Handbook of Forgiveness
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Handbook of Forgiveness

Everett L. Worthington, Jr., Nathaniel G Wade, Everett L. Worthington, Jr., Nathaniel G Wade

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eBook - ePub

Handbook of Forgiveness

Everett L. Worthington, Jr., Nathaniel G Wade, Everett L. Worthington, Jr., Nathaniel G Wade

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About This Book

The Handbook of Forgiveness, Second Edition consolidates research from a wide range of disciplines and offers an in-depth review of the science of forgiveness.

This new edition considers forgiveness in a diverse range of contexts and presents a research agenda for future directions in the field. Chapters approach forgiveness from a variety of perspectives, drawing on related work in areas including biology, personality, social psychology, clinical/counseling psychology, developmental psychology, philosophy, and neuroscience, as well as considering international and political implications. The Handbook provides comprehensive treatment of the topic, integrating theoretical considerations, methodological discussions, and practical intervention strategies that will appeal to researchers, clinicians, and practitioners.

Reflecting the increased precision with which forgiveness has been understood, theorized, and assessed during the last 14 years of research, this updated edition of the Handbook of Forgiveness remains the authoritative resource on the field of forgiveness.

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How You Can Benefit from This Handbook
Everett L. Worthington, Jr. and Nathaniel G. Wade
People fail to reach their potential for many reasons. The authors in this book want to smash the barriers that can prevent people from reaching their potential, and the authors want to make it possible for people to exceed even their most optimistic expectations for themselves.
Amid the barriers of social injustices, oppression, relational injustices, inequities, lack of compassionate understanding by people with whom we interact, impingements on personal or economic freedom, lack of loyalty from people on whom we have counted, abuse of power by authorities, and betrayal of things we hold sacred, people often respond with unforgiveness. Unforgiveness itself is a barrier, because it can mire people in a swamp of bitterness, resentment, hostility, hatred, anger, and anxiety about who or what will harm us next. As authors of these reviews of research, we have experienced barriers to our own fulfillment and to reaching some of our own expectations, but we have a heart for helping people knock down their barriers, forgive those who have treated them unjustly, and move on to personal fulfillment and to a place where they can help others.
The authors of the chapters in this volume have chosen the noble task of conducting high quality psychological and health research. They have sought to facilitate forgiveness by others through providing a deep understanding of the basic processes of forgiveness and through studying the efficacy of interventions that have been developed specifically to help people forgive when they wish to forgive but find that difficult to experience.
As editors, we are pleased with the line-up of authors and of the impact that the individual chapters and the book as a whole might make on removing barriers to forgiving and empowering people to live more individually fulfilled and positively other-oriented lives. We believe that you, as reader, will be not only informed, but also inspired by the understanding that you will gain from these authors who have dedicated much of their professional time to understanding forgiveness.
We believe we have adequately sampled the status of forgiveness research in the chapters represented here. We apologize for our oversights in constructing the contents because we fully understand that no sample can fully represent the population of excellent research topics and findings about forgiveness, or any topic.
Brief History of the Field
Forgiveness studies had probably begun in 1984, with Lewis Smedes’s book, Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve. That popular book galvanized both practitioners and early researchers with the message that forgiveness benefits the forgiver, and that it does not need to be religiously motivated. But forgiveness research began in earnest in 1998, with the funding of studies under a Request for Proposals by the John Templeton Foundation, later supplemented by 14 funding partners under A Campaign for Forgiveness Research. At the outset of that funding initiative in 1998, McCullough, Exline, and Baumeister uncovered 58 exemplary empirical studies that they annotated. By the publication of Handbook of Forgiveness in 2005, Scherer et al. had identified over 1,100 empirical studies on forgiveness. The growth of research on forgiveness has continued to accelerate (see www.forgivenessresearch.org). Since its inception, the field of forgiveness studies now consists of well over 2,500 empirical articles focused on forgiveness, and many others that have assessed forgiveness within studies of other positive personal characteristics, relationship dynamics, community qualities, and even societal operations.
