Term Paper: Forgiveness and Personality

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[. . .] (McCullough et al. 1997)

These factors also influence whether or not the offended party will develop empathetic feelings at all. (McCullough et al. 1997) The article gives an example of this and states that, the offended partner's dispositional empathy (e.g.,Davis, 1980) appears be weakly related to the degree to which people forgive relationship partners who have hurt them (Rhode,1990). However, global personality factors such as dispositional empathy might be weak determinants of forgiving (cf. Rt~sbult et al., 1991), because they must be translated into empathy for a specific person in a specific situation. Thus situational and relationship factors could be more important determinants of whether and how empathy develops. The severity of the offense and the degree to which the offender apologizes for his or her behavior, for example, might be crucial." (McCullough et al. 1997)

McCullough et al. (1997) insist that various relationship factors can influence the capacity that an individual has to be empathetic. The article asserts that regardless of how empathy forms, once it exist at a certain level it has the ability to overshadow the injury that has been caused and allows the individual to forgive. (McCullough et al. 1997)

As you can see empathetic people are literally compelled to forgive because of the atmosphere that empathy creates. Agreeableness is the key to being able to forgive and reconcile the situation without further damage. If a person has an agreeable personality they are also more likely to be empathetic and have the ability to forgive.

Emotionally Stable

Another personality group that tends to have a disposition towards forgiveness is the emotionally stable. McCullough (2001) contends that people that are emotionally stable have a decreased vulnerability to experiences of negative emotions. (McCullough 2001) The article also asserts that emotionally stable personalities are usually less sensitive and are less likely to have mood swings. (McCullough 2001)

In other words people that are emotionally stable are less likely to be offended in the first place; they tend not to take things personally. Therefore if someone is rude to them or does injury to them they are less likely to internalize the offense. Instead, they will tend to believe that the offender is behaving in a rude fashion because there is something wrong with the offender not because there is something wrong with them. Because of this reaction the person that is emotionally stable is more willing to forgive and can actively practice forgiveness.

The odd thing about emotional stability is that the more forgiving you are the more emotionally stable you become. As we mentioned previously people that are forgiving have less anger, and anxiety. A decrease in these attributes increase the ability to function and increase emotional stability.

Religion and spirituality

The correlation between religion and forgiveness has also been well researched. The connection is a simple one to make; many religions teach that forgiveness is essential to eternal life. Therefore, people that practice religion on a consistent basis are also more likely to practice forgiveness.

Research always suggested that religiousness and spirituality play a role in the disposition to forgive. (Emmons and Paloutzian 2003)

Many experts believe that the very nature of some religious beliefs make people with religious personalities more forgiving. An article found in the journal, Annual Review of Psychology asserts that forgiveness has always been at the center of theological and philosophical debate. (Emmons and Paloutzian 2003)

Emmons and Paloutzian (2003), also asserts that spiritual transcendence plays a large role in the ability that individuals have to forgive. The article defines spiritual transcendence as "the capacity of individuals to stand outside of their immediate sense of time and place and to view life from a larger, more objective perspective. This transcendent perspective is one in which a person sees a fundamental unity underlying the diverse strivings of nature."(Emmons and Paloutzian 2003)

This simply means that religious or spiritual people have the ability to view events in terms what those events will mean in the future. These individuals want to forgive because they know that in the future they will be held accountable for their unwillingness to forgive. If they fear the punishment that will come they are more willing to forgive.

One comprehensive study of Religiousness and personality is published in the Review of Religious Research. This particular study investigated the issues that make up the concept of forgiveness, and observed the correlation between these issues and related religious variables. (Gorsuch and Hao 1993)

This study and others found that those that study Christianity in particular are more likely to practice forgiveness. The studies have found that those that attend Christian churches on a regular basis and believe that the religion should be incorporated into everyday life are more willing to forgive others. Gorsuch and Hao (1993) assert that the correlation between Christianity and forgiveness is related to the teachings of Jesus Christ which insist that forgiveness must be practiced if one is to enter heaven. Christians believe that Jesus has forgiven them and that they now have an obligation to forgive others. (Gorsuch and Hao 1993)

This aspect of our investigation demonstrates that religion and spirituality can be a predisposition for forgiveness. The nature of religion teaches forgiveness and reconciliation and justifies these practices. Many religions also hold individual accountable for their failure to practice forgiveness.

Personalities and forgiveness (future studies)

Although there has been some research conducted concerning the role of personality and forgiveness there are still many avenues that have not been explored. Since we understand the personality traits that are predisposed to forgiveness and we also understand that forgiveness is essential to emotional stability, there must be a way to increase these positive personality traits. For instance, researchers could examine more closely the factors that contribute to the ability that an individual has to develop empathic feeling. We know from our research that the emotions that empathy creates can lead to a greater ability to forgive and to seek reconciliation. If researchers can discover a way to increase empathy the amount of unforgiveness will decrease resulting in a society in which people are mentally health and display less anger and anxiety.

This type of research must be conducted over a large population and should include individuals that are unlikely to practice forgiveness. In doing this, researchers can discover what can help people to become more forgiving even if they do not have personality types that are inherently forgiving. This would go a long way in improving mental health around the world.

Emmons and Paloutzian 2003, also explains that there are various ways that research into the topic could be extended. The article asserts that there is the need for a greater focus on psychological mechanisms that allow dispositionally inclined people to forgive transgressions against them, the need to examine contextualized goals and strivings (Emmons 2000) and appraisals of these goals, and the need for more sophisticated theorizing on the place of forgiveness within broader models of the person. Important clues might be gleaned from the self-regulation literature, particularly with regard to how religious ideologies that emphasize forgiveness can become translated into effective thought-action sequences and then protected from competing intentions (Emmons et al. 1993). With regard to the place of forgiveness in personality, Ashton & Lee (2001) recently posited that forgiveness/nonretaliation is one of three major traits that underlie prosocial tendencies and can account for individual differences in the major dimensions of agreeableness and emotional stability. HUMILITY Since medieval times, pride has been one of the deadly sins, and some have argued that pride is the parent of all the vices (Schimmel 1997). Humility, as the antidote to pride, is the realistic appraisal of one's strengths and weaknesses -- neither overestimating nor underestimating them." (Emmons and Paloutzian 2003)

Emmons and Paloutzian (2003) contend that a better understanding of humility and practicing humility will make people more willing to forgive if someone offends them. They assert that people are able to display humility when they understand their own weaknesses and are not so judgmental of the weaknesses that others display. They argue that empirical study of humility will lead to a greater understanding of how people can practice forgiveness. Emmons and Paloutzian (2003), contends that there is an urgency to create tools to facilitate an understanding of humility and the impact that is has on forgiveness. The article asserts that the current research is derived from research conducted about related issues and not on humility itself. They also suggest that these studies should embrace the real world consequences of humility and forgiveness. (Emmons and Paloutzian 2003)

Emmons and Paloutzian (2003), also assert that the impact that religion has on forgiveness must be explored in a more intense way. The article argues that there are several steps that can be taken to create better research results in this area. The authors write that one step that must be taken is to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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