Recently, Marcin Moroń, PhD, has published an article entitled “Basic dimensions of religiousness and dispositional forgiveness: The mediating role of religiously-motivated forgiveness” in the Annals of Psychology scientific journal.
In recent years, positive psychology has started putting strong emphasis on the role of the so-called character virtues, i.e. qualities that can foster a higher quality of life. Forgiveness is one of the significant character virtues (Carr et al., 2020). This phenomenon does not consist so much in “letting things go” or “forgetting” the hurt experienced, but rather in the transformation of motivations after being hurt. It involves toning down the automatically triggered motivation to avoid or retaliate and triggering a response of kindness towards the perpetrator. We consider forgiveness mostly in the interpersonal context, however, it is in fact a multidimensional phenomenon. It manifests itself in forgiving other people but also oneself, and sometimes other entities that can be seen as a reflection of the perpetrator by those who have been hurt (Toussaint et al., 2015). People who are capable of forgiveness are more mentally and physically healthy than those who harbour resentment (Lee and Enright, 2019).
In the interdisciplinary model of forgiveness, along with age and personality, religiousness is considered a basic predictor of readiness to forgive. In many religions, forgiving is perceived as an important quality and a moral imperative. Religiousness is however a complex psychological construct in itself (Saraglou, 2011). One recent conception of the structure of religiousness distinguishes four dimensions: believing, bonding, behaving, and belonging; (Saraglou, 2011).
The conducted research analysed the relationship between the dimensions of religiousness and three aspects of forgiveness: extended to others, oneself, and the feeling that God has forgiven the religious person for their inadequacies. The study, which surveyed 427 believers, showed that forgiveness of others is related to an aspect of religiousness, which is morality. The sense of being forgiven by God was in turn connected with the dimensions of faith, emotional bonds, and morality. None of the aspects of religiousness allow to directly predict a tendency for self-forgiveness. However, believing that forgiveness was an expression of one’s own faith was conducive also to self-forgiveness.
Forgiveness can be perceived as a result of a moral imperative of religious people. Morality is also highly correlated with other aspects of religiousness (faith, emotional bond, and relationships with the community). However, from the point of view of forgiveness, it is a fundamental regulator of behaviour. Religious people while forgiving others have the feeling that is an important expression of their morality. Therefore, they may regard forgiveness as a prescriptive norm (you ought to forgive). The study also showed that one’s religiosity does not directly contribute to self-forgiveness, even if the person feels that God has forgiven them. The latest analyses show a significant impact of self-forgiveness in maintaining good mental health (Fincham and May, 2020). The results obtained, therefore, indicate that a deeper understanding of the status and role of self-forgiveness needs to be introduced in the pastoral perspective. Mainly because it can be viewed as leniency towards oneself or even as faults in their image of moral perfection, even though in its essence it expresses an accepting and compassionate relation to oneself.
Carr, A., Cullen, K., Keeney, C., Canning, C., Mooney, O., Chinseallaigh, E., & O’Dowd, A. (2020). Effectiveness of positive psychology interventions: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Positive Psychology, 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2020.1818807
Fincham, F. D., & May, R. W. (2020). Divine, interpersonal and self-forgiveness: Independently related to depressive symptoms? Journal of Positive Psychology, 15,448–454. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2019.1639798
Lee, Y.-R., & Enright, R. D. (2019). A meta-analysis of the association between forgiveness of others and physical health. Psychology & Health, 34, 5, 626–643. https://doi.org/10.1080/08870446.2018.1554185
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Saroglou, V. (2011). Believing, bonding, behaving, and belonging: The big four religious dimensions and cultural variation. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 42(8), 1320–1340. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0022022111412267
Toussaint, L. L., Worthington, E. L., Jr., & Williams, D. R. (2015). Forgiveness and health: Scientific evidence and theories relating forgiveness to better health. Springer.