Brief History of This Handbook
In 2005, Worthington edited the Handbook of Forgiveness published by Brunner-Routledge. That book helped solidify the field of forgiveness studies, and its chapters and it as a book were used by researchers, practitioners, and even people not in psychology—such as social workers, rehabilitation counselors, psychotherapists in general practice, couple counselors, pastors, and even members of the general public who just wanted to understand what scientists had uncovered about forgiveness. Graduate students and emerging professionals seeking an exciting research area that could benefit people all over the world poured over the chapters, and many were inspired to study forgiveness after reading portions of the Handbook that captured their interests.
Now almost 15 years have elapsed since the first edition of the Handbook of Forgiveness. The field of forgiveness studies has changed over that time. In the first edition of the Handbook, there were eight parts that organized 32 chapters. These chapters covered topic areas as diverse as primatology, neuroimaging, and societal forgiveness following genocide. When possible, the authors wrote chapters based in empirical work on their topics. However, at that point, many areas were not developed, and so some authors wrote generative, sometimes descriptive or theoretical chapters. Many of these helped to set the research agenda in a particular area over the last 15 years.
What to Expect in the Second Edition of the Handbook of Forgiveness
We have organized the Handbook of Forgiveness, 2nd edition, in eight parts, similar to the first edition, but we have included one additional chapter. Furthermore, the content reviewed in the chapters of each part reflects the current nature of the field of forgiveness studies, and thus reveals other things about how the field has developed.
After the present orientation chapter, we tackle Part I (The Nature of Forgiveness), and the authors have a lot more to say about forgiveness than in the first edition because the research has clarified many points about forgiveness, and talented researchers have developed theories, refined conceptualizations, and developed measures that are far more sophisticated and informed than was true in the previous edition. Worthington (Chapter 2: Understanding Forgiveness of Other People: Theories, Definitions, and Processes) identifies four types of forgiveness. Both divine forgiveness and self-forgiveness largely describe types of forgiveness experienced by offenders. However, intrapersonal forgiveness is about the victim’s experiences of forgiving and societal forgiveness is about collectives, communities, and societies working out ways to deal with transgressions experienced by their members. This is necessarily more interpersonal than the intrapersonal experience of individuals who forgive. Worthington examines definitions of forgiveness of others, and finds that there are differences in conceptualizations of forgiveness. He also reviews theories of forgiveness and proposes a new theory that draws on exposure.
Following on the heels of that, Woodyatt and Wenzel (Chapter 3: The Psychology of Self-Forgiveness) examine self-forgiveness. They discuss two experiences that go together to compose self-forgiveness—acting morally responsible and experiencing the emotional transformation of letting go of self-condemnation.
In Chapters 4 and 5, we look at some reasons that forgiveness might not always be the best idea. McNulty (Chapter 4: Highlighting the Dark Side of Forgiveness and the Need for a Contextual Approach) looks at things that can go wrong with forgiving other people. In Chapter 5, Chester and Martelli (Why Revenge Sometimes Feel So Good) examine the good feelings that occur when purposefully not forgiving and instead, perhaps seeking revenge. In the first edition, philosopher Jeffrie Murphy wrote a philosophy-informed essay on the benefits of experiencing resentment, but in the present edition, Chester and Martelli marshal an empirical case from neuroscience and social psychology to support why revenge, not just resentment, might persist in culture—because it is inherently rewarding.
Two chapters take on the two major theories of forgiveness: evolutionary theory and stress-and-coping theory. Billingsley, Burnette, and McCullough (Chapter 6: An Evolutionary Perspective on Forgiveness) go far beyond the first edition, which relied on analogical evidence extrapolating from primate studies. In this second edition, Billingsley, Burnette, and McCullough provide summaries of studies on humans testing out hypotheses that were derived from evolutionary theory. Strelan (Chapter 7: The Stress-and-Coping Model of Forgiveness: Theory, Research, and the Potential of Dyadic Coping) takes a hard look at perhaps the most comprehensive type of theory that organizes research on forgiveness stress-and-coping theories. Whereas other theories have been used (see Chapter 2), a stress-and-coping framework might be the most fruitful way to organize the full mass of data, hypotheses, and propositions that have come to exist about how forgiveness occurs or does not occur. Strelan recommends a new look at the theory, expanding it beyond the experience of the victim to both participants in a transgression-forgiveness dyad.
