lower quality intimate
partnerships and premarital adjustment (Aldea & Rice, 2006; Ashby, Rice, & Kutchins,
2008; Shea, Slaney, & Rice, 2006), and exhibit lower levels of academic adjustment and
integration (Rice & Dellwo, 2001, 2002; Rice & Mirzadeh, 2000; Rice, Vergara, &
Aldea, 2006). Perfectionism has also been linked to increased brooding and rumination
(Hewitt, Flett, Besser, Sherry, & McGee, 2002; O'Connor, O'Connor, & Marshall, 2007),
hopelessness (Rice, et al., 2006; O'Connor et al., 2007), and a greater potentiality for
suicide (e.g., Blatt, 1995; Hewitt, et al., 1992; Hewitt, Flett, & Weber, 1994).
Carver and Ganellen (1983) support the idea that this self-punitiveness reflects an
inability to tolerate failure in meeting one's high standards and a tendency to generalize a
single failure to all aspects of the self. Carver and Scheier's (1986) model of self-
regulatory processes also focuses on whether standards are attained and supports the idea
that these individuals will continue to pursue unattained goals even when abandoning
such goals may be highly adaptive. If they do meet their standards, the standards are then
considered insufficiently demanding (Shafran, Cooper, Fairbum, 2002). Perfectionistic
individuals have actually been reported to make lower salaries than individuals not
suffering from perfectionism (Bums, 1980). Nothing ever seems to be quite good enough
for the maladaptive perfectionist. They judge their work to be of lower quality than non-
perfectionists (Frost & Henderson, 1990; Frost & Marten, 1991). Perfectionism is also
associated with procrastination problems (e.g., Flett, Blankenstein, & Hewitt, 1992), and
debilitating performance anxiety (Mor, Day, Flett, & Hewitt, 1995).
Earlier measurement development yielded two main scales that consider
perfectionism to be a multidimensional construct, though they are based upon slightly
different conceptualizations. Hewitt and Flett (1990, 1991) developed their
Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (MPS) based upon three types of perfectionism:
self-oriented, other-oriented, and socially prescribed perfectionism, and furthered
research from within this same theoretical conceptualization. The inclusion of self-
oriented, other-oriented, and socially prescribed perfectionism dimensions means that the
construct of perfectionism is now described using both intra-personal and inter-personal
terms. Self-oriented perfectionism is described as the presence of unrelentingly high, self-
imposed standards for self, as well as an inability to accept flaws, faults, or failures of
any kind across multiple domains of life. Other-oriented perfectionism demands that
others meet exceedingly high and unrealistic standards. Though self-oriented
perfectionism was found to contribute to a person's resourcefulness and constructive
striving, it also acts destructively during negative life circumstances to produce higher
levels of depression (Flett, Hewitt, Blankenstein, & Mosher, 1995; Flett, Hewitt,
Blankenstein, & O'Brien, 1991). Hewitt & Flett (1990) found self-oriented perfectionism
to be significantly correlated with both the Efficacy and the Self-Criticism components of
the Depressive Experiences Questionnaire (DEQ; Blatt, D'Affiti, & Quinlan, 1976), a
finding that also occurred with the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale of Frost and
colleagues (1990). Socially prescribed perfectionism means a belief that others hold
unrealistically high standards and expectations, and that acceptance and approval are
contingent upon meeting these impossible standards (Frost et al., 1990). Socially
prescribed perfectionism, self-oriented perfectionism, and perceiving events as falling
unbearably short of expectations or standards have all been linked to suicidal ideation
(Baumeister, 1990; Delisle, 1990; Hewitt & Flett, 1991a), particularly for perfectionistic
individuals who have recently had an experience of failure (Flett, Hewitt, Blankenstein,
& Mosher, 1991, 1995; Hewitt & Flett, 1993).
The Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (MPS) of Frost, Marten, Lahart, and
Rosenblatt (1990) assesses perfectionism using multiple aspects of their definition, which
includes subscales for concern over making mistakes, high standards, perceptions of high
parental expectations and parental criticism, and preferences for order and organization.
Though a few of these subscales, such as high standards, have been related to positive
striving and achievement, many have been related to a range of psychological or clinical
disorders, especially depression. Factor analysis on both multidimensional perfectionism
scales has revealed that they contained two factors, the first reflecting maladaptive and
critical evaluative concerns, and the second, positive achievement striving. Frost and
colleagues (1993) found that the overall perfectionism scores on their scale correlated
primarily with self-oriented and socially prescribed perfectionism on the Hewitt and Flett
Further scales have been developed by perfectionism researchers that highlight
the importance of measuring both adaptive and maladaptive aspects of perfectionism. The
Adaptive/Maladaptive Perfectionism Scale (AMPS; Rice & Preusser, 2002) was
developed for children, expanding the availability for research across a broader age
range. This scale assesses domains such as sensitivity to mistakes, contingent self-esteem,
compulsiveness, and need for admiration. However, research in the field of perfectionism
has predominantly utilized a college student population. This has been understandable
considering some two thirds of college samples may be classified as perfectionistic
(Grzegorek, Slaney, Franze, & Rice, 2004). College honors or gifted samples may
typically consist of more perfectionistic individuals than non-honors samples (Leever,
Rice, Christopher, & Porter, 2006), and interest in the study of perfectionism with this
population has gained some ground. Adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism has been
found to relate in the expected directions with hopelessness, social connectedness,
perceived academic adjustment, depression, and perceived stress in high-achieving
honors students and effects were found to be moderated or partially mediated by level of
perceived stress and social connection (Rice et al., 2006).
Some have focused mainly on the cognitive aspects of perfectionism. Rumination
over one's mistakes and inadequacies has been noted often in the perfectionism literature
(e.g., Frost & Henderson, 1991; Frost, Trepanier, Brown, Heimberg, Juster, Markis, &
Leung, 1997). Some assert that perfectionistic individuals have an ideal self-schema at
work (Hewitt & Genest, 1990) and that perfectionists have more automatic thoughts that
reflect perfectionistic themes, such as failure to attain perfection in the past or future
(Ferrari, 1995). A brooding ruminative response style has been found to be a mechanism
that may help explain, in part, the perfectionism-distress relationship (O'Connor,
O'Connor, & Marshall, 2007).
However, it is well argued that some aspects of previous scales may in fact
measure consequences of being a perfectionist, rather than the essential elements of
perfectionism itself (Slaney, et al., 2001), and that existing measures do not reflect the
original concept of perfectionism (Shafran & Mansell, 2001). In other words, "the
subscales composing the Maladaptive factor seem to be based on assumed causes,
concomitants, or the resulting effects of being perfectionistic rather than a definition of
perfectionism itself' (Slaney et al., 2001, p.132). The Almost Perfect Scale (APS;
Johnson & Slaney, 1996; APS-R; Slaney et al., 2001) was developed to emphasize both
the positive and negative dimensions of perfectionism itself. Based upon two qualitative
studies (Slaney & Ashby, 1996; Slaney, Chadha, Mobley, & Kennedy, 2000) these
researchers developed a scale that emphasized the apparent importance the distress
associated with the difference, or discrepancy, between an individual's high standards for
performance and their perceptions of success in meeting those high standards. This
Discrepancy subscale was thought to best capture a more definitive quality of the
maladaptive perfectionist, and became one of the most important contributions of this
scale (APS-R; Slaney et al., 2001) to the growing body of perfectionism literature. The
APS-R uses the following premises:
...an adequate and useful definition of perfectionism would
seemingly need to meet at least four criteria: (a) It should clearly specify
the variables that define perfectionism as discriminated from variables that
are seen as causal, correlational, or the effect of being perfectionistic; (b) it
should pay close attention to the empirically supported negative and
positive aspects of perfectionism; (c) it should be closely related to
commonly held ideas about perfectionism as exemplified in the dictionary
definitions, and (d) it should be empirically sound (Slaney et al., 2001,
The APS-R (see Appendix B) includes three subscales supported by factor
analysis: Discrepancy, High Standards, and Order. Having high standards for oneself
reflects perfectionism in general, and high Discrepancy scores then distinguish the
negative or maladaptive dimension. This scale was found in a factor analysis study to
have two factors (one positive, one negative) consistent with the findings of Frost and
colleagues (Slaney, Ashby, & Trippi, 1995). Subsequently, a confirmatory factor analysis
was performed on the scales, which similarly supported an adaptive and a maladaptive
perfectionism (Rice, Ashby, & Slaney, 1998). High Standards and Order are subscales
included in the original APS as well as the APS-R, and are said to measure these domains
without any negative preconceptions, which is reflected in their combined high
correlation to positive striving and their weak negative correlation to the original
maladaptive evaluation concerns factor of the APS (Slaney et al., 1995). Frost and
colleagues (1990) considered organization to be irrelevant to perfectionism, and Johnson
and Slaney (1996) found a very minimal correlation of High Standards and Order with
anxiety and depression. It has been advanced that setting and striving for high standards
is not in and of itself pathological (Frost, et al., 1990). The Discrepancy subscale has
been shown to strongly tap the maladaptive dimension of perfectionism. Discrepancy,
introduced in the APS-R, measures the perception that one's high personal standards are
consistently not being met (Slaney et al., 2001), and is associated with high psychological
distress and many of the destructive elements that accompany perfectionism. The High
Standards and Discrepancy subscales are considered virtually independent, highlighting
the complexity of the construct (Slaney et al., 2001). The Order subscale has not been
found to be essential for maladaptive or adaptive perfectionism (Stoeber & Otto, 2006).
Since the development of the APS-R much research investigating the positive and
negative dimensions of perfectionism has occurred. The Discrepancy subscale has
become particularly useful as a tool for tapping maladaptive perfectionism using its
defining quality, rather than other characteristics that may merely be consequences of
already being perfectionistic. Based upon APS-R scores, some researchers have begun to
develop ways to cluster perfectionists into groups: maladaptive perfectionists, adaptive
perfectionists, and nonperfectionists (Rice & Slaney, 2002; Rice & Ashby, 2007).
Previous cluster analytic studies have been performed using the Frost et al. (1990) scale
(e.g., Rice & Mirzadeh, 2000; Rice & Lapsley, 2001) and have also found support for
some healthy advantages to adaptive perfectionism and strong disadvantages to
maladaptive perfectionism. Using the APS-R, perfectionists were distinguished from
nonperfectionists using their high scores on High Standards and Order, while the
maladaptive perfectionists were distinguished from the adaptive perfectionists by their
high Discrepancy scores (Rice & Slaney 2002; Rice & Ashby, 2007). Discrepancy scores
for adaptive perfectionists actually tended to be lower than those for nonperfectionists,
with maladaptive perfectionists having the highest relative Discrepancy scores (Rice &
Slaney, 2002). Further validation of efficient methods for classifying nonperfectionists,
maladaptive perfectionists, and adaptive perfectionists benefits both further research and
Maladaptive perfectionism, measured using the Discrepancy subscale of the APS-
R, has been found to possess substantial stability over time, even when controlling for
other dimensions of perfectionism and depression (Aldea & Rice, 2006). Maladaptive
perfectionism, assessed using the APS-R Discrepancy subscale has been found to be
significantly related to depression in particular (e.g., Rice & Slaney, 2002; Rice & Aldea,
2006; Rice & Ashby, 2007), along with shame (Ashby, et al., 2006), lower self-esteem
(e.g., Rice & Slaney, 2002), lower satisfaction with life (e.g., Rice & Ashby, 2007),
higher trait anxiety (Mobley, Slaney, & Rice, 2005), lower satisfaction with GPA (e.g.,
Grzegorek, et al., 2004; Mobley, et al., 2005), and Neuroticism, as measured using the
NEO-Five factor personality inventory (Rice, Ashby, & Slaney, 2007). Adaptive
perfectionism has been associated with higher satisfaction with GPA (Grzegorek et al.,
2004), the NEO-Five factor personality inventory dimension of Conscientiousness (Rice,
Ashby, & Slaney, 2007), higher self-esteem (Ashby & Rice, 2002), and coping and
achievement (Parker, 1997; Rice & Lapsley, 2001). Adaptive perfectionism has been
associated with more healthy adult attachment styles, while maladaptive perfectionism
has been related to less healthy adult attachment styles (Rice, Lopez, & Vergara, 2005).
Discrepancy is arguably the most quintessential aspect of the maladaptive form of
perfectionism. Discrepancy has recently been found to be a strong underlying indicator of
Evaluative Concerns perfectionism (Blankstein, Dunkley, & Wilson, 2008), as compared
with Personal Standards perfectionism. Evaluative Concerns perfectionists "perceive that
excessively high, rigid standards are imposed on them by others, perceive a discrepancy
between the standards and the motivation, abilities, and skills required to reach the level
of performance or success required by the imposed standards, are concerned about
making mistakes and doubt their actions, engage in relentless self criticism, and perceive
consistent failure to meet the high standards set for them by others" (Blankstein, et al.,
2008, p.32). The high factor loading of Discrepancy on Evaluative Concerns
perfectionism reflects this construct as an underlying and unifying factor in the
conceptualization of maladaptive perfectionism, while also distinguishing that having
high personal standards is not necessarily maladaptive. This finding is consistent with the
views of previous researchers (e.g Slaney, Rice, & Ashby, 2002; Suddarth & Slaney,
2001) who proposed that Discrepancy as central to maladaptive perfectionism.
