Friday, February 20, 2015

5 Beliefs About Forgiveness

What Do People Believe About 
Forgiveness and Reconciliation?

Anybody interested in the subject of forgiveness and reconciliation knows what psychologists and counselors believe—forgiveness is a good thing for general and mental health. We also know that psychologists define forgiveness as an inside job—forgiveness happens when people let go of the hurt feelings, smoldering anger, and desire for revenge. Some think we should also adopt a positive attitude toward those who hurt us.

And psychologists think reconciliation is different from forgiveness. Reconciliation is the process of repairing a damaged relationship. Trust is the key to reconciliation. Forgiveness can help but you can begin the process of working together even when unforgiven hurts persist. For example, people hurting after a divorce can get along to some extent for the sake of their children. Two employees can work together of projects even though unforgiveness limits their ability to enjoy the time they are together.

There are other ideas people have about forgiveness. So, one of my students, Jaimée Allman, collected survey data. We analyzed the results and presented them at a conference.

First I will give you the survey statement so you can offer your opinion. At the bottom of this page I will give you the answers from the survey participants.


Instructions: Indicate if you agree, disagree, or are neutral on the belief.

1. In general, Christians are more forgiving than non-Christians

2. An apology is necessary before I would forgive someone for other than a minor offense.

3. I feel guilty if I do not forgive someone

4. I think true forgiveness means you try to forget what the person did to you.

5. I think true forgiveness means you also reconcile with the person who offended you


One very important finding is that people from a Christian college and a secular college generally agreed that true forgiveness means people should try to reconcile. I hypothesize that this is a barrier to forgiveness. And I recommend that anyone (e.g., friends, counselors, clergy) trying to help people forgive or reconcile ,take the time to understand what people believe about forgiveness and reconciliation--it just might make a difference.

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Allman, J. Sutton &  G. W., (2009, April). Forgiveness, reconciliation, and spirituality: empirical findings regarding conceptual differences. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, International Conference, Orlando, FL.

You will find details about the sample and other questions in our presentation.

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