The basics of forgiveness research requires an update on measurement. McElroy-Heltzel and her colleagues consider various types of measurement of different forgiveness-related constructs (Chapter 8: Measuring Forgiveness and Self-Forgiveness: Descriptions, Psychometric Support, and Recommendations for Research and Practice). The assessment of forgiveness has become sophisticated, and no longer will one self-report trait measure and one self-report state measure suffice for an ample assessment of forgiveness or self-forgiveness.
In Part I of the Handbook, 2nd edition, eight chapters cover more material and with more supporting empirical substance than did Parts I and II of the original Handbook. This shift captures the increasing precision with which forgiveness has been understood, theorized about, and assessed as a consequence of the last 14 years of research.
In Part II, The Psychology of Forgiveness, we include four chapters. In Chapter 9, Garthe and Guz survey the research and theory regarding The Development of Forgiving in Children, Adolescents, and Emerging Adults. In contrast to the first edition, which had only one chapter on developmental psychology—and that limited to a few studies on the emotional development of children and not including much empirical research specifically on forgiveness in children—Garthe and Guz summarize a wealth of empirical research specifically on forgiveness in children, adolescents, and emerging adults. Furthermore, that chapter examines forgiveness in emerging adults not merely by lumping all studies of college students together as if they were specifically on the development of forgiveness in emerging adults. They explore three processes crucial to development—self-regulation, coping strategies, and socialization—presenting ways that forgiveness is associated with each of the processes. Garthe and Guz then review research on the role of forgiveness within violent peer and romantic relationships. They conclude with a developmentally informed conceptual framework for studying forgiveness among youth.
Then, two chapters get at the predictors of forgiveness from a trait perspective. Hodge and collegues (Chapter 10: Personality and Forgiveness: A Meta-Analytic Review) use meta-analysis to examine forgiveness and the “Big Five” personality traits. All five were related to forgiveness, though agreeableness (positive relationship) and neuroticism (negative relationship) were most strongly related. They sought to determine whether there were differences for how personality related to trait versus state levels of forgiveness, and they explored personality’s relation to self, other, and situational forgiveness. Choe and collegues (Chapter 11: Forgiveness and Religion/Spirituality) examine the ways that religion and spirituality affect forgiveness. Substantial past work has examined this topic. Springing from a 2013 meta-analysis, they bring forth recent research pertaining to this important relationship. They show how the field has recently answered lingering questions. They concluded by critiquing the field, identifying an overreliance on cross-sectional study designs and the lack of programmatic work as two notable weaknesses.
In the first edition of the Handbook, Exline and Martin (2005) wrote a generative article on anger at God, which was based on some of Exline’s initial studies. Since that time, she and others have generated an entire literature on anger at God. In Chapter 12, Exline summarizes and evaluates the body of research (Anger toward God and Divine Forgiveness). Many studies have identified connections between anger toward God, feeling punished by God, divine forgiveness, and measures of mental health, adjustment, forgiveness, and religious/spiritual struggle. Some studies have recently connected demographic, personality-based, religious, and contextual predictors of anger toward God and divine forgiveness.
Thus, Part II of the Handbook brings us up to speed on the psychology of forgiveness. Part III of the Handbook, 2nd edition, deals with forgiveness as it functions in close relationships (Close Relationships and Forgiveness). Like the earlier Handbook, it has three chapters. However, the amount of empirical literature has exploded and the reviews conducted in this section tackle this new evidence. Green and collegues (Chapter 13: An Interdependence Analysis of Forgiveness, Amends, and Relational Repair in Family and Work Relationships) review the research on forgiveness in a variety ...

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