With the advancement of such a useful measurement tool for Discrepancy,
research in a wide variety of domains has become possible. High Standards appears
within both the adaptive and maladaptive dimensions of perfectionism, so the
introduction of the APS-R Discrepancy subscale, which teases apart the maladaptive
quality of the construct itself, has been extremely beneficial to both future research as
well as theoretical conceptualization of perfectionism. Higher distress over the perceived
discrepancy between one's high personal standards and one's meeting such standards
seems to be at the heart of the maladaptive and destructive element of perfectionism.
"High standards combined with excessive concerns about mistakes seem to be especially
maladaptive, whereas high standards but low concerns about mistakes may be adaptive"
(Rice & Lopez, 2004, p. 118). In examining this description, it appears that previous
descriptions of a 'concern over mistakes' have helped further the understanding of what is
a perceived discrepancy between standards and performance. Discrepancy is not the same
as a concern over mistakes, however. Though perfectionism scales and
conceptualizations are evolving based upon a fairly similar understanding of the
construct, the addition of the Discrepancy subscale now allows for an arguably more
accurate theoretical and empirical measure of the maladaptive dimension.
Discrepancy is essentially an intense dissatisfaction and experienced distress over
a perceived discrepancy between one's standards and one's ability to meet these high
standards. Evidence has been found that both perfectionism and forgiveness tend to be
dispositional, fairly stable constructs related to personality (see Rice, Ashby, & Slaney,
2007 and Rice & Aldea, 2006 for perfectionism; see Thompson et al., 2005 and Kamat,
Jones, & Row, 2006 for forgiveness). The current study hypothesizes that forgiveness
will be significantly related to perfectionism in the expected directions, in that higher
levels of forgiveness will predict lower levels of maladaptive, or self-critical,
perfectionism. An ability to forgive oneself, others, and situations beyond one's control
may prevent the possibility of intense psychological distress regarding not meeting one's
high standards. It is expected that those scoring high on Discrepancy, individuals who
have very negative self-evaluation of their performance, will subsequently exhibit a lower
propensity for forgiveness. In other words, in the instances where standards may not be
met, this inability to forgive leads such individuals to perceive their performance as a
failure and would report a larger discrepancy between their standard and their
performance. The relationship between forgiveness and perfectionism has not yet been
explored and represents an important theoretical and empirical gap in the literature.
Detailed hypotheses and the potential roles of self-compassion in the relationship of
forgiveness and perfectionism will be discussed in a later section. In order to accurately
conceptualize the model of forgiveness, perfectionism, and self-compassion put forth for
examination in this study, a grasp of the literature and scales for measuring self-
compassion is needed.
Throughout the history of mental health and well-being research, the predominant
focus of study has been pathological in nature. In other words, researchers and the mental
health field in general have often studied the negative or self-destructive constructs
related to disorders or distress in individuals. However, a trend toward the study of
positive well-being attributes has taken hold in the field of mental health as well, often
termed positive psychology. Self-compassion springs from the tenets of positive
psychology, and the confluence of eastern and western influences.
A mix of western psychology and eastern philosophy has brought the mental
health field many useful concepts for the study of well-being, particularly for
understanding processes of self. One such concept, self-compassion, has been understood
to contribute to well-being in for many years and has been extensively discussed in books
on mindfulness, loving kindness, and finding loving balance in one's life (e.g., Bennett-
Golemen, 2001; Brown, 1999; Hahn, 1976, 1997; Kabat-Zinn, 1994; Komfield, 1993;
Salzberg, 1997). Neff (2003a, 2003b) has brought this concept into the psychological
literature and research field through her extensive theoretical contribution to the literature
as well as her development of a viable and reliable measure of self-compassion. Self-
compassion is directly related to feelings of compassion and concern for others -
patience, kindness, and a nonjudgmental understanding, along with an ability to
acknowledge that all humans are imperfect and make mistakes (Neff, 2003b). Self-
compassion expands compassion toward oneself in acknowledgement of one's
membership as part of the human race, with its implicit imperfection.
Self-compassion involves being open to and moved by one's own
suffering, experiencing feelings of caring and kindness toward one's
inadequacies and failures, and recognizing that one's own experience is
part of the common human experience. Because self-compassion is
directly related to feelings of compassion and concern for others, being
self-compassionate does not entail being selfish or self-centered, nor does
it mean that one priorities personal needs over those of others. Instead,
self-compassion entails acknowledging that suffering, failure, and
inadequacies are part of the human condition, and that all people oneself
included are worthy of compassion (Neff, 2003b, p. 224).
Since self-compassion requires that one be aware of feelings of inadequacy, while
adopting a compassionate, nonjudgmental understanding, the mindset of the self-
compassionate individual would leave no room for the unforgiveness or destructive self-
criticism that may lead to high levels of psychological distress, unforgiving attitudes, and
maladaptive perfectionism. Neff (2003b) describes self-compassion as having three
1) extending kindness and understanding to oneself rather than harsh self-
criticism and judgment, 2) seeing one's experiences as part of the larger
human experience rather than as separating and isolating; and 3) holding
one's painful thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness rather than
over-identifying with them. These aspects of self-compassion are
experienced differently and are conceptually distinct, but they also tend to
engender one another (p.224).
It is because the process of self-compassion involves an understanding of self and other
as related, and involves the emphasis of universal human commonalities, that self-
compassion is often related with increased feelings of interconnectedness and decreased
feelings of separation (Neff, 2003b). People have also been found to be more forgiving if
they see themselves as similar to offenders, or capable of committing similar offenses
(Exline et al., 2008). Previous research on perfectionism has found that maladaptive
perfectionism is associated with much lower levels of social connectedness than
nonperfectionism or adaptive perfectionism high Discrepancy scores have been
associated with low feelings of social connectedness, while high standards (adaptive
perfectionists) have been associated with higher levels of social connection (Rice et al.,
2006). Using the same Social Connectedness Scale (SCS; Lee & Robbins, 1995), Neff
(2003b) found that self-compassion is also significantly positively related to feelings of
social connectedness. Given the similarities between the well-being effects of forgiveness
and self-compassion, as well as the detrimental effects of maladaptive perfectionism, the
current study will include self-compassion as a potentially crucial factor in the
relationship between perfectionism and forgiveness.
Supporting her argument that self-compassion transforms negative affect, Neff
(2003b) has found that self-compassion is strongly associated with lower levels of
depression and anxiety, as well as higher satisfaction with life. Though self-compassion
has been found to positively relate to self-esteem and to encompass similar construct
characteristics, evidence of self-esteem and self-compassion as distinct constructs has
been established. Although self-compassion has been found to have a significant
moderate correlation with self-esteem, a significant relationship with Narcissism was not
found (Neff, 2003b), as had been found with measures of self-esteem. Self-compassion
also had a significant negative correlation with rumination, and a positive correlation
with emotional coping (Neff, 2003b). This supports the idea that self-compassion is not
based upon self-pity for one's feelings as unique and distinct from others, or on the
overemphasis on liking oneself, but instead involves nonjudgmental understanding and a
balanced emotional perspective that one's experiences of inadequacy are common to
humanity. Self-compassion allows individuals to experience feelings of kindness and
understanding "without having to protect or bolster ones self-concept" (Neff, 2003b, p.
225). This is because self-compassion does not engage the evaluative process that can
lead to destructive criticism or narcissistic esteem for self. In fact self-compassion is said
to enhance compassion and concern for others (Neff, 2003a), which is theoretically
consistent with the idea that self-compassion may be the mechanism that promotes an
ability to forgive oneself, and may explain how self-compassion could extend to a
forgiveness of others and of situations beyond our control. This potential role of self-
compassion for promoting forgiveness is a key component of the current study's
Neff's (2003b) Self-Compassion Scale (see Appendix C) consists of three
subscales, tapping the three faces of Self-Compassion: Self-Kindness versus Self-
Judgment, Common Humanity versus Isolation, and Mindfulness versus Over-
Identification. These three components interact and enhance each other. For instance, the
detached, nonjudgmental stance provided by a mindful frame of mind allows for a degree
of mental distance from a negative event, giving space for feelings of a commonality
amongst humanity, as well as kindness or understanding toward self to arise (Jopling,
2000). This ability to take a balanced and broader perspective allows for the reduction of
overidentification with a particular negative event, countering the egocentrism that can
cause feelings of being isolated and separate. This increases the feeling of
interconnectedness (Elkind, 1967). Experiences of self-compassion and
interconnectedness then serve to further increase mindfulness (Neff, 2003a) essentially
each one promotes more of the others. In self-compassion, one would not run away from
or away with one's thoughts or emotions (Goldstein & Kornfield, 1987).
Self-Compassion resonates well with many psychological approaches, offering an
especially useful therapeutic tool for helping clients with self-acceptance, harsh criticism,
and the ability to use suffering or negative feelings as opportunities for personal growth.
Neff (2003a) reviews many ways in which self-compassion fits well into established
frameworks, such as those of humanistic psychologists like Abraham Maslow, Jordan's
(1997) self-in-relation model of women's psychological development, and emotional
regulation literature, in which paying attention to the processes involved in emotional
arousal, intensity, and duration can transform the nature of these states and promote
psychological well-being when faced with particularly distressing or powerful emotions
(Thompson, 1994). Neff (2003b) also found a strong link between self-compassion and
emotional intelligence, the ability to experience one's feelings with greater clarity and
regulate negative moods. Self-compassion has been positively associated with a healthier
emotion-focused coping strategies (seeking emotional social support, positive
reinterpretation and growth, acceptance, and focus on and venting of emotions), and was
negatively associated with avoidance-oriented strategies, such as denial, and mental and
behavioral disengagement (Neff, Ya-Ping, & Kullaya, 2005).
The relationship of self-compassion with perfectionism has recently been
investigated as well, along with achievement goals and the ability to cope with academic
failure two areas in which perfectionism research has thrived. Neff (2003b) provides
evidence supporting the relationship between self-compassion and maladaptive
perfectionism (using Discrepancy scores on the APS-R), finding that the two constructs
have a significant and negative relationship, r = -.57. Self-compassion has been positively
associated with mastery goals, and negatively associated with performance goals; this
relationship was mediated by a lesser fear of failure and greater perceived competence of
self-compassionate persons (Neff, et al., 2005). In other words, self-compassion may help
an individual be less hard on him or herself when it comes to performing a task or
reaching a personal standard. If so, it would make theoretically consistent sense that self-
compassionate individuals would have lower Discrepancy when it comes to
perfectionism. High Discrepancy basically defines the maladaptive dimension of
perfectionism, as was discussed previously, so it is possible that self-compassion may be
a key component through which individuals prevent engaging in the detrimental and
destructive self-critical backlash of maladaptive perfectionism.
As discussed previously, self-compassion is composed of three distinct facets -
common humanity, mindfulness, and self-kindness. All three are said to influence and
promote one another. It is said that being mindful and kind to oneself may provide the
mental space for a more balanced perspective to arise, in which recognition of one's
feelings as part of the greater human experience results in greater feelings of
interconnectedness (Neff, 2003a). Also, seeing commonalities in the human experience
may promote the ability to be kinder to oneself, and to encourage a more mindful
approach to one's potentially negative feelings or experiences in the future. If all aspects
of self-compassion are distinct but also encourage and influence each other, it is unclear
whether cultivating one of these aspects could be sufficient to help promote the other
aspects and result in the well-being benefits of self-compassion. In teasing apart the role
of self-compassion in the relationship between forgiveness and perfectionism, the current
study will also look at which aspect of self-compassion relate more significantly with
both forgiveness and perfectionism. Forgiveness may activate and amplify this common
humanity element, increasing feelings of connection and decreased feelings of isolation
and judgment associated with perfectionistic thinking.
The ability to see similarities between one's own experience and the experience of
others has been discussed as beneficial for the mind and heart, and is associated with
being more loving, compassionate, and kind (Hahn, 1997). This would mean seeing the
whole of one's experiences (the positive as well as the seemingly negative) as beneficial,
providing opportunities to practice lovingkindness, mindfulness, and humility. In a
similar psychological domain, universal orientation, or the ability to attend to similarities
between self and others, has been related to higher acceptance and lower discrimination
based on ethnicity, a concern about or valuing of human equality, a responsivity to
others, greater empathy, and a preference for nonhierarchy (Phillips & Ziller, 1997).
Choosing to emphasize differentiation between self and others decreases the chance of
finding common ground, or seeing oneself as capable of the actions and feelings of
others. Individuals that perceive themselves as capable of another's actions report having
higher levels of forgiveness (Exline et al., 2008). Within the mindset of an individual able
to perceive common humanity, the self-criticism and judgmental or evaluative aspect
would be greatly reduced, leading to a higher propensity for forgiving, and a lower
incidence of harsh criticism for one's mistakes, failures, or inadequacies in living up to
one's high standards (as is present in maladaptive perfectionism). Essentially, the idea is
that when one allows oneself to be human, to experience all the intrinsic imperfections
associated with being a member of the human race, better mental health and interpersonal
relationships will follow in kind.
Many have purported that this differentiation between self and others is the first
problematic step in relationships, leading to interpersonal and potentially intrapersonal
conflict, negative comparison of self and others (Phillips & Ziller, 1997, p. 430), and
problem-solving approaches that preference self-over-others rather than creating
solutions that work for all (Abdullah, 1999). Similar thinking and justification appears to
occur in individuals low in forgiveness and high in Discrepancy they are unable to see
commonality between their feelings and others' feelings, their imperfections and the
similar imperfections of others, and are therefore unable to extend kindness or
compassion toward themselves. It is in this manner that seeing a common humanity
would be expected to encourage kindness toward self. The conflict resulting from an
overemphasis on differences may occur within the self, in regards to a distressing
perception of the difference between one's standards and one's performance (high in
Discrepancy and low in forgiveness of self), between self and others (low forgiveness of
others or high other-oriented perfectionism), or conflict regarding one's current life
circumstance (low forgiveness of situations).
