Interpersonal Offenses and Psychological Well-Being: The Mediating Role of Forgiveness

Abstract

Despite increasing attention to the study of forgiveness, the links between forgiving real-life interpersonal hurts and psychological well-being have been overlooked. With a sample of 456 Spanish adults (aged 18–80 years), the aims of this study were to examine: (1) whether variables related with the victims’ appraisal of a specific offense (time elapsed, frequency, perceived severity, perceived intention) and their own beliefs about the nature of forgiveness (as either conditional or unconditional) are associated to their interpersonal forgiveness; (2) whether forgiveness plays a mediating role between the way in which victims appraise an offense and their levels of psychological well-being (PWB), and between their beliefs about the nature of forgiveness, and their levels of PWB; (3) the role that two different components of forgiveness (Absence of Negative and Presence of Positive feelings and thoughts about the hurt—“negF” and “posF”, respectively) might play on these relationships. We found that adults who forgive others tend to enjoy a greater sense of PWB than those who are less willing to forgive offenses. Frequency of the offense, its perceived severity and its perceived intention were associated with less forgiveness. Forgiveness mediated the relationship between the victims’ appraisal of the offense and their levels of PWB, specifically through negF (i.e., the victims’ ability to leave behind the negative thoughts and feelings associated with the transgression). Finally, the belief that forgiveness is unconditional or conditional has different relationships not only with forgiveness, but also with the victims’ PWB.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    As religion/spirituality has been found positively associated to specific forgiveness we included it among our controlled variables in this study: e.g., Davis et al. (2013), in their meta-analytic review of the literature on religion/spirituality (R/S) and forgiveness, found that R/S was positively related to specific forgiveness (r = .15); Fehr et al. (2010), in their meta-analysis also report significant correlations of religiosity and social desirability with forgiveness (\({\bar{r}}=19\); \({\bar{r}}=10\)).

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Gismero-González, E., Jódar, R., Martínez, M.P. et al. Interpersonal Offenses and Psychological Well-Being: The Mediating Role of Forgiveness. J Happiness Stud 21, 75–94 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-018-00070-x

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Keywords

  • Forgiveness
  • Psychological well-being
  • Eudaimonic well-being
  • Conditional forgiveness
  • Unconditional forgiveness