Original Paper

Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 38, Issue 3, pp 378-400

First online:

Forgiveness aversion: developing a motivational state measure of perceived forgiveness risks

  • Ian WilliamsonAffiliated withNew Mexico Highlands University Email author 
  • , Marti Hope GonzalesAffiliated withUniversity of Minnesota
  • , Sierra FernandezAffiliated withNew Mexico Highlands University
  • , Allison WilliamsAffiliated withUniversity of Minnesota

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Given the demonstrated psychological, physical, and social benefits of forgiveness, it is striking that there are still strong impediments to its attainment. In this paper, we introduce the multi-dimensional construct of forgiveness aversion, an offense-specific motivational state based on perceived forgiveness risks. The construct and our proposed measure (the Forgiveness Aversion Scale) are composed of three related dimensions: unreadiness, self-protection, and face concerns. Unreadiness refers to the ongoing emotional turmoil that keeps victims from sincerely forgiving. Self-protection refers to the concerns about how offenders will interpret forgiveness. Finally, face concerns reflect victims’ concerns for their reputation. Four studies were completed to develop a state measure of forgiveness aversion through correlation, structural equations modeling, longitudinal analysis, and a hypothetical scenario experiment. Results of four studies reveal differential predictors of the three dimensions of forgiveness aversion and demonstrate that our understanding of the forgiveness process and impediments thereto is enhanced by addressing situation-specific impediments to forgiveness.


Forgiveness Motivation Empathy Apology Rumination