Satisfaction with Life
Positive psychological research continues to foster a better understanding of
preventing and combating the pathological, while encouraging the beneficial, within our
daily lives. The foundation of the current study asserts that perfectionism, as measured by
Discrepancy, negatively impacts well-being, while the ability to forgive and to have
compassion for oneself has a positive impact on general well-being and mental health.
This ultimately allows for a happier, more satisfying life. To address this, a way to tap
global life satisfaction from a subjective standpoint was necessary. Shin and Johnson
(1978) define life satisfaction as "a global assessment of a person's quality of life
according to his chosen criteria" (p.478). The Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS;
Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985) was developed from this standpoint. The
primary advantage of this scale is that criteria for evaluating satisfaction are not
externally imposed or defined by the researcher (Diener, 1984). The SWLS is a measure
of subjective well-being designed to tap global life satisfaction, meaning satisfaction of
life as a whole rather than specific aspects of life. The SWLS has many benefits that
other related measures lack, such as positive affect and happiness, making it most
suitable for the current study. For example, the SWLS addresses life satisfaction directly
rather than by including related aspects such as a zest for life, or apathy, and retains
higher validity in using a multiple item format, while others rely on a single item. Due to
its measurement of life satisfaction as a cognitive-judgmental process, this scale
complements the theme of the current study in tapping evaluative processes, as also
found in the constructs of Discrepancy and the ability to forgive or not forgive.
Purpose of the Study
This study served to address a fundamental gap in the literature between two
constructs of well-being, perfectionism and forgiveness. In particular, this study intended
to provide support for an inverse relationship between forgiveness and maladaptive
perfectionism. Specifically, higher levels of forgiveness were expected to be related to
lower levels of perfectionism. Given the plethora of psychological distress and disorders
associated with maladaptive perfectionism, the relationship of this dimension of
perfectionism with forgiveness is of particular interest.
In the current study, perfectionistic tendency is based upon scores on the
Discrepancy subscale, a measure that taps the difference between one's expected
performance and one's perceived performance. Previous literature has revealed that the
most detrimental aspects of perfectionism overwhelmingly appeared in those individuals
with high Discrepancy, making this factor the focus of the current study.
Above all it is expected that higher scores on the Discrepancy subscale of the
APS-R will relate to lower levels of forgiveness across the board. In other words, a strong
inverse relationship between Discrepancy (representing the maladaptive aspect of
perfectionism) and Forgiveness is expected to be confirmed. It was also expected that
forgiveness and self-compassion will be positively related with well-being, namely
Satisfaction with Life, while high Discrepancy will be inversely related to Satisfaction
with Life. Maladaptive perfectionism would be expected to relate with low forgiveness
levels because an inability to forgive would fuel a perception of an unacceptable
discrepancy between expected and perceived performance. The most detrimental impact
on well-being tends to occur for maladaptive perfectionists, making the focus of the
current study Discrepancy, which is the quintessential maladaptive aspect of
Another aim of the current study was to examine the potential role of self-
compassion as a mediator in this relationship. Mediators are said to account for or explain
the relationship between the predictor and the criterion, while moderators affect the
strength/direction of the relationship (Baron & Kenny, 1986). A mediator should at least
meet the following conditions:
(a) variations in levels of the independent variable significantly account
for variations in the presumed mediator (i.e., Path a), (b) variations in the
mediator significantly account for variations in the dependent variable
(i.e., Path b), and (c) when Paths a and b are controlled, a previously
significant relation between the independent and dependent variables is no
longer significant... (Baron & Kenny, 1986, p. 1176).
Thus, all paths in the current model will be examined. Baron and Kenny's (1986) model
for testing mediation has begun to face criticism and trends in testing mediation now
encourage different procedures. MacKinnon and colleagues (2002) argued against the use
of the normal distribution model for assessing significance. The distribution of the
indirect effect in mediation models is often skewed rather than normal, so a symmetric
confidence interval based on the assumption of normality will typically yield
underpowered tests of mediation (Preacher & Hayes, 2004, 2008). Currently, many argue
that the stronger approach is to use a bootstrapping methodology, a nonparametric
approach that makes no assumptions about the shape of the distributions (Preacher &
Hayes, 2004; Shrout & Bolger, 2002; see Rice, et al., 2006 for an example). The
approach is to bootstrap the sampling distribution of ab and derive a confidence interval
with the empirically derived bootstrapped sampling distribution, which alleviates the
power problem found in asymmetries (Preacher & Hayes, 2004). A bootstrapping
approach takes a large number of samples (typically 1,000) with size n (n = current study
sample), sampling with replacement, and determines the indirect effect (ab) for each
sample (Preacher & Hayes, 2004). Given that research does not support the automatic
assumption of normality and symmetry in the case of the concepts examined, the
bootstrap approach was preferable for the current study.
Another important contribution of the current study to the literature is the
expected replication of previous relationships between constructs using an unrestricted,
adult population. The population will not be limited to college students, and will thus
provide another window into perfectionism as it operates outside of the college realm,
further validating the use of the chosen measures on a nonclinical, adult population.
Some research with non-college student populations has been conducted using the APS-R
(Ashby, et al., 2008; Rice, Tucker, & Desmond, 2008), providing a basis for comparison
with the current study's population that serves to validate the use of this measure with a
broad, adult population. The current study is also expected to provide further evidence for
the negative relationship of maladaptive perfectionism with factors of well-being
(forgiveness, self-compassion, life satisfaction), and support forgiveness and Self-
Compassion as related to a higher degree of positive subjective evaluation of global
Satisfaction with Life. Broadly, this study will also support the notion that maladaptive
perfectionism holds detrimental effects on well-being, and that Self-compassion holds
promise for positive mental health.
In summary, the current study is designed to a) test the association between
forgiveness and perfectionism, and b) test self-compassion as a potential mediator of the
proposed forgiveness-perfectionism relationship. Thus, the current study will help unify
two large bodies of literature, that of forgiveness and that of perfectionism, using the lens
of self-compassion, and will provide needed direction on both fronts for future research
and therapeutic practice.
1) Forgiveness will be negatively correlated with Discrepancy. Forgiveness of Self,
Forgiveness of Others, and Forgiveness of Situations subscale scores will also each
inversely relate with Discrepancy scores.
2) Forgiveness will positively relate with Self-Compassion Scale. Forgiveness of Self,
Forgiveness of Others, and Forgiveness of Situations will also each positively relate
3) Forgiveness will show a positive relationship with general well-being, as measured by
Satisfaction with Life. Forgiveness of Self, Others, and Situations subscales will also
each show a positive relationship with Satisfaction with Life.
4) Discrepancy will be negatively related with Self-Compassion.
5) Discrepancy will be negatively related with Satisfaction with Life.
6) Self-Compassion will have a significant positive relationship with Satisfaction with
7) Self-Compassion will significantly mediate the relationship between Forgiveness and
Discrepancy. Specifically, a significant indirect effect will be found, with a 95%
A number of tools were used to estimate sufficient sample size for the current
study design and proposed statistical analyses. First, Tabachnick and Fidell's (2001)
formula for sample size with multiple regressions was employed: n > 104 + m, where "m"
equals the number of independent variables. With measured predictor variables (Forgiveness,
Discrepancy, Self-Compassion, Satisfaction with Life) and demographic information all
being possible independent variables, "m" in the equation is equal to 18 (104 + 18 = 122),
suggesting that the number of participants required for this study was 122. This is the most
conservative estimate, as all independent variables would be used simultaneously only for the
purposes of non-hypothesized exploratory analysis. Secondly, given the hypothesis of a
mediation component for the current study, samples size suggestions for adequate mediation
testing were strongly considered. It is argued that only samples of 200 participants or higher
have been found to have sufficient power (>.80) when using tests of mediation (Hoyle &
Kenny, 1999). To be conservative, a sample size of 200 was used as the required minimum
for the current study at the beginning of data collection. The final sample for the current
study consisted of 309 adult participants.
Participant ages ranged from 18 to 76 years, with M = 40.58. There were
71 men and 237 women. Approximately 78.3% of participants self-identified as
White/European American, 5.5% as Hispanic/Latino, 4.2% as Asian/Asian American,
3.6% as Biracial/Multiracial, 3% as Black/African American, 1.9% as American
Indian/Alaska Native, 0.3% as Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and 2.9% as
other. Approximately 0.3% of participants indicated having an education level of High
School or Equivalent, 3.9% Some College/University (no degree), 1.9% Associate's
Degree(s), 6.8% Bachelor's Degree(s), 15.5% completed some Graduate Study (no
graduate degree), 29.1% Master's Degree(s), and 42.4% Doctorate and/or Postgraduate
Degree(s). Approximately 54.4% of participants reported living in suburban, 40.1%
urban, and 5.5% in rural settings.
The Heartland Forgiveness Scale (HFS, Thompson et al., 2005). The HFS was
developed with adults to assess the dispositional tendency to forgive. The HFS includes
18 items (see Appendix A), endorsed on a 7-point Likert Scale ranging from almost
always false of me to almost always true of me. Higher total scores indicate a high
propensity for forgiving.
Subscales included in the HFS are Forgiveness of Self, Forgiveness of Others, and
Forgiveness of Situations. This measure of forgiveness was chosen because of its ability
to tap interpersonal as well as intrapersonal forgiveness on a dispositional level across
different contexts; the HFS is the only existing forgiveness scale which taps forgiveness
of situations, now considered to be an important aspect of dispositional forgiveness.
Adequate internal consistency reliability of HFS scores has been supported, with
alphas on the total scale ranging from .84 to .87, and alphas on the subscales ranging
from .71 to .83. Test-retest reliability of the HFS, on the basis of a 3- week follow-up
period, was .83 for the total score and ranged from .72 to .77 (Thompson & Snyder,
2003) for the subscales. The psychometric properties of the HFS have been adequately
demonstrated with both student and nonstudent samples, and it has been found to
correlate in the expected directions with other dispositional measures of forgiveness.
The HFS has been found to correlate in the expected directions with other
dispositional measures of forgiveness as well as measures of related psychological
constructs. The HFS shows positive correlations with established forgiveness measures
(Thompson & Snyder, 2003). The HFS has demonstrated much higher correlations with
dispositional measures of forgiveness, rather than the transgression-specific measures,
although positive correlations were found with all measures of forgiveness examined
(Thompson, et al., 2005). The HFS was also found to negatively correlate as expected
with scores on measures of related constructs. Thompson and colleagues (2005) also
found moderately large negative correlations of the HFS with the Hostile Automatic
Thoughts scale, the rumination subscale of the Response Style Questionnaire (Thompson
et al., 2005), and the Beck Depression Inventory (Thompson & Snyder, 2003) as well as
the Vengeance Scale (VS; Stuckless & Goranson, 1992), and the negative affect of the
Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (NAS; Watson, et al., 1988). Forgiveness involves
transforming mental energy away from negative behaviors and thoughts.
The HFS was also evaluated to determine its predictive power of forgiveness in
romantic relationships using a non college-age, adult population. Participants were given
the HFS as well as measures of hostility, trust, relationship satisfaction, and relationship
duration once and again nine months later. Forgiveness was revealed as a stronger
predictor of relationship satisfaction than hostility, and satisfaction was also significantly
predicted by how trusting the person was of their partner and their perception of how
trusting their partner was of them (Thompson & Snyder, 2003, Thompson et al., 2005).
All of these studies support the premise that the HFS is a reliable, valid, and useful
measure for evaluating the dispositional tendency for forgiveness of self, others, and
situations. The HFS demonstrated strong reliability in the current study, with a = .91 for
HFS, a = .85 for Forgiveness of Self, a = .79 for Forgiveness of Others, and a = .86 for
Forgiveness of Situations.
The Almost Perfect Scale Revised (APS-R; Slaney, et al.,2001). The APS-R
consists of 23 items (see Appendix B) that measure the multidimensional construct of
perfectionism. The APS-R makes the important distinction between neurotic, or
maladaptive, perfectionism and adaptive perfectionism. The subscales include Standards
(7 items), Order (4 items), and Discrepancy (12 items), and uses a 7-point Likert scale
ranging from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree". The subscales of focus for the
current study will be the Standards and Discrepancy subscales, the former tapping more
adaptive aspects of perfectionism and the latter capturing maladaptive perfectionism well
(Ashby & Rice, 2002). The 7-item Standards subscale measures level of personal
standards (i.e., adaptive perfectionism), and includes items such as "I have high
standards for my performance at work or at school." The 12-item Discrepancy subscale
measures distress resulting from a perceived discrepancy between performance and
standards (i.e., maladaptive perfectionism) and includes items such as, "My best just
never seems to be good enough for me." The validity and reliability of scores derived
from the APS-R have been demonstrated in a multitude of previous research, with alphas
of .92 and .81 for Discrepancy and High Standards, respectively, for comparative non-
college populations (Ashby, Rice, & Kutchins 2008). The APS-R demonstrated similarly
high reliability in the current study, with a = .92 for APS-R, a = .97 for Discrepancy, a =
.89 for High Standards, and a = .94 for Order.
