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The Varieties of Forgiveness Experience: Working toward a Comprehensive Definition of Forgiveness

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The definition of forgiveness was explored in a group of 270 young adults, and the underlying dimensions of their definitions compared with those of philosophers, theologians and psychological researchers. Three dimensions were identified: orientation (self, other), direction (passive letting go of negative experiences, active enhancement of positive experiences) and form (emotion, cognition and behavior). Definitions employing a passive letting go of negative experiences were associated with more state forgiveness. Gender differences were found in state forgiveness and in the employment of passive vs. active dimensions of forgiveness.

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Correspondence to Kathleen A. Lawler-Row.

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Dr. Kathleen A. Lawler-Row is Professor of Psychology at East Carolina University. Her work focuses on the physiological and health correlates of forgiveness. Correspondence to Dr. K. A. Lawler-Row, e-mail:

Cynthia Scott and Meirav Edlis-Matityahou are graduate students in the Experimental and Counseling (respectively) programs at the University of Tennessee.

Rachel Raines and Erin Moore are undergraduate students working with Dr. Lawler-Row in the department of psychology.

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Lawler-Row, K.A., Scott, C., Raines, R.L. et al. The Varieties of Forgiveness Experience: Working toward a Comprehensive Definition of Forgiveness. J Relig Health 46, 233–248 (2007).

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