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Science of Forgiveness

There is actually a science in forgiving. Thanks to many, especially renowned clinical psychologist Everett Worthington and thousands of studies and trials done by many, we can examine what techniques work best when seeking freedom from a past transgression.

How do we respond to being hurt? Often, it is with blame:

  • Blame others

  • Blame God

  • Blame ourselves

“Someone owes me. Someone must pay for this … in terms of suffering.”

Stress and coping theory of forgiveness is the most widely known and accepted.  The stressor is the offense and the offender that is dealt with, or coping with, this stress in many ways including:

  • Anger

  • Blame

  • Resentment 

  • Revenge

  • Self-hurt and suicide

  • Abuse of others and/or ourselves including with alcohol and drugs

  • Forgiveness

There are many legitimate options to deal with injustices; forgiveness is just one. More on this from Mark Goodman at:

Decisional Forgiveness: An intention statement stating one’s intent to forswear revenge or avoidance and to treat the person as a valuable and valued person.

Emotional Forgiveness: Defined as the emotional replacement of negative unforgiving emotions by positive other-oriented emotions This might lead to neutralization of negative emotions (particularly in stranger dyads) and eventual replacement by net positive emotions (usually desired in continuing intimate dyads)

Additional benefits of Emotional Forgiveness: 

• Empathy 

• Sympathy 

• Compassion 

• Agape (altruistic) love 

• Romantic love

Don’t wait for apology, restitution, or remorse. That is justice, not forgiveness. Forgive unilaterally!

Understanding the “injustice gap” can be a real key to helping people understand why they might be having difficulty forgiving. People can make a sincere decision to forgive, but still be upset (emotional unforgiveness). Saying, “I forgive you” is not the same as forgiving. Forgiveness can be done without reconciling. Forgiveness takes time—one hour per 0.1 SDs of change. 

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