Self-Compassion Scale (SCS, Neff 2003b). The Self-Compassion scale includes
26 items (see Appendix C) tapping the tendency to be compassionate. Self-Compassion is
measured across three dimensions using six factors, Self-Kindness vs. Self-Judgment,
Common Humanity vs. Isolation, and Mindfulness vs. Over-Identification. Self-Kindness
includes items such as "I try to be understanding and patient towards those aspects of my
personality I don't like" while Self-Judgment includes items like "When I see aspects of
myself that I don't like, I get down on myself'). Internal consistency reliability for the
Self-Kindness and Self-Judgment subscales were .78 and .77, respectively. The Common
Humanity subscale includes items such as "I try to see my failings as part of the human
condition", while the Isolation subscale includes items like "When I fail at something
that's important to me, I tend to feel alone in my failure". Internal reliabilities for these
subscales are .80 and .79, respectively. Lastly, the Mindfulness subscale includes items
like "When something upsets me, I try to keep my emotions in balance", while the Over-
Identification subscale includes items such as "When something painful happens, I tend
to blow the incident out of proportion". Internal reliabilities are .75 for the Mindfulness
subscale and .80 for the Over-Identification subscale (Neff, 2003b). Test-retest reliability
for the SCS has been strong: SCS = .93, Self-Kindness = .88, Self-Judgment = .88,
Common Humanity = .80, Isolation = .85, Mindfulness = .85, and Over-Identification =
.88. The SCS has been previously established with college-age students as well as
subsamples of non-college adults (Neff, 2003b), and internal consistency for the
complete 26-item SCS is .92. The SCS also demonstrated high reliability in the current
study, a = .94 for SCS, a = .90 for Self- Kindness, a = .87 for Self-Judgment, a = .85 for
Common Humanity, a = .82 for Isolation, a = .79 for Mindfulness, and a = .84 for Over-
The Satisfaction i i/h Life Scale (SWLS; Diener, et al., 1985). The Satisfaction
with Life scale is a measure of subjective well-being designed to tap global life
satisfaction, meaning satisfaction of life as a whole rather than specific aspects of life. It
consists of 5 items (see appendix D), in which respondents choose their agreement or
disagreement with each statement using a 7-point Likert scale with higher numbers
indicating more agreement. The SWLS has been found to have favorable psychometric
properties, including high internal consistency (a = .87) and temporal reliability (a = .82)
(Diener, et al., 1985). It has also demonstrated positive correlations with other subjective
measures of well-being as well as relationships in the expected directions with
personality domains (ex: negative correlation with neuroticism and positive with self-
esteem). This scale has been found useful and reliable with college-age and geriatric
populations, and demonstrated high reliability in the current study, a = .88.
Data collection occurred exclusively online and lasted approximately three
months. Participants were recruited using online list serves, email lists, discussion boards,
Yahoo groups, and other online resources. In an effort to obtain a sufficiently random
sample that spans a broad demographic range, invitations to participate were posted via
emails and list serves, and participants were allowed to freely forward the invitation to
participate onto others at their own discretion. This study attempted to reduce bias
through use of a wide variety oflistservs with high traffic (Kaye & Johnson, 1999),
aiming for a large sample with no systematic selection for or against a particular
characteristic. To identify appropriate Listservs, any Google group lists with over 1000+
members, high traffic, and messages in English were initially selected, excluding those
whose primary purpose was indicated as "Adult-only erotic-content". Only groups that
allowed research solicitation were used for recruitment. Examples include those with
specified topics of religion, philosophy, literature, science, politics, sports, computers,
and fine arts, for example, Alt.Arts.Ballet, Indian movies, Computer Games Interest
Group, alt.3d.studio (3d graphics art list), and alt.sport.racquetball. Given the topic of the
current study, the e-mail was also sent to "CESNET-L", a listserv concerning counselor
education & supervision, "GSTALT-L", an ICORS sponsored listserv for therapists with
an interest in Gestalt and related approaches, and "AUCCD-L", a listserv for the
Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors. Invitations were
also distributed to a list of public school system personnel with potential interest in the
subject matter. Given that there was no expectation of age differences within an adult age
range, the only age stipulation for eligibility was that a participant be at least 18 years
old. Prior to completing the survey, participants read about the purpose and the methods
of the study and electronically endorsed a consent form. They were then presented with
the battery of measures and provided all responses in one sitting.
Primary hypotheses were examined using Pearson's product-moment correlation
analyses. In cases where a significant correlation was found between a measure and a
descriptive variable, such as age or High Standards, correlation analyses were conducted
to investigate whether the significant relationship held when accounting for the relevant
Mediation. Analyses were then performed to examine self-compassion as a
mediator of the established forgiveness-perfectionism relationship. Many researchers
have differing opinions regarding how mediation analyses ought to proceed, and debate
continues in the literature. According to Baron and Kenny (1986) and Judd and Kenny
(1981) who established well-known seminal knowledge of mediation, four foundation
steps must occur to provide support for a meditational model. They define mediation as a
reduction of the effect of the initial predictor variable, X (in this case forgiveness), on the
outcome or dependent variable, Y (in the current study, Discrepancy scores). Using these
four steps, a relationship would first be established between forgiveness and
perfectionism by performing a regression equation with forgiveness as the predictor and
perfectionism as the outcome variable, in order to show there is an effect to be mediated.
Then, forgiveness would be correlated with the mediator, M, self-compassion, with
forgiveness entered as the predictor and self-compassion as the outcome variable. Next,
the self-compassion must be shown to affect the outcome variable, perfectionism, using
perfectionism as the criterion variable and forgiveness and self-compassion as the
predictors (controlling the initial variable to establish the effect of the mediator on the
outcome). For complete mediation the effect of forgiveness on perfectionism controlling
for self-compassion would be zero. The significant extent to which the relationship is
reduced would indicate partial mediation. However, recent research has established more
powerful procedures for testing mediation, including bootstrap methods, which have
advantages over conventional methods in that no assumptions are made about the
sampling distribution. The current study established that Baron and Kenny (1986) criteria
were met and proceeded using bootstrapping methods to test the indirect effects (see
Preacher & Hayes, 2004).
Given the strong theoretical rationale for a relationship between forgiveness and
perfectionism, and forgiveness and self-compassion, as well as the preliminary empirical
evidence of self-compassion's relationship with perfectionism, the mediation model best
fits the current study's premise. According to Frazier and colleagues (2004), the
correlation between X and M should be comparable in strength to the r between M and Y,
or ideally the latter should be stronger. A previous relationship has been found between
self-compassion (M) and perfectionism (Y, Discrepancy scores), r = -.57 (Neff, 2003b).
Therefore, given the theoretical rationale for a significant relationship between
forgiveness and perfectionism, it was expected that these relationships will be
comparable in strength. Furthermore, the issue of mediator reliability has been introduced
as a common problem found in the studies using meditational models and the use of a
measure with strong reliability, ideally .90 or higher, is recommended to address this
concern (e.g. Frazier, Tix, Barron, 2004). The Self-compassion scale has been found to
have a Cronbach's coefficient alpha of .92 (Neff, 2003b), which reduced this particular
concern in the current study.
Previous research has not examined perfectionism and forgiveness together, nor
explored self-compassion as a mediator. Given the preliminary empirical evidence for a
relationship between perfectionism and self-compassion, and the theoretical rationale for
a model of forgiveness, self-compassion, and perfectionism, the current study provides a
strong foundation for further research. Knowledge of self-compassion's role in the
forgiveness-perfectionism relationship will help guide future intervention approaches for
improving self-compassion and forgiveness, in order to increase the positive impact on
perfectionistic individuals' lives and general well-being.
At the end of data collection, the total number of participants who began the study
and either dropped out or completed it was 439. Most participants not completing the
study dropped out after answering only a few items and before providing demographic
information, leaving the majority of their response set incomplete, and therefore were not
retained in final analysis. To address the possibility of random responding, the survey
included three checkpoint items requiring compliance with specific instructions, such as
"Please choose the number '1' for this item". Any respondents not answering all checkpoint
items correctly were excluded (amounting to only 3 people). Only data from participants
completing the entire study and correctly answering checkpoint items was retained,
yielding N = 309 complete response sets.
Participants were presented with one of four differently ordered versions of the
questionnaires, to address possible order effects. MANOVAs were conducted for the
primary constructs of interest, including Forgiveness (using the HFS), Discrepancy (using
the APS-R), Self-Compassion (using the SCS), and Satisfaction with Life (using the
SWL scale), in order to determine whether any significant differences existed between
groups on the primary constructs of interest based upon survey order. No significant
differences between groups were found. On basis of these preliminary analyses, complete
combined data were used for all main analyses.
Descriptive statistics for all scales and subscales appear in Table 4-1. Cronbach's
alpha results ranged from.79 to .97 for all subscales, which fell well within acceptable
ranges for internal consistency and were comparable with results obtained in previous
Analysis of Hypotheses
Data were first examined for significant relationships between constructs of
interest and descriptive factors. It is noteworthy that some significant relationships were
revealed with age, in that greater ages were associated with higher levels of Forgiveness,
Self-Compassion, Mindfulness, and Self-Kindness, while younger ages were associated
with higher perfectionistic tendencies, Self-Judgment, Isolation, and Over-Identification.
Small but significant differences appeared for gender, with men scoring higher on
Mindfulness and females scoring higher on High Standards. A significant relationship of
Discrepancy with High Standards occurred, which slightly exceeds that expected. As a
precaution, relationships of interest were examined using partial correlations for all
primary and secondary hypotheses to account for age, gender (coded 0, 1), and High
Standards. All relationships held in expected directions withps < .001. Results reported
control for these factors (see Table 4-2).
Primary 1yp)lthI\c Hypothesis 1 predicted that scores on the HFS, and all
forgiveness subscales, would reflect a significant inverse relationship with Discrepancy,
in that high levels of forgiveness would be associated with lower levels of this
maladaptive perfectionism. Strong relationships were supported between Discrepancy
and Forgiveness components in expected directions. Effect sizes considered to be large
(Cohen, 1988, 1992) were found for Forgiveness, Forgiveness of Self, and Forgiveness of
Situations (r = -.60, -.60, and -.53, respectively), with a medium effect size for
Forgiveness of Others (r = -.34).
Hypothesis 2 predicted a significant relationship between Self-Compassion and
Forgiveness, and among the relevant subscales, in that greater levels of forgiveness
would be associated with greater levels of Self-Compassion. This hypothesis was
supported, with large effect sizes found for Forgiveness, Forgiveness of Self, and
Forgiveness of Situations (r = .71, .72, and .64, respectively), and a medium effect size
for Forgiveness of Others (r = .40). All Self-Compassion subscales demonstrated medium
to large effect sizes for Forgiveness, Forgiveness of Self, and Forgiveness of Situations,
with r ranging from .38 to .72, and medium effect sizes for Forgiveness of Others, with r
ranging from .25 to .40.
Hypothesis 3 predicted a significant relationship between Forgiveness and
Satisfaction with Life, with more forgiveness being associated with greater satisfaction
with life. This hypothesis was supported, with medium effect sizes demonstrated for
Forgiveness, Forgiveness of Self, Forgiveness of Others, and Forgiveness of Situations (r
=.48, .44, .27, and .47, respectively).
Hypothesis 4 predicted a significant relationship between Self-Compassion and
Discrepancy, in that low Self-compassion would relate to high levels of perceived
discrepancy between one's expectations and one's performance. This hypothesis was
supported in expected directions, with a large effect size detected for Discrepancy and
SCS scores (r = -.64). Medium to large effect sizes were found for all subscales of Self-
Compassion, with r ranging from -.40 to -.55.
Hypothesis 5 predicted a strong relationship between Discrepancy and
Satisfaction with Life, in that those individuals high on Discrepancy would report lower
satisfaction with their lives due to the anticipated detrimental effects on well-being. A
significant inverse relationship was supported between SWL scores and Discrepancy,
with a medium effect size (r = -.48) found.
Hypothesis 6 predicted a strong positive relationship between Self-Compassion
and Satisfaction with Life, with more self-compassion relating to higher satisfaction with
one's life in general. Data support this hypothesis, with a large effect size detected for
SCS and SWL scores (r = .50). All subscales of Self-Compassion revealed significant
relationships in expected directions, and medium effect sizes, with r ranging from .30 to
Secondary hypothesis. This study advanced a secondary hypothesis of a mediation
role for Self-compassion in helping to explain the strong negative relationship between
Forgiveness and Perfectionism, as measured by HFS scores and Discrepancy. Total HFS
scores were used to represent forgiveness in the mediational model, due to their
established reliability and validity as a collective measure of dispositional forgiveness.
The strong intercorrelations amongst the subscales and the fact that the significant
relationships found occurred with the same level of significance, in the same expected
directions, when related with the other constructs of well-being also support the use of
comprehensive scores on the HFS. Though the effect sizes found for Forgiveness of
Others tended to be less than those found for Forgiveness of Self or Forgiveness of
Situations across the board, all were of medium to large size and behaved as expected in
relation to each other construct of interest.
Mediation is essentially concerned with whether a significant effect can be fully
or partially explained by a third variable, providing a mechanism through which the
predictor is hypothesized to act upon the outcome. Mediation is said to occur if the
mediator (Self-Compassion) is significantly associated with the outcome (Discrepancy),
and if the effect on an outcome is significantly reduced when the mediator is included in
the model. By convention, it was first confirmed that the Baron and Kenny (1986) criteria
were met for testing mediation in the current study.
