Mental Health Through Forgiveness

Forgiveness is an integral part of our life. It basically subsumes forgiving self and forgiving others. Forgiveness is important to move on from any situation. As a cognitive, emotional, and behavioral response to interpersonal conflict, forgiveness generally refers to exonerating another person of blame or giving up claims on another of debt, loan, obligation, or other claims, which is different from condoning, excusing, forgetting, pardoning, and reconciliation (Eaton & Struthers, 2006). Generally, the offended individuals can use forgiveness as an effective coping strategy to promote their happiness and well-being (Worthington & Scherer, 2004).

Forgiveness is a response to harm or injustice who has been treated unjustly and decides to reduce anger and hostility, work hard to provide benevolence towards the offender (Exline, Worthington, Hill, & McCullough, 2003; Toussaint & Friedman, 2009; Wade & Worthington, 2005). It usually incorporates a decrease in negative affect, emotions, cognitions, motivations, and behavior toward the offender (Rye & Pargament, 2002).

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Various areas of the brain are activated during forgiveness response. Farrow et al. (2001) used functional MRI to detect brain regions engaged by judging others’ emotional states and the forgivability of their crimes. Ten volunteers were involved. They read and make judgments based on social scenarios and a high-level baseline task (social reasoning). Both empathic and forgivability judgments activated left superior frontal gyrus, orbitofrontal gyrus, and precuneus. in addition, Empathic judgments also activated left anterior middle temporal and left inferior frontal gyri, while forgivability judgments activated posterior cingulate gyrus.

According to Erikson (1993), a human has eight different development stages. In each stage, there are various conflicts and psychological problems that one needs to resolve. Successful resolution of these conflicts leads to better well-being. However, one needs to have a higher tolerance, compromise and acceptance ability which means letting go of the situation and forgiving self and others (Slater, 2003). Although forgiveness increases with age, the changes in a different aspect of forgiveness might not be the same. For instance, a study by Charzy?„ska and Heszen (2013) reported a positive correlation between age and the capacity to forgive. There were significant associations between age and forgiveness of others, the feeling of being forgiven by God, and a general tendency to forgive, but not with self-forgiveness. In contrast to this, a study showed that there was an association between age and negative strategy of forgiveness which included revenge and avoidance rather than a positive strategy which means benevolence (Ghaemmaghami, Allemand, and Martin., 2011).

Giving forgiveness can differ according to age. A study conducted by few researchers examined age-related differences and similarities in forgiveness seeking. Students from third, seventh, and 12th grade were involved and they were made to imagine themselves committing various transgressions and the characteristics of this transgression, which included the severity of the consequences and type of offense, were manipulated. Across the age groups, forgiveness-seeking was followed by guilt, whereas withdrawal was followed by shame. Older students were more likely to seek forgiveness when the offense was high rather than low in severity, but younger students did not show this difference. Finally, according to the teacher’s rating, students’ overall prosocial behavior was positively correlated with forgiveness seeking (Riek, B. M., & DeWit, C. C., 2018). Similar to this, ??? study results reported that there was a robust relationship between a different aspect of disposition and life satisfaction. The study used Heartland Forgiveness Scale (adapted by Kaleta, Mr??z, and Guzewicz, 2016) and The Satisfaction with Life Scale by Diener et al. (SWLS, 1985) adapted by Juczy?„ski (2012). As the age advances, there was a positive correlation between forgiveness and life satisfaction. (Kaleta & Mr??z, 2018)

In terms of self-forgiving reaction, a study by Cornish et al, (2001) showed that individual differences were associated with measures that confound self-forgiveness with other hedonic traits, that is, the ability to release negative emotion following failure. Cluster analysis was used to distinguish genuine self-forgiveness from simply letting oneself off the hook through self-exoneration. It revealed three patterns of responding to interpersonal offenses: self-forgiving (high responsibility and end-state self-forgiveness and low self-condemnation), self-condemning (high responsibility and self-condemnation and low end-state self-forgiveness), and self-exonerating (high end-state self-forgiveness and low responsibility and self-condemnation).

When we seek a relationship between forgiveness and health promotion, a study by Toussaint et al. (2018) claimed that there is a strong association between them resulting in a good outcome. There was an inverse relationship between forgiveness and unproductivity, mental and physical health problem. Forgiveness is seen to be an effective coping mechanism for workplace offenses as it promotes good health, well-being, and productivity (Toussaint et al., 2018). The study conducted by Akhtar & Barlow (2018) supported the findings of Toussaint. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy of process-based forgiveness interventions were done across a different sample of adolescents and adults who have experienced hurt and violence against them. Randomized control trial was done to retrieve electronic database and standard mean differences and confidence interval was assessed to measure treatment effects. Forgiveness therapy was found effective in reducing depression, anger and hostility, stress and distress, and in promoting mental well-being (Akhtar, S., & Barlow, J., 2018).

Analyzing the relationship between forgiveness and mental health from a different angle, ???? a study claimed that there was a significant association between poor mental health and depressive symptoms. The study included a total of 311 Korean teachers who were asked to complete self-report questionnaires of Forgivingness Scale, the Self-Compassion Scale, and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Multiple regression analysis revealed that self-compassion moderated the relationship between lack of forgiveness and depression; the relationship was stronger for those low on self-compassion (Chung, 2006)

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