Researchers Find an Unexpected Cause of Forgiveness

Forgiveness Concept

They discovered that those who experience chronic stress are more likely to forgive, but those who experience everyday stress are less likely to do so.

When you experience chronic stress, forgiving is easier.

The relationship between personality authenticity (the ability to be oneself) and the ability to forgive under various stress levels has been researched by Russian scientists. They discovered that those who experience chronic stress are more likely to forgive, but those who experience everyday stress are less likely to do so. Authenticity is promoted by the ability to forgive. Life coaching programs could take advantage of the study’s findings, which were published in the journal Clinical Psychology and Special Education.

Authenticity, or the ability “to be oneself” aids individuals in overcoming a variety of difficulties in life. The ability to forgive—overcoming feelings of offense by the person who inflicted damage or challenging life circumstances—also contributes to psychological well-being. Despite the significance of these phenomena for personality psychology research, little is known about how they are related. In contrast to the scarcity of studies on its connections to other positive personality phenomena, the capacity to forgive is just now being studied in Russian personality psychology.

No studies have looked at stress levels, forgivingness as a moral virtue, or genuineness. Professor Sofya Nartova-Bochaver of the Higher School of Economics (HSE) Faculty of Social Sciences collaborated with Violetta Park to investigate how stress affects one’s ability for forgiveness and authenticity. 140 young men and women between the ages of 16 and 40 were questioned by the researchers to determine the associations.

When it came to the amount of stress they were going through, the respondents belonged to various cohorts. They included the relatively affluent (students from a teacher training institution residing in Moscow), the cohort dealing with chronic stress brought on by a serious trauma with permanent effects (patients of a rehabilitation center with severe spinal injuries), and students from one of Moscow’s international classical universities who experienced everyday stress. In the study, standardized questionnaires were used.

According to the research, those who experience chronic stress exhibit the most authenticity. The results for patients who are generally well-off are average, whereas the results for the group who experienced daily stress were the lowest. The ability to forgive follows the same pattern.

Researchers explain the high inclination to forgive among representatives of the chronic stress cohort by the post-traumatic growth effect. Despite the fact that these people face very severe life conditions—they depend physically on other people; their normal bodily sensations have changed, and many capabilities have been lost—they are more likely to discover their real purpose in life and the most important values. They feel “more like themselves” and are able to disregard the multiple misfortunes and imperfections in life by means of forgiveness in order to move on.

Representatives of the “relatively well-off” cohort adapt easily to themselves and the world, have moderately high authenticity and a readiness to forgive other people, themselves, and the circumstances that life presents them with. The lowest ability to forgive and the lowest level of authenticity was seen in the everyday stress cohort. Likely due to the “invisibility” and “unimportance” of everyday troubles, these people are unaware of their everyday stress until their reaction to it peaks. This is why people who believe that they deal with routine pressure well are in fact exhausted and become too demanding to themselves and others.

The researchers also looked into how authenticity correlates with the ability to forgive depending on stress levels. These phenomena are generally positively correlated: people who tend to show mercy and forgive others or under unfavorable life conditions are more likely to feel the authenticity of their own personality; however, the strength of this correlation varies depending on stress.

In the chronic stress cohort, authenticity has almost no correlation with the ability to forgive; rather, it appears that they develop in parallel. For the relatively well-off and those under everyday stress, the forgiveness of oneself has become the most important condition to experience authenticity, but only in the everyday stress cohort have researchers detected a high importance of forgiving life circumstances and events. The more developed the ability to forgive oneself and life circumstances is, along with a greater readiness to forget about vengeance or restore justice, the truer, more real-life people live.

The scholars concluded that an ability to forgive really contributes to feeling authenticity, but at different levels of stress and under different types of stress the factors that cause it may change.

Sofya Nartova-Bochaver, Leading Research Fellow, School of Psychology states, “In rapidly changing, highly ambiguous conditions, it is extremely important to have a wide range of life skills and personality qualities, among which the ability to forgive is undoubtedly essential.”

Reference: “Authenticity and Dispositional Forgiveness at Different Stress Levels: A Preliminary Study” by Nartova-Bochaver S.K. and Park V.V., 13 March 2022, Clinical Psychology and Special Education.
DOI: 10.17759/cpse.2022110107

The study was funded by the Russian Science Foundation.

1 Comment on "Researchers Find an Unexpected Cause of Forgiveness"

  1. Forgiveness isn’t conceptual. If it is, it’s for selfish reasons or peer pressure (from religion) and therefore, moot.

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