As asserted by Hayes (2009), bootstrapping procedures offer advantages over
other traditional approaches to testing mediation, such as the Sobel (1982, 1986, 1990)
test, often used to supplement the Baron and Kenny approach. The main advantages of
bootstrapping are that it makes no assumptions of normality regarding the shape of the
sampling distribution and it has the best Type I error control (Hayes, 2009). The sampling
distribution of the indirect effect tends to be asymmetric, with nonzero skewness and
kurtosis (Bollen & Stine, 1990; Stone & Sobel, 1990). As Hayes (2009) asserts, "We
should not be using tests that assume normality of the sampling distribution when
competing tests are available that do not make this assumption and that are known to be
more powerful than the Sobel test" (p.441).
The current study implemented bootstrapping methodology to estimate the size of
the indirect effects and further test mediation results with routines available for
bootstrapping indirect effects utilizing SPSS (see Preacher & Hayes, 2004; Shrout &
Bolger, 2002). Research has supported bootstrapping as one of the more valid and
powerful methods for testing mediation (MacKinnon, 2008; MacKinnon, Lockwood, &
Williams, 2004; MacKinnon, et al., 2007; Williams & MacKinnon, 2008). The estimates
were based upon 1,000 random samples, sampling with replacement, from the original
data set. The approach is to bootstrap the sampling distribution of ab and derive a
confidence interval with the empirically derived bootstrapped sampling distribution,
which alleviates the power problem found in asymmetries (Preacher & Hayes, 2004).
Tests were based on a 95% confidence interval (CI) for the size of the indirect effect,
with confidence intervals that include zero indicating a non-significant indirect effect and
those that do not include zero supporting a significant indirect effect. Conceptually, this
is the same as rejecting the null hypothesis that the true indirect effect is zero (Hayes,
With Self-compassion in the model, the initial effect of HFS scores on
Discrepancy was reduced from 0 = -.61 to P = -.27. The 95% CI (-.46 to -.26) did not
include zero and therefore supported a significant indirect effect, providing evidence for a
partial mediating role for Self-compassion in explaining the forgiveness-perfectionism
relationship (see Figure 4-1 for model).
Due to the interest of the current study in examining forgiveness, and the general
significance of this construct within religion or spirituality, participants were asked to
provide further information in this domain. Approximately 11.7% of participants self-
identified as Agnostic, 5.2% Atheist, 3.6% Buddhist, 12.0% Catholic, 22.7% Christian
(non-Catholic), 12.0% Christian (Non-denominational), 1.0% Hindu, 4.9% Jewish,
19.1% Spiritual with no specific religion, 5.5% Other, and 1.6% Unsure. When asked the
degree to which their religion or spirituality influenced their daily life, 8.1% of
respondents indicated it was "always or extremely influential", 15.9% "influential only
regarding big decisions", 33.7% "somewhat influential", 3.2% "rarely influential", and
39.2% "never influential". When asked whether forgiveness was considered something to
strive toward in their religion or spirituality, approximately 11.7% of respondents who
self-identified as religious or spiritual answered "Yes, very much so", 6.5% "Yes, it is
considered a good idea", 1.3% "Yes, but it is optional or not emphasized", 4.9% "No, it is
not considered important", 22.7% "No, it is actually discouraged", and 53.1% "It is not a
part of my religion/spirituality".
To further explore attitudes toward forgiveness and perfectionist tendencies in a
more qualitative manner, respondents were asked follow-up descriptive questions. When
asked whether they consider themselves a compassionate person, only three participants
responded "Yes, compassion for self and others is very important", three answered "Yes,
mainly toward others", 101 responded "Yes, mainly toward myself", 202 responded "No,
but I am working on it", and zero participants answered "No, I don't think compassion is
important". When asked whether they consider themselves to be perfectionistic, 22
answered "Yes, very much so, in personal and work domains", 90 answered "Yes, in
work or school only, 7 answered "Yes, in my personal life only", 75 chose "Yes, but
infrequently", and 115 responded "No, not at all or never". For those who considered
themselves perfectionistic, 7.1% considered their perfectionistic tendencies in their life to
be "Very beneficial, I would be lost without them", 1.3% "Somewhat beneficial, they
help me strive to be better", 7.1% "Slightly beneficial, from time to time I see the
benefit", 10.0% "Slightly detrimental, they probably do me more harm than good",
25.9% "Detrimental, they have a fair amount of negative impact on me", and 45.6%
"Very detrimental, I am often negatively impacted in a variety of ways", and 2.9% "Not
applicable (I am not at all perfectionistic). When given the forced choice question, "If
you could choose to wake up tomorrow and be rid of your perfectionistic tendencies,
would you do so?" only 22.3% chose Yes, while 70.2% chose No (7.5% chose not
applicable). Additionally, when given a similar forced-choice question, "If you could
choose to wake up tomorrow and have forgiven yourself, others, situations, or
anything/anyone else, would you do so?", 87.7% answered Yes and 12.3% answered No.
Space was then provided for respondents to elaborate on their answers to the above two
forced-choice questions. Settings on the survey were set to require all respondents to
enter something into the space provided, which yielded 266 usable responses (excluding
those who entered irrelevant statements, only spaces, or wrote that they decline to
respond). An overview of participant responses to how or why they decided to answer
Yes or No to the two forced-choice questions revealed some common underlying themes.
These included the impact of perfectionism on relationships, forgiveness as a process
rather than simply an outcome, the burdens and potential benefits of perfectionism, the
freedom that comes from forgiveness, and the struggles with both forgiveness and
perfectionism. It is apparent from the responses that both forgiveness and perfectionism
are subjects that most individuals have strong opinions about and that many recognize
affect their life and emotional well-being. Discussion of significant qualitative statements
in the context of current study findings appears in the discussion section (see Appendix G
for selected responses).
In the vein of therapeutic approaches, the write-in question of this study allowed
participants to address forgiveness and perfectionism on a more personal level that
provided insight into the emotions, thoughts, and experiences with regard to
perfectionism and forgiveness. An overview of responses revealed common themes.
These included: 1) struggling with forgiveness, 2) the emotional benefits of forgiveness
and the drawbacks of a lack of forgiveness, 3) the negative consequences of being
perfectionistic and the benefits of being less perfectionistic, 4) seeing forgiveness of self
as especially challenging as well as highly desired, 5) seeing perfectionism as part of
one's identity, 6) potential benefits of perfectionism, 7) mindfulness and ability to be
present as positive experiences or goals, and 8) acknowledging forgiveness as an
Many describe forgiveness as offering a positive feeling or sensation and freeing
up energy. For example, "I hold grudges and I realize that at the end of the day, the only
person the grudge is taking energy out of is me", "Holding grudges is exhausting",
"Forgiveness removes a heavy feeling and provides relief', being able to forgive is
"... worth it in the long run in that it will ultimately set you free", "...not forgiving is
painful to me", "When I forgive myself it feels like a fresh start", "Being upset with
myself, others or situations is energy consuming and forgiving always seems like a sigh
of relief it's much healthier", and "Forgiveness allows for acceptance and good
relationships". One participant effectively highlights the intrapersonal experience of
forgiveness, stating "Forgiveness is not a service to the person who is forgiven but rather
to the self... The past will always be the past. Forgiveness simply makes room for the
future". Additionally, many people described forgiveness of self as the most challenging
but desired kind of forgiveness. For instance, "I usually give others the benefit of the
doubt and can forgive them, but it is almost impossible to forgive myself', "I forgive
everyone but myself', and "I can forgive others, but experience a lot of self guilt". Other
participants agreed forgiveness was a beneficial goal, but stated they would not choose to
wake up having forgiven due to a desire to experience the forgiveness process and learn
from it. For example, "I am able to forgive after I have learned from the situation",
"Forgiveness is key to growth and learning that life has a flow and it is a process", "...I
need to go through the process of forgiving, of letting go, not just magically forgive...",
"You really learn how to look at the person and not their actions", and "There is so much
learning about yourself and through the process of forgiving... I would not want that
taken away!" Only a few participants voiced opposition to forgiveness, stating "Some
people/situations do not deserve forgiveness" or "While I believe that forgiveness is good
I do not fundamentally believe that everything should be forgiven".
Regarding perfectionism, many described detrimental aspects, such as "...I put all
that added stress onto myself to be perfect and to be the best", "Perfectionism is like a
burden", "Holding myself to unrealistically high standards has caused me stress", ...my
perfectionism is tied in with my procrastination", "I associate my perfectionism with self-
criticism/self-consciousness...", "My perfectionistic tendencies are a burden and leave
me feeling inadequate and upset at myself', "It hinders my performance and abilities, and
it limits me to doing things within my comfort zones", "I cannot be kind to myself and it
makes me unhappy", they ..."cause me to be callous and cruel to myself at times", and
"...I don't always let others in, or give myself the break I deserve". However, many
participants described some benefits they perceive from perfectionism, in particular with
regard to work or school endeavors. For instance, "Perfectionism helps me strive to do
better", perfectionistic tendencies "...help me do well in school...", "... stay organized
and on top of obligations...", "...helps my work be of very good quality...", and "It helps
me to accomplish things professionally at a high level". Finally, a strong attachment to
perfectionism and the association of perfectionism with identity was revealed as a
prominent theme. This is evident in the statements, "...I feel it is [an] important
contribution to who I am...", "It is part of who I am my identity", "It's basically what
defines me and keeps me focused", "Perfectionism is part of my personality without it I
would not be 'me'", and "I don't know any other way of being aside from being a
perfectionist, so I would be uncomfortable without being that way".
Table 4-1. Means, standard deviations, and Cronbach alphas
Min. Max. M SD a
1. HFS 37 125 91.63 16.49 .91
2. Forgiveness of Self 12 42 30.33 6.75 .85
3. Forgiveness of Others 12 42 30.50 6.10 .79
4. Forgiveness of Situations 7 42 30.80 6.83 .86
5. Discrepancy 12 84 34.81 17.96 .97
6. SCS 37 128 84.91 17.75 .94
7. Self-Kindness 5 25 17.07 4.29 .90
8. Self-Judgment 5 25 14.25 4.38 .87
9. Common Humanity 4 20 13.55 3.71 .85
10. Isolation 4 20 11.83 3.82 .82
11. Mindfulness 4 20 14.04 3.01 .79
12. Over-Identification 4 20 11.68 3.76 .84
13. SWL 5 35 25.08 6.25 .88
Note: N= 309.
Table 4-2. Scale and subscale partial correlations
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
2. Frgv. of Self
3. Frgv. of Others
4. Frgv. of Sit.
(.47) (.43) (.28) (.46) (-.45) (.46) (.43) (-.32) (.30) (-.37) (.37) (-.34)
Note: N=309. All partial correlations significant at the 0.01 level (1-tailed). All results control for High Standards, Gender, and Age.
(For comparison, full correlations for primary constructs of interest are reported in parentheses).
-s Discrepancy scores
Figure 4-1. The partial mediation model. A: The direct effect of forgiveness (HFS) on
perfectionism (Discrepancy). B: The mediation model with self-compassion (SCS) as a mediator
between forgiveness and perfectionism. Path coefficients are shown, with c' representing the
inclusion of self-compassion in the model.
Results of the current study offer significant support for the primary hypotheses. A
significant relationship was found between the two primary constructs of well-being
examined, Forgiveness and Perfectionism, which have not previously been examined in
concert. The relationships revealed in this study further an understanding of both forgiveness
and perfectionism, while also lending credence to a role for Self-compassion in helping to
explain this relationship. As hypothesized, a strong inverse relationship was detected
between Discrepancy and Forgiveness, as well as between Discrepancy and other positive
aspects of well-being, in particular Satisfaction with Life, Self-Compassion, Forgiveness of
Self, Others, and Situations, Self-Kindness, Common Humanity, and Mindfulness. A strong
positive relationship was established between Forgiveness and Self-compassion, as well as
between all subscales of forgiveness and the positive subscales of Self-Compassion. These
results continue support for the idea of Discrepancy as maladaptive and detrimental to well-
being, while supporting forgiveness and self-compassion as beneficial for mental health and
Given the study of Self-Compassion is relatively new within psychological literature,
the current study adds to the growing support of Self-Compassion as a reliable, valid, and
noteworthy construct in the study of mental health and psychological well-being. Though
Forgiveness is a well-studied construct within the realm of positive psychology, there exists
much debate measures and conceptualizations of Forgiveness. This study provides further
evidence for the effective use of the SCS and the APS-R with an adult population, as well as
the HFS, a relatively new measure of dispositional forgiveness and the only measure to
include Forgiveness of Situations as a key component. Though most previous research has
focused on college-age students, the high reliability and validity findings in the current study
support the use of these measures with a diverse adult population. The reliability estimates in
the current study were comparable, in fact often higher than, those generated from in-person
data collection or data collection limited to college campuses in previous studies employing
the same measures. This provides significant support for online research as a tool for
reaching diverse audiences without compromising reliability. The strong relationship found
between HFS scores and the maladaptive aspect of perfectionism, Discrepancy, offers a new
window into the study of perfectionism as aided by the large body of forgiveness and self-
compassion literature available.
The current finding of self-compassion as a partial mediator in the relationship of
forgiveness and perfectionism lends empirical support to the theory that higher forgiveness
levels may activate self-compassion, which may reduce maladaptive perfectionistic
tendencies. Forgiveness is considered to be the intrapersonal transformation of the valence of
an event from negative to neutral or positive. Releasing oneself from the negative valence of
an event may help to create the mental space needed to experience feelings of common
humanity, kindness toward self, and mindfulness, all of which are present in the having
overall self-compassion. Low ability to forgive may then activate Self-Judgment, Isolation,
and Over-Identification, all of which are components of a lack of self-compassion, fueling
higher levels of Discrepancy.
