Magazine article USA TODAY

Empathy Helps People Forgive and Forget

Magazine article USA TODAY

Empathy Helps People Forgive and Forget

Article excerpt

What helps people to treat past hurts with forgiveness? Psychologists who dug into what helps people forgive found that, in close, committed relationships, developing empathy for the person who hurt you makes a difference.

With hurt comes a sense of attack, motivating someone to avoid the offender, notes Michael McCullough, director of research at the National Institute for Healthcare Research. Hurt also can provoke feelings of righteous indignation with desires to seek revenge. In contrast, forgiving reduces avoidance and desire for revenge, replacing it with a wish to restore the relationship despite the personal hurt.

What helps spark this desire to forgive? A survey asked both members of 116 couples about the most severe and most recent hurt their loved one had caused them. The study measured how close, affectionate, and satisfied the couples felt in the relationship, as well as each one's commitment level--the degree he or she desired to maintain or improve the quality of the relationship for both partners. When both partners felt more highly satisfied and committed, each was more likely to forgive the offending partner when a hurt arose. …

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