Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Influence of Forgiveness on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Individuals' Shame and Self-Esteem

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The Influence of Forgiveness on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Individuals' Shame and Self-Esteem

Article excerpt

The study of self-esteem continues to be a vital area of theory and research, remaining one of the largest areas of investigation in mental health science (Rodewalt & Tragakis, 2003). Defined as global self-appraisal of one's personal worth and competency (Mruk, 2006), self-esteem's theoretical importance is underscored by extensive evidence of relationships between high self-esteem and happiness, and low self-esteem and mental health problems, especially depression and concomitant shame (L. A. Allen, Woolfolk, Gara, & Apter, 1999; Andrews, Qian, & Valentine, 2002; Ashby, Rice, & Martin, 2006; Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, & Vohs, 2003; Harter, 1999; Mann, Hosman, Schaalma, & De Vries, 2004; Orth, Robins, Trzesniewski, Maes, & Schmitt, 2009; Yelsma, Brown, & Elison, 2002). Within literature specific to psychological well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals, the development of positive self-esteem indicative of self-acceptance of sexual and gender minority identity has been fundamental to LGBTQ coming-out models and central to LGBTQ-affirmative counseling (Cass, 1984; Coleman, 1981-1982; Kaufman & Raphael, 1996; Swann& Spivey, 2004). Situations of oppression provoking LGBTQ psychological distress have been well documented (Alexander, 1986; Diaz, Ayala, Bein, Henne, & Marin, 2001; Hass et al., 2011; Mays & Cochran, 2001; McCarthy, 2008; Meyer, 2003; Oswalt & Wyatt, 2011; Smith & Ingram, 2004), as well as their negative impact on LGBTQ self-esteem (Alexander, 1986; D. J. Allen & Oleson, 1999; Beard & Hissam, 2003; Clements-Nolle, Marx, & Katz, 2006; Franke & Leary, 1991; Gonsiorek & Rudolph, 1991; Jordan & Deluty, 1998; Maylon, 1982; Rowen & Malcolm, 2002; Savin-Williams, 1989; Szymanski, Chung, & Balsam, 2001; Szymanski & Gupta, 2009; Zea, Reisen, & Poppen, 1999).

Recent discussions in the counseling literature focusing on social justice and advocacy counseling (Constantine, Hage, Kindaichi, & Bryant, 2007; Crethar, Rivera, & Nash, 2008; Duran, Firehammer, & Gonzalez, 2008; Lating, Barnett, & Horowitz, 2010; Miller & Sendrowitz, 2011; Ratts, 2011) have recommended the development of counselor advocacy competencies to assist minority clients, including sexual and gender identity minorities, in the development of greater self-empowerment toward the goal of challenging discriminatory social, economic, and political practices and policies. The American Counseling Association (ACA) Advocacy Competencies (J. Lewis, Arnold, House, & Toporek, 2002) as well as the ACA Code of Ethics (ACA, 2005) further compel counselors to address issues of oppression with and on behalf of clients. It is by advancing an understanding of what factors further predict or influence LGBTQ self-esteem that counselors working with LGBTQ clients within social justice models may be better able to promote sexual and gender minority mental health and thereby assist in the promotion of advocacy and social justice through client empowerment (Toporek, Lewis, & Crethar, 2009).

Shame proneness and forgiveness are two characteristics that can have a significant impact on LGBTQ self-esteem. Budden (2009) defined shame as "the quintessential social emotion underlying social threat, comprising a family of negative feelings ranging from mild embarrassment to severe humiliation. It is the painful self-consciousness of, or anxiety about, negative judgment, unwanted exposure, inferiority, failure, and defeat" (p. 1033), manifesting in sexual and gender identity minority populations as a consequence of societal derision, prejudicial events, physical threat, and/or psychological meanings attached to a stigmatization (Meyer, 2003). Shame proneness is described as the tendency to experience feelings of shame in response to specific areas in which one might feel shame, including one's behavior, body, or characteristics (Andrews, 1998; Andrews et al. …

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