Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Forgiveness and Its Importance in Substance Use Disorders

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Forgiveness and Its Importance in Substance Use Disorders

Article excerpt

According to Emmons and Paloutzian (2003), most religions include the capacity to seek and grant forgiveness in their definitions of optimal functioning (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015). As a result, the field of psychology conceptualized forgiveness as an exclusively theological or philosophical concept; however, research on the construct of forgiveness has expanded and revealed its association with a variety of benefits, such as mental health and relationship quality (Davis, Worthington, Jr., Hook, & Hill, 2013).

Definitions of forgiveness. Various definitions of forgiveness exist. Enright and Fitzgibbons (2015) define forgiveness as a willful decision to abandon resentment and its related responses in order to respond to the offender with active kindness and its related responses. The authors write that forgiveness exists on a continuum, is person-centered, and varies by culture and religion. Additionally, forgiveness may be stable or unstable, superficial or deep, cognitive or emotional, and behavioral or spiritual (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015).

Enright and Fitzgibbons (2015) also address what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not: a pardon or legal mercy; absolution; condoning or excusing; toleration; accepting the wrongdoer's apology; reconciliation; justification; forgetting; or balancing the scales. In contrast, Worthington, Jr. (2003) described the concept of "unforgiveness" as delayed negative emotions (involving resentment, hostility, bitterness, hatred, residual anger, and residual fear), which motivate people to reduce these unpleasant emotional experiences. Various ways to reduce these negative emotions without engaging in forgiveness include forbearance (suppressing a negative emotion through denial or distraction), successful revenge, seeing justice done, or excusing or justifying the transgression or transgressor (Worthington, Jr., 2003).

Trait versus state forgiveness. The degree to which a person tends to forgive across time, situation, and relationship is conceptualized as trait forgiveness, while a person's degree of forgiveness of a specific event is considered state forgiveness (Davis et al., 2013).

Decisional versus emotional forgiveness. Worthington, Jr. (2009) described two subtypes of forgiveness. Decisional forgiveness consists of an individual controlling his or her behavioral intentions, while emotional forgiveness is defined as replacing negative, unforgiving emotions with positive, other-oriented emotions (Worthington, Jr., 2009). Additionally, research suggests that the majority of health benefits associated with forgiveness are linked to the experience of emotional forgiveness, which more effectively reduces rumination and the body's stress response (Worthington, Jr., 2009).

Antecedents of forgiveness. Research indicates that people more readily forgive those to whom they feel close, and empathy reduces the desire to retaliate (McCullough et al., 2009). The constructs of expected value-positive expectations for an upcoming social interaction-and safety-believing in the trustworthiness and reduced likelihood of further injury from the offender-contributes to an individual's increased willingness to forgive (McCullough et al., 2009).

components of forgiveness. Self-forgiveness is defined as one's degree of forgiveness for offenses one has committed (Davis et al., 2013). When engaging in self-forgiveness, Woodyatt and Wenzel (2013) theorized three possible responses following a transgression: self-punitiveness, pseudo self-forgiveness, and genuine self-forgiveness. Research revealed that punishing one's self and engaging in pseudo self-forgiveness did not result in beneficial outcomes (Woodyatt & Wenzel, 2013). Conversely, genuine self-forgiveness-defined as an effort to work through one's offense, take responsibility, and acknowledge failures in the pursuit of selfacceptance-is associated with positive restorative outcomes (Woodyatt & Wenzel, 2013). …

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