Given the consistency with which Discrepancy is associated with psychological
problems, such as higher levels of depression, shame, anxiety, and suicidal ideation, this
finding provides solid support for future theoretical and clinical research avenues for
forgiveness and self-compassion in effecting therapeutic change with perfectionistic
individuals. With empirical evidence and theoretical rationale for a link between forgiveness,
perfectionism, and self-compassion, future research may begin extrapolating from the
theoretical to the clinical. For instance, a longitudinal study with perfectionistic individuals,
using an intervention designed to increase forgiveness or self-compassion in a clinical setting
may reveal a decrease in Discrepancy, manifesting in lower depression, anxiety, shame, or
suicidal ideation. It may also prove fruitful to explore which component of Self-compassion -
Self-Kindness, Common Humanity, or Mindfulness may offer the most promise for
improving well-being and decreasing Discrepancy when cultivated. Similarly, understanding
which component contributes most to a lack of Self-Compassion, Self-Judgment, Isolation,
or Over-Identification, thus fueling higher levels of Discrepancy. In a short-term longitudinal
study with college students, social connection emerged as a significant moderator in
lessening the effects of maladaptive perfectionism on concurrent hopelessness (Rice et al,
2006), with higher levels of self-critical and discrepant perceptions between expectations and
performance being associated with high social disconnection. This is consistent with general
psychological and sociological perspectives on suicide and suicidal ideation (Baumeister,
1990; Durkheim, 1897/1951; Trout, 1980), wherein a social network and feelings of
connection with others may influence individuals toward or away from considering suicide as
a "solution" (Institute of Medicine, 2002, p. 194). Perhaps social connection offers a means
of reinforcing self-compassion and forgiveness, in community with others. Investigating the
relationship between Social Connectedness and Self-Compassion, in particular the subscales
of Isolation, Common Humanity, and Over-Identification, may offer further evidence for
interventions targeted to increase social connection as a means of improving self-compassion
in perfectionistic individuals.
Further study of age differences may also be warranted. The significant relationship
found between Forgiveness, Discrepancy, and age in the current sample, in that the older
ages were associated with higher levels of forgiveness, and lower levels of Discrepancy,
across the board is noteworthy. Though all significant relationships held when controlling for
age, this trend remains an interesting prospect for further investigation from a developmental
perspective. Perfectionism has been studied with younger ages in conjunction with
depression (e.g., Rice et al, 2007), but most forgiveness and self-compassion research has
focused on adults and college ages. Examining the progression of Forgiveness, Self-
Compassion, and Discrepancy with age in a longitudinal study may help shed light onto how
or when Self-compassion develops, as well as provide further clues into the dispositional or
situation-specific nature of forgiveness as a construct, which is a highly debated topic within
Although the current study provides strong empirical and theoretical support for a
relationship between perfectionism and forgiveness, and a role for self-compassion in
mediating the effect of low forgiveness on Discrepancy, the findings must be tempered by
the limitations of the study. Due to the correlational nature of the study design, a causal
relationship between the constructs cannot be determined. A longitudinal design employing
an intervention for Forgiveness based upon Self-Compassion, which investigates the ability
of this intervention to predict Discrepancy scores at a later time would help provide further
evidence for the mediator role of Self-compassion in the Forgiveness-Perfectionism
relationship as well as support Self-compassion and Forgiveness as effective means of
decreasing Discrepancy and reducing its detrimental effects on well-being. Furthermore, this
study does provide more support for the use of the SCS, HFS, and APS-R scales with an
adult population beyond college students. However, the use of these scales or their
equivalents with younger child and adolescent populations is limited and would be a
beneficial direction for future research, along with investigation into whether the partial
mediation role of self-compassion holds with a younger population. Also, despite efforts to
gain an unrestricted normative population, the current sample demographics reflected higher
education levels, and greater numbers of females and Caucasian-Americans than the general
population. This may reflect some bias regarding interest in participating in the study or the
study's topics, or the high numbers of females in education or psychology and counseling
fields. As well, those in the academic and social science fields may have more general
interest in participating in such research.
The additional investigative information gathered in the current study did provide
interesting foundations for further research. Nearly 81% of those in the current study reported
that forgiveness was "not important", "discouraged", or "not a part of' their religion or
spirituality, though the majority of them self-identified as religious or spiritual. Given the
common interplay between religion or spirituality with forgiveness in societal perceptions, as
well as previous forgiveness literature, this finding may seem surprising. Furthermore, when
asked "If you could choose to wake up tomorrow and have forgiven yourself, others,
situations, or anything/anyone else, would you do so" an overwhelming 88% said they would
choose to do so. Additionally, when asked whether they consider themselves to be a
compassionate person 303 out of 309 respondents answered either "Yes, mainly toward
myself' or "No, but I am working on it", and not one respondent answered "No, I do not
think compassion is important". It is evident in this finding that compassion is valued and
considered a quality to strive for amongst most participants and one with which they also
struggle. This may indicate a common internal struggle with forgiving, and a general striving
toward compassion. Most participant responses indicated a recognition of the negative effects
of not forgiving, implying forgiveness is an important and common question for most
individuals regardless of belief system, rather than a specifically spiritual or religious
The current study also highlights the strong attachment many perfectionistic
individuals have to their perfectionistic tendencies regardless of the detrimental impact or
psychological problems that may arise as a result. Despite the ability of 82% of respondents
to admit that their perfectionistic tendencies "probably do more harm than good", "have a
fair amount of negative impact", and often negatively impact them "in a variety of ways",
when asked if they could wake up and be rid of their perfectionistic tendencies, 70 % said
they would not choose to do so. Herein exemplifies the difficulty present for clinicians in
effecting therapeutic change with perfectionistic individuals. Relational factors have
increasingly become a focus of perfectionism research, including difficulty developing
therapeutic alliances (Blatt, Zuroff, Bondi, Sanislow, & Pilkonis, 1998; Zuroff, Blatt, Sotsky,
Krupnick, Martin, & Sanislow, 2000) and intimate relationships, such as attachment bonds
with parents and romantic partners (Habke, Hewitt, & Flett, 1999; Hill, Zrull, & Turlington,
1997; Rice, Lopez, & Vergara, 2005; Rice & Mirzadeh, 2000; Shea, et al., 2006). It has been
asserted that perfectionism may be a personality characteristic centered on personal adequacy
(Rice et al, 2006), with negative or positive views toward self contributing to varying degrees
of comfort and engagement in relationships (e.g., Bowlby, 1988). Given this propensity,
studies exploring therapeutic change in perfectionists within group therapy settings aimed at
improving self-compassion in a community where social connection is also encouraged may
It may also be that the idea of perfection, seen as an attainable target, and the
intermittent positive rewards that striving to be perfect sometimes offers may seem too
alluring to give up despite the costs. In the mind of an individual with high discrepancy,
wherein their perceived performance constantly falls short of their expectation, perhaps even
entertaining the idea life without perfectionistic tendencies would be seen as a failure. It is
also possible that these individuals would not want to give up the potentially positive benefit
of having high standards. Previous research has supported the theory that those with High
Standards but low Discrepancy manifest adaptive perfectionism that can often bypass the
detrimental psychological problems found in those with high Discrepancy (Ashby, Kottman,
& Shoen, 1998; Rice & Slaney, 2002; Rice et al. 2007; Slaney et al., 1995; Suddarth &
Slaney, 2001). Future research could be well served to distinguish adaptive from maladaptive
perfectionists, perhaps using a method similar to that outlined by Rice and Ashby (2007),
when studying therapeutic interventions using the findings from this study. Examining self-
compassion and forgiveness in both adaptive and maladaptive perfectionists, and using an
intervention targeted to increase self-compassion or forgiveness in exploring the impact on
Discrepancy, would provide helpful information for developing therapeutic approaches
tailored for both groups of individuals.
In sum, the present study provides evidence for strong relationship between
perfectionism and forgiveness and highlights the need to continue investigating Self-
Compassion with regard to perfectionistic individuals. This study contributes to the growing
literature on perfectionism through the finding of a strong inverse relationship with
forgiveness and a partial mediating role for self-compassion, along with supporting the
reliability and validity of the perfectionism, self-compassion, and forgiveness measures
employed with an adult population and using an online medium. On the basis of this and
previous research, it has been established that maladaptive perfectionism adversely affects
almost every aspect of psychological well-being assessed. This study also supports
forgiveness and self-compassion as positive components of well-being, and advanced them
as important for an individual's satisfaction with life as a whole. The additional investigative
questions provide important personal insights into the commonality of struggles with
forgiveness despite acknowledged benefits, the difficulty of giving up perfectionistic
tendencies despite the acknowledged costs, and forgiveness as an intrapersonal process. This
study helps unify two large bodies of literature, and introduces promising new components,
forgiveness and self-compassion, for inclusion in future studies with perfectionistic
individuals both in therapeutic and theoretical capacities.
HEARTLAND FORGIVENESS SCALE (HFS; THOMPSON, ET AL., 2005)
Directions: For each of the following items, choose the number (from the scale) that best
describes how you typically respond to the type of situation described. There are no right or
wrong answers. Please be as honest as possible.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Almost Always More Often More Often Almost Always
False of Me False of Me True of Me True of Me
(1) Although I feel bad at first when I mess up, over time I can give myself some slack.
(2) I hold grudges against myself for negative things I've done.*
(3) Learning from bad things I've done helps me get over them.
(4) It is really hard for me to accept myself once I've messed up.*
(5) With time I am understanding of myself for mistakes I've made.
(6) I don't stop criticizing myself for negative things I've felt, thought, said, or done.*
(7) I continue to punish a person who has done something that I think is wrong.*
(8) With time I am understanding of others for the mistakes they've made.
(9) I continue to be hard on others who have hurt me.*
(10) Although others have hurt me in the past, I have eventually been able to see them as good
(11) If others mistreat me, I continue to think badly of them.*
(12) When someone disappoints me, I can eventually move past it.
(13) When things go wrong for reasons that can't be controlled, I get stuck in negative thoughts
(14) With time I can be understanding of bad circumstances in my life.
(15) If I am disappointed by uncontrollable circumstances in my life, I continue to think
negatively about them.*
(16) I eventually make peace with bad situations in my life.
(17) It's really hard for me to accept negative situations that aren't anybody's fault.*
(18) Eventually I let go of negative thoughts about bad circumstances that are beyond anyone's
Forgiveness of Self Subscale: Items 1-6
Forgiveness of Others Subscale: Items 7-12
Forgiveness of Situations Subscale: Items 13-18
* These items are reverse scored.
THE ALMOST PERFECT SCALE REVISED (APS-R; SLANEY, ET AL., 2001)
Directions: Please choose the degree to which you agree or disagree with the following
statements, on a scale from strongly disagree to 7=strongly agree.
(1) I often feel frustrated because I can't meet my goals.
(2) My best just never seems to be good enough for me.
(3) I rarely live up to my high standards.
(4) Doing my best never seems to be enough.
(5) I am never satisfied with my accomplishments.
(6) I often worry about not measuring up to my own expectations.
(7) My performance rarely measures up to my standards.
(8) I am not satisfied even when I know I have done my best.
(9) I am seldom able to meet my own high standards for performance.
(10) I am hardly ever satisfied with my performance.
(11) I hardly ever feel that what I've done is good enough.
(12) I often feel disappointment after completing a task because I know I could have done better.
(13) I have high standards for my performance at work or at school.
(14) If you don't expect much out of yourself you will never succeed.
(15) I have high expectations for myself.
(16) I set very high standards for myself.
(17) I expect the best from myself.
(18) I try to do my best at everything I do.
(19) I have a strong need to strive for excellence.
(20) I am an orderly person.
(21) Neatness is important to me.
(22) I think things should be put away in their place.
(23) I like to always be organized and disciplined.
Discrepancy subscale: Items 1-12
High Standards subscale: Items 13-19
Order subscale: Items 20-23
SELF-COMPASSION SCALE (SCS; NEFF, 2003B)
Directions: Please indicate how often you typically act in the manner stated in each of the
following statements, on a scale from 1=almost never to 5=almost always.
(1) I try to be understanding and patient towards those aspects of my personality I don't like.
(2) I'm kind to myself when I'm experiencing suffering.
(3) When I'm going through a very hard time, I give myself the caring and tenderness I need.
(4) I'm tolerant of my own flaws and inadequacies.
(5) I try to be loving towards myself when I'm feeling emotional pain.
(6) When I see aspects of myself that I don't like, I get down on myself.
(7) When times are really difficult, I tend to be tough on myself.
(8) I can be a bit cold-hearted towards myself when I'm experiencing suffering.
(9) I'm disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies.
(10) I'm intolerant and impatient towards those aspects of my personality I don't like.
(11) When I feel inadequate in some way, I try to remind myself that feelings of inadequacy
are shared by most people.
(12) I try to see my failings as part of the human condition.
(13) When I'm down and out, I remind myself that there are lots of other people in the world
feeling like I am.
(14) When things are going badly for me, I see the difficulties as part of life that everyone
(15) When I fail at something that's important to me I tend to feel alone in my failure.
(16) When I think about my inadequacies it tends to make me feel more separate and cut off
from the rest of the world.
(17) When I'm feeling down I tend to feel like most other people are probably happier than I
(18) When I'm really struggling I tend to feel like other people must be having an easier time
(19) When something upsets me I try to keep my emotions in balance.
(20) When I'm feeling down I try to approach my feelings with curiosity and openness.
