Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 291–302 | Cite as

Forgiveness, Health, and Well-Being: A Review of Evidence for Emotional Versus Decisional Forgiveness, Dispositional Forgivingness, and Reduced Unforgiveness

  • Everett L. WorthingtonJrEmail author
  • Charlotte Van Oyen Witvliet
  • Pietro Pietrini
  • Andrea J. Miller


The extant data linking forgiveness to health and well-being point to the role of emotional forgiveness, particularly when it becomes a pattern in dispositional forgivingness. Both are important antagonists to the negative affect of unforgiveness and agonists for positive affect. One key distinction emerging in the literature is between decisional and emotional forgiveness. Decisional forgiveness is a behavioral intention to resist an unforgiving stance and to respond differently toward a transgressor. Emotional forgiveness is the replacement of negative unforgiving emotions with positive other-oriented emotions. Emotional forgiveness involves psychophysiological changes, and it has more direct health and well-being consequences. While some benefits of forgiveness and forgivingness emerge merely because they reduce unforgiveness, some benefits appear to be more forgiveness specific. We review research on peripheral and central nervous system correlates of forgiveness, as well as existing interventions to promote forgiveness within divergent health settings. Finally, we propose a research agenda.


Forgiveness Health Cancer Cardiovascular Intervention Peripheral nervous system Central nervous system Stress Coping 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Everett L. WorthingtonJr
    • 1
    Email author
  • Charlotte Van Oyen Witvliet
    • 2
  • Pietro Pietrini
    • 3
  • Andrea J. Miller
    • 1
  1. 1.Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  2. 2.Hope CollegeHollandUSA
  3. 3.University of Pisa Medical SchoolPisaItaly

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