(21) When something painful happens I try to take a balanced view of the situation.
(22) When I fail at something important to me I try to keep things in perspective.
(23) When something upsets me I get carried away with my feelings.
(24) When I'm feeling down I tend to obsess and fixate on everything that's wrong.
(25) When something painful happens I tend to blow the incident out of proportion.
(26) When I fail at something important to me I become consumed by feelings of inadequacy.
Self-Kindness subscale: Items 1-5
Self-Judgment subscale: Items 6-10
Common Humanity subscale: Items 11-14
Isolation subscale: Items 15-18
Mindfulness subscale: Items 19-22
Over-Identification Subscale: 23-26
SATISFACTION WITH LIFE SCALE (SWLS; DIENER, ET AL., 1985)
Directions: Please indicate your agreement with each item by choosing the number along the
scale provided. Please be open and honest in your responding.
1= Strongly Disagree
4=Neither Agree Nor Disagree
(1) In most ways my life is close to my ideal.
(2) The conditions of my life are excellent.
(3) I am satisfied with my life.
(4) So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.
(5) If I could live my life over I would change almost nothing.
1. What is your current age? (pick from drop down menu)
2. What is your race/ethnicity?
American Indian/Alaska Native
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
Other (Please specify):
3. What is your gender?
other (please specify)
4. What is your highest level of education?
Some High School
High School Graduate/Equivalent
Vocational Training and/or Certificate
Some College/University (no degree)
Some Graduate Study (no graduate degree)
Doctorate and/or Postgraduate Degree(s)
Other (please specify):
5. In what type of town or city do you primarily live?
Rural (population of less than 2500)
6. What is your religious or spiritual affiliation?
Spiritual, no specific religion
Other (please specify)
7. How influential is your religion or spirituality in the way you live your everyday life?
always or extremely influential
influential only regarding big decisions
8. Do you consider yourself someone who regularly practices religion or spirituality?
Yes, all the time, everyday
Yes, very frequently
Yes, more often than on major holidays only
Yes, on major holidays only
No, very rarely
No, almost never or never
9. In your religion or spirituality, is forgiveness considered something to strive toward?
Yes, very much so
Yes, it is considered a good idea
Yes, but it is optional or not emphasized
No, it is not considered important
No, it is actually discouraged
It is not a part of my religion/spirituality
Not applicable (I am not at all religious/spiritual)
10. Do you consider yourself to be a compassionate person?
Yes, compassion for self and others is very important
Yes, mainly toward others
Yes, mainly toward myself
No, but I am working on it
No, I don't think compassion is important
11. Do you consider yourself to be perfectionistic?
Yes, very much so, in personal and work domains
Yes, in work or school only
Yes, in my personal life only
Yes, but infrequently
No, not at all or never
12. How beneficial do you consider your perfectionistic tendencies to be in your life?
Very beneficial, I would be lost without them
Somewhat beneficial, they help me strive to be better
Slightly beneficial, from time to time I see the benefit
Slightly detrimental, they probably do me more harm than good
Detrimental, they have a fair amount of negative impact on me
Very detrimental, I am often negatively impacted in a variety of ways
13. If you could choose to wake up tomorrow and be rid of your perfectionistic tendencies,
would you do so?
14. If you could choose to wake up tomorrow and have forgiven yourself, others, situations, or
anything/anyone else, would you do so?
Write-in question: Please briefly state how/why you decided the way you did on each of the previous
Purpose of the research study:
The purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of perfectionism and well-being.
What you will be asked to do in the study:
You will be asked to complete an online questionnaire having to do with your attitudes, beliefs,
opinions, and personality.
Questionnaires will take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete.
Risks and Benefits:
There are no known risks associated with participation in this study. Potential benefits include
self-insight and reflection on self, personality, values, and relationships.
Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. No names, email or IP
addresses, or other information that could link respondents to their survey responses will be
collected or maintained, and as a result your responses will be anonymous. Online data will be
collected and maintained through SurveyMonkey, accessible via password protection only to the
principal investigator, and deleted as soon as the data have been analyzed.
Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating.
There is no compensation to you for participating in the study.
Right to withdraw from the study:
You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime without consequence.
Whom to contact if you have questions about the study:
Brooke Mistler, M.S., Graduate Student, Department of Psychology, PO Box 112250,
Gainesville, FL, 32611, email: email@example.com.
Kenneth G. Rice, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology, PO Box 112250, Gainesville, FL,
32611, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: (352) 273-2119.
Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study:
IRB02 Office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; phone (352)
By clicking here I consent to voluntary participation in the study described above, and agree that
I am over 18 years of age.
SELECTED WRITE-IN RESPONSES
My perfectionistic tendencies are only a problem when I get carried away. Most of the time, those
tendencies help me to do well in school and at work. Forgiving others is hard in and of itself, but I tend to
do pretty well with that. I cannot forgive myself because I feel as though I'm allowing myself to get away
with actions/habits that are not beneficial to me in the long run.
I think my perfectionist tendencies help me to be successful and work hard to become better and to
always improve. I would choose to forgive people if I had to ability to forgive them for any wrong doings
because it is good to forgive but not forget.
Perfectionism helps me strive to do better. Some people/situations do not deserve forgiveness.
I would not get rid of my perfectionistic tendencies because I attribute much of my success as a student
and leader to my drive toward perfection. It helps me to stay organized and on top of obligations and
motivates me to work for success. I would choose to forgive others or situations because I consider
myself a very forgiving person (sometimes to my detriment).
My personality is who I am. My flaws make my personality and I wouldn't feel like the same person
I am not a complete perfectionist but I am when it comes to school and work. My perfectionist tendencies
in these settings have allowed me to succeed. I would choose to forgive because it would free me from the
guilt and hatred I sometimes feel towards myself and others.
I think that being perfectionist can help you do thinks better. And I would love to not worry about what
others have done in the past.
I feel like my perfectionistic tendencies help my work be of very good quality and it makes me feel proud
of the things I have accomplished. On the other hand, I have something that I regret in my life and I
would love to wake up tomorrow and forgive myself for that mistake and move on from it.
I feel my perfectionist tendencies help me do well in school, and that they constantly push me to do
better. Sometimes that can be very stressful though because I put all that added stress onto myself to be
perfect and to be the best. I don't like holding grudges it wastes too much energy. So yes, if I could
wake up tomorrow and forgive myself/others/etc, I would do so.
Perfectionism is like a burden. It would be much more relaxing to not have it on my mind all the time.
Holding grudges is exhausting. I have been taught in my religion the importance of forgiveness, and it is
something that I struggle with. Therefore, I think it would be great to be rid of all hard feelings toward
myself and others.
I am always happier when I am able to accept myself and my flaws and holding myself to unrealistically
high standards has caused me stress.
My perfectionistic tendencies have certainly created rewards, but they have also created stress, ridicule,
and taken some valuable time away from me. I am slow at forgiving myself which I know is detrimental
to my own future success and would love to wake up and leave all guilt behind
I think having perfectionistic qualities have benefits for myself most of the time and helped me become
the person I am today, I also would like to forgive others easily, I do not think it is helpful or healthy to
hold grudges, although I have difficulty letting go of things.
I see my perfectionistic tendencies as being related only to my school/professional life and as sources on
motivation that encourage me to give my best effort in all I do in these areas. As for the second, I
honestly feel life is too short to always be angry at someone (including yourself), so waking up and being
able to forgive everything is worth it in the long run in that it will ultimately set you free.
I think my perfectionism is helpful, because it helps me give all I can to others, to projects, etc. God plays
a huge role in why I consider forgiveness so important; Jesus is the ultimate example of forgiveness, so I
try to live by that. Additionally, I believe being unforgiving is detrimental to your emotional well-being. I
sometimes have a difficult time forgiving myself for things I do...I second guess myself a lot!
I like my perfectionistic behaviors in school and believe they help me succeed. However, it is very hard
for me to forgive myself for being imperfect in my personal life, which is why I'd like to learn how to
forgive myself. I usually give others the benefit of the doubt and can forgive them, but it is almost
impossible to forgive myself.
A little bit of anxiety is a good thing. I find more enjoyment in life when I can live in the present, instead
of focusing on the past.
I put undue pressure on myself to succeed, and I would like to reduce the anxiety that this causes me. It
hinders my performance and abilities, and it limits me to doing things within my comfort zones. I can't
imagine answering no. It would be silly to continue wanting to blame myself for past actions I want to
forgive myself for things I have done in the past, but I have not made full repairs to others or myself.
Having these tendencies have kept me disciplined, determined and dedicated.
Although my perfectionistic tendencies can be negative at times, I attribute them to my success thus far in
school, which is very rewarding to myself. Being upset with myself, others, or situations, is energy
consuming and forgiving always seems like a sigh of relief- it's much healthier.
I am in recovery for an eating disorder so my perfectionist tendencies have ruined many aspects of my
life. I cannot be kind to myself and it makes me unhappy. Perfectionism has helped me in my work ethic
as I am in grad school, but I think I could be successful without perfectionism. I forgive everyone, but
myself. I would be so thankful to be able to wake up and accept myself as I am. I think if I could forgive
my shortcomings, like I do for everyone else, I would be much more happy and present in daily life
I know that holding grudges/irrational expectations against myself and others does not help anyone, but I
have a tendency to hold onto negative feelings that then fester. These impact me both emotional and
physically, so if I could be rid of them completely I would to it.
I'm known by colleagues and peers as perfectionist and goal-oriented. It's basically what defines me and
keeps me focused. I have made mistakes in the past and feel that being a perfectionist helps me to
accomplish my goals, keeps me motivated and feeling productive and fulfilled in life. I guess it holds me
accountable to myself.
I believe that having a perfectionistic tendency makes me work harder and makes me strive to be the best.
I have many strengths and it is my strive to always want to do the best that I can that pushes me to
continue working hard even when I'd rather take the easy way out. I am proud of my perfectionistic
tendencies and feel it has significantly more benefits than weaknesses. Regarding my idea to forgive
others, I don't see a reason why not to forgive. I believe that forgiveness is important and that it frees the
person of holding hate or negative thoughts toward others. The more you are able to forgive the more you
can move on from whatever has wronged you so it doesn't take hold of your life.
I would feel more comfortable and at peace with myself and the world if I was less perfectionistic and
was able to forgive, especially forgive myself.
Perfectionistic tendencies help me be the best "me" I can be. I will always want to be the best me. I feel
when you forgive someone or yourself, you are taking a great weight off of your soul and will live a
longer, healthier life by doing so.
If I wasn't so hard on myself I probably wouldn't experience anxiety like I do. This is a struggle for me. I
can forgive others but experience a lot of self guilt.
My perfectionistic tendencies have their pros and cons but overall they are a part of who I am. I don't
really feel that there is anything that I need to forgive of myself or anyone that I have not already
forgiven. While I believe that forgiveness is good I do not fundamentally believe that everything should
My perfectionistic tendencies are necessary to help me excel in graduate school. Without them I wouldn't
have the determination to complete my requirements so I wouldn't want them to go away. I believe in
forgiveness because it takes less energy than holding a grudge.
I believe that my perfectionism is tied in with my procrastination I think about doing something right
but it's either too big of ajob or I don't think I can do it right and then Ijust don't do anything. I think the
combination of the two keep me from trying things because I'm afraid to fail or be rejected. 20. I try to
forgive people and think I have forgiven them but sometimes the pain still sneaks up. I need to forgive
I like the control striving for perfection brings to my life. I find meaning in doing things well and I feel
like I can compromise on what needs to be perfect. However, my expectations can be too high for people,
which leaves me angry with their behavior. With my own behavior I am flexible about things being
perfect or not, except with certain core beliefs like trust, commitment, and personal responsibility. I have
never failed myself in these, but if I did, it would be hard to forgive myself.
The idea of waking up and magically having changed does not appeal to me. I see my life as a process of
learning and growing, of working towards forgiveness and love of self and others. I have learned to let go
of some of my perfectionism, however, society highly values these tendencies and so I know that I will
probably always have some piece of that in me. And I can accept that and appreciate what is good and not
so helpful about it.
I would not rid the perfectionism, because it is only slight and helps me to do a thorough job sometimes.
And I would choose to forgive because not forgiving is painful to me. But it is hard to forgive myself
sometimes, so I would want to free myself of that pain.
I don't know who I would be without the perfectionistic tendencies that I have and I do feel that they
benefit me at times, so I wouldn't want to not have them. However, if I could have total forgiveness for
myself and others I feel that I would live a much happier life.
I do believe my perfectionistic tendencies make me who I am and make me work hard to do the best I can
at everything. I would choose to forgive because I think it would make me a better, happier person to not
have hard feelings against anyone.
Perfectionism is part of my personality- without it, I would not be "me". I think forgiveness should be
part of everyone's life. It frees a person from the past and opens them to future possibilities.
I find myself to be perfectionistic about cleanliness, tidiness, and orderliness. I don't think I would give up
my striving to keep things neat or clean. I would love to be able to forgive myself for ways that I have
acted in the past, things that I have done that I am not proud of, and mistakes that I have made in my
relationships with others.
My perfectionism can sometimes drive myself and others crazy. I would prefer to not carry any burden of
not forgiving if I could do so.
The perfectionistic tendencies help contribute to who I am as a person. Forgiveness removes a "heavy"
feeling and provides relief.
Perfectionism has become a hindrance to my healthy development and wellness. I wish I could accept my
inadequacies and not be bothered by them, but I haven't been able to figure out how. It can be very
I feel like my strive to be perfect and my lack of forgiveness for myself and others causes me great
My perfectionistic tendencies cause me to be callous and cruel to myself at times. I would like to no
longer do this.
My perfectionistic tendencies are a burden and often leave me feeling inadequate and upset at myself. So
being rid of these tendencies would be very freeing I think. If I could forgive myself, others, and
situations I think it would be very liberating and a weight would be lifted. I would be able to function
better overall and enjoy life more fully. That is why I answered as I did. Thanks very interesting study.
I don't know any other way of being aside from being a perfectionist, so I would be uncomfortable
without being that way. I always strive to be more forgiving, so if I could wake up and be that way, I
I feel my perfectionism has helped me to attain what I have in my life, especially my continued education.
While I am a perfectionist, I do understand that I cannot reach the goal of being perfect and I'm ok with
falling short. I also strive to forgive others if I'm wronged. I do sometimes have trouble doing this.
While being a perfectionist adds excess stress to my life I don't know any other way of being and do not
want to lack accomplishments in my life. I would choose to forgiveness because it would reduce my
stress and make me a happier person.
I associate my perfectionism with self-criticism/self-consciousness and holding grudges longer than might
be appropriate, so if it were as easy as "choosing" to be rid of it and forgive myself/others, I would see
great benefit in doing so.
I realize that striving for true perfectionism will drive a person crazy and I would rather spend the time
enjoying life than trying to make every detail "perfect". Life is just too short to obsess.
I believe the hint of my perfectionism that is seen in school/work pushes me to strive. I'm also a P on the
Meyers Briggs...so, I think the perfectionism is balanced out. I also think that having more perfectionism
attributes in my 20's helped me to get where I am now...and luckily, now I see hints of my perfectionism,
but I'm not really controlled by it (whereas I was in my 20's). RE: Q-22, There is so much learning about
yourself and others through the process of forgiving...I would not want that taken away!
Perfectionistic tendencies help me strive to work harder and be better I believe I would fall behind if I
did not have a drive to finish well. For the second question, I believe that the ability to forgive is very
important and necessary in life a constant harboring of anger, resentment, etc. is, in my opinion, a poor
way to live.
I have achieved a lot in my life because I do not settle for mediocrity. Striving for excellence has led me t
where I am. I agree with forgiveness and think it is something to always strive towards.
I think my perfectionism has driven me to succeed in my career. I feel like I have forgiven myself and
others for most things, but would welcome the opportunity to wake up totally free of all anger.
I think perfectionism has gotten me this far with my life, which I don't regret. Yet it is time for me to let it
go and live a life with more freedom, for others and myself. Hatred is painful; it hurts both parties
I think perfectionism has gotten me this far with my life, which I don't regret. Yet it is time for me to let it
go and live a life with more freedom, for others and myself. Hatred is painful; I'd rather be free of it.
I find that perfectionism breeds shame and anxiety in my life, and keeps me out of the present moment.
When I am focusing on perfection, I am not mindful or present, and I find that to be very detrimental to
my life and my work. Perfectionism also keeps me from connecting with others in more authentic ways.
I would not be rid of perfectionistic tendencies because it helps me not be complacent in what I do; ever
striving to be and do better. Forgiveness is key to growth and learning that life has a flow and it is a
process. Relational conscientiousness compels me to forgive so that I can live.
I feel frustrated when I cannot meet my expectations and often find that my expectations were
unnecessary for achievement. I also think creating expectations of myself leads me to create expectations
of others. Setting conditions in relationships seems to lead to me to judge. When this happens I find it
important to forgive and accept. My ability to forgive is dependent on my disappointment. It would be
nice if the grief process could happened in one night's sleep.
I believe my perfectionism is adaptive and it has never caused distress. It is part of who I am- my identity.
Although there are times when forgiveness feels impossible and not doing so protects me from further
hurt, I would rather be able to forgive.
My perfectionism has encouraged me to reach the level of success I have. However, I'd like to not be so
My perfectionism is beneficial to me, as it helps me to accomplish things professionally at a high level.
However, it also causes problems in my life because other people are often annoyed by it and it prevents
me from being "free and easy" as I would ideally like to be in a lot of situations.
It hurts to beat myself up about what I cannot change. When I forgive myself, it feels like a fresh start.
The negativity that I tend to hold onto stays in my mind, and I keep worrying about something I did in the
past that I can't change, or something in my future that I can't control. I have received help for my
perfectionistic tendencies and they have improved over the years. I am less forgiving of myself than
when I was younger.
The anxiety from perfectionism can be counterproductive. Expecting perfectionism from others can lead
to resentment, which requires forgiveness and acceptance.
I feel my perfectionistic attitude has helped me achieve the things in life I have accomplished- and I
wouldn't trade that in- as for forgiving myself in situations, I wish I could do that as I feel in certain
instances, my inability to do so causes me more harm than good
I am often frustrated and paralyzed in in-action due to my perfectionism and fears of failure in my own
eyes. I would like to feel less anxiety and be happier with myself and my life.
There would be a lot less to stress and worry about if I weren't so perfectionistic. I feel I could relax and
enjoy the present much more effectively!
I don't see perfectionism as something positive. Being human and making mistakes is an important part of
a full life. I wish I was a little less comfortable with this idea though...There are several things in my life I
have yet to truly forgiven myself/others for, but I'm working on it in order to carry less anger in my life.
My perfectionism has been a big part of my success; however, I have also seen it have a negative impact
on some relationships. I tend to rely on myself too much, so I don't always let others in, or give myself
the break I deserve.
I think striving for perfection can be a good thing when striving to do your best but that it can be
detrimental as well. There are times where I cannot let things go or beat myself up for scoring lower than
I expected or "should have". My life has a lot of "supposed to" and "should" in it. Perfectionism brings
stress and I can do without that stress and pressure. I think forgiveness is important and that it is hardest
to forgive oneself. To have that released and be free of the bond of not being good enough would be
I always feel I could do better, so if given the chance for a do-over of course I'd take it. What
I believe in striving for perfection when attaining goals or completing tasks, my sight becomes so focused
or narrowed that I lose the opportunity of experiencing the wonder or the joy the journey was offering. To
be rid of the narrowed focus would take the pressure off and leave my heart open to the greater benefits of
the task at hand. In waking up to thoughts of being forgiven or granting forgiveness brings thoughts of
peace and discovering new potentials... what a wonderful, powerful feeling!
Forgiveness is important both to self and others. Being able to recognize our own deficiencies and faults
make us all more humble.
Perfectionism leads to procrastination and less achievement. I think I've already forgiven others, but that
wasn't an option so I chose yes.
There are things about my personality that are inflexible and intense because of my perfectionism. This
causes me problems getting along with others and accepting things I cannot change. I am trying to let go,
but it is so damn hard. Almost beyond me...
I don't see my tendencies toward perfectionism to influence my ability/capacity for forgiveness of myself
or others. They are separate aspects of my personality. I would not give up my perfectionism because it
is a core part of my personality and I am not sure in what ways it may influence many aspects of who I
am, and I like who I am.
I would not respect myself if I did not give things my best shot. Forgiveness is a relief and release from
I regard myself as striving to continuously improve, which goes towards perfectionism occasionally. The
"forgive" questions doesn't make any sense to me, but I don't harbor many grudges for long.
Being less perfectionistic would allow me to be more flexible in all situations. Forgiveness releases me
from any strong holds.
Perfectionism helps me be the best that I can be. Forgiveness would help me achieve so much more in life
and I would not be so hard on myself.
Sometimes perfectionism is a punishment.
An ongoing problem for me is release; letting go of many things in my life. Answering yes would go a
long ways toward achieving a sense of release.
There are times and jobs when perfection is a quality, and I try to fulfill that quality. This is very
infrequent. As to the second question, everyone is subject to human faults. If you can forgive yourself,
you can forgive others their humanness. If you can't forgive yourself, then you live with all the ghosts of
failure, and that would be intolerable.
Attempting to live up to expectations of perfection only creates frustration and rarely leads to a better
outcome. Forgiveness is a complex topic essentially, I believe that there is nothing that truly requires
forgiveness since all experiences are our teachers and ultimately benefit us.
Perfectionism inhibits my ability to have compassion for myself and others and compassion is very
important to me as a spiritual practice and a way of life.
I am harder on myself than I am on others. I think my perfectionistic tendencies keep me on my toes.
However, I would enjoy not fretting so much about what I do.
I like doing things well--gives a feeling of satisfaction. Forgiveness allows for acceptance and good
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Brooke was born in Tampa, Florida, to a father who is a pilot and a mother who is a
school psychologist. She received her Bachelor's of Science, Summa Cum Laude, in Psychology
from The University of Florida in 2003. Brooke then joined The University of Florida's APA-
approved Counseling Psychology doctoral program, where she received her Master's of Science
degree, and also met her husband.
Brooke completed her pre-doctoral internship at Cumberland Hospital for Children and
Adolescents in New Kent, Virginia, an inpatient facility where she provided psychological
assessments, group, individual, and family therapy for those with chronic illness. She also
received advanced training in sand tray therapy. Brooke enjoys working with young adults on
self-exploration, development, and achievement in both personal and academic domains. She has
many outside interests, including movies, dance, plants, and animals. She is an avid cat lover.
inter intra inter intra
Forgiveness inter intra
Satisfaction with Life
Purpose of the Study
Participants n >
Instruments The Heartland Forgiveness Scale (HFS; Thompson et al., 2005).
The A lmost Perfect Scale Revised (APS -R; Slaney, et al.,2001). Self -Compassion Scale (SCS; Neff, 2003b).
The Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS; Diener, et al., 1985). Procedures
Analytic Strategies Mediation.
Analysis of Hypotheses ps Primary hypotheses. r r
r r r r r r r
r r Secondary hypothesis.
Min. Max. M SD N
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 1. HFS 2. Frgv. of Self .84 3. Frgv. of Others .77 .42 4. Frgv. of Sit. .88 .65 .53 5. Discrepancy -.60 -.60 -.34 -.53 6. SCS .71 .72 .40 .70 -.64 7. Self Kindness .59 .64 .31 .50 -.53 .82 8. Self Judgment -.56 -.61 -.27 -.49 .50 -.80 -.63 9. Cmn. Humanity .47 .49 .29 .3 8 -.41 .70 .52 -.40 10. Isolation -.46 -.45 -.25 -.45 .55 -.76 -.48 .55 -.42 11. Mindfulness .55 .53 .32 .51 -.40 .74 .57 -.46 .49 -.46 12. OverIdent. -.62 -.55 -.38 -.60 .50 -.74 -.47 .51 -.35 .56 -.50 13. SWL .48 .44 .27 .47 -.48 .50 .46 -.34 .31 -.40 (-. .39 -.37
Figure 4-1. c' c' b a c
Forgiveness of Self Subscale: Items 1-6 Forgiveness of Others Subscale: Items 7 -12 Forgiveness of Situations Subscale: Items 13-18 These i tems are reverse scored
Discrepancy subscale : Items 1 -12 High Standards subscale : Items 13 -19 Order subscale : Items 20-23
Self -Kindness subscale : Items 1 -5 Self -Judgment subscale : Items 6 -10 Common Humanity subscale : Items 11 -14 Isolation subscale : Items 15 -18 Mindfulness subscale : Items 19 -22 Over -Identification Subscale : 23 -26
on each of the previous two
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Psychoogical Methods, The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 165(1), Personality and Individual Differences, 37(8), Journal of Happiness Studies, 6(1), Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 11, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, Forgiveness: Theory, research, and practice Handbook of Positive Psychology Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(4), Cognitive Therapy and Research, 19(2), Self and Identity, 2,
Self and Identity, 2, Self and Identity, 4, European Journal of Personality, 18(1), European Journal of Personality, 21, American Educational Research Journal, 34(3), Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72(2), Behavior Resea rch Methods, Instruments and Computers, 36 Behavior Research Methods, 40 Journal of Clinical Psychology, 55(10), Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53(2), Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54(1), Journal of Counseling Psychology, 45(3), Assessment, 14(4),
Journal of Counseling and Development, 80, Journal of College Student Development, 42(2), Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53(4), Psychology in the Schools, 44 Journal of College Counseling, 7(2), Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24(4), Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47(2), Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 28(2), Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 34, Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 35(1), Journal of Clinical Psychology in medical Settings, 15(3), Personality and Individual Differences, 40, Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 11(2),
Lovingkindness: The revolutionary art of happiness. Journal of Personality, 66(4), Journal of Psychology and Christianity 20 Behavior Research and Therapy, 40, Clinical Psychology Review, 21(6), Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71(3), Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 39, Social Indicators Research, 5, Psychological Methods, 7, Journal of Counseling and Development, 74, Journal of Career Assessment, 3(3), Counseling Psychologist, 28(1), P erfectionism: Theory, res earch, and treatment Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 34,
Sociological Methodology 13, Sociological methodology Psychometrika, 55 Pers onality and Social Psychology Review, 10(4), Psychometrika, 55 Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 7, Journal of Adolescence, 18(6), Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 34, Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 59, Positive psychological assessment: A handbook of models and measures Journal of Personality, 73(2), Suicide and Life -Threatening Behavior, 10,
Personality and Individual Differences, 42, Cognitive Therapy and Research, 11(4), Journal of Personality and Social Psychology The Journal of Social Psychology, 146(4), Structural Equation Modeling, 15 Journal of Psychology and Theology, 29, Handbook of forgiveness Dimensions of forgiveness: Psychological research and theological perspectives. Handbook of forgiveness. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 39(4), Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68,