Dimensions Of Forgiveness

A Research Approach

by Everett L. Worthington

Series: Laws Of Life Symposia Series (No. 1)

The scientific study of forgiveness is a new approach to an age-old problem. For thousands of years, people have practiced forgiveness within religious systems. Now, the field of scholarly research of forgiveness reveals the beneficial aspects of the process.

p>Contributors include Elliot Dorff and Martin Marty discussing religious interpretations, followed by social implications explained by Kenneth Pargament and Mark Rye. Roy Baumeister, Julie Exline, and Kristin Sommer present the victim's point of view. Other contributors focusing on the forgiveness research are: Everett Worthington, Robert Enright, Catherine Coyle, Carl Thoresen, Frederic Luskin, and Alex Harris. An annotated bibliography by Michael McCullough, Julie Exline, and Roy Baumeister, covers the empirical literature on the subject. Lewis Smedes concludes with the four steps necessary for forgiveness: moving from estrangement to forgiveness to reconciliation to hope.


  • Templeton Press; January 2008
  • ISBN: 9781932031461
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Dimensions Of Forgiveness
  • Series: Laws Of Life Symposia Series (No. 1)
  • Author: Everett L. Worthington
  • Imprint: Templeton Press

In The Press

Book Reviews Library JournalJanuary, 1999 The flames of violence engulfing the world have prompted social scientist to look for fresh solutions, one of which is forgiveness. Although theologians and philosophers have written much on the subject, social scientists subjected it to "benign neglect" until 1985, when some empirical research began. This is a collection of papers from a symposium convened to define the field and lay the foundation for future research. It is a strong first volume in a series intended to explore how "positive mindset and virtues enhance the live of individuals and, ultimately, the well-being of society." The first two papers define forgiveness in terms of Christianity and Judaism; the final paper redefines it from a secular standpoint. In addition to studies on forgiveness as a basic social process, two papers consider future research. A large, admirably annotated bibliography on forgiveness and related subjects is included. The authors are major contributors in the field, and they have succeeded admirably in their mandate. - Eugene O. Boswer, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley. NAPRAReViewMarch/April 1999 This volume of social science research papers on forgiveness is the first in a projected series on studies into the scientific foundations of effective living. The open section, "Forgiveness is Religion," features two excellent essays by Martin E. Marty and Elliott N. Dorff, reviewing Christian and Jewish perspectives. The scientific papers are organized into four sections: "Forgiveness is Basic Social Processes," "Forgiveness in Interventions," "Forgiveness in Published Research" (an extensive annotated bibliography), and "Forgiveness in Future Research." Those not familiar with social science terminology may find this heavy going at times, but the persistent reader will find much encouragement in this new appreciation of "religious" wisdom. The annotated bibliography describes almost 50 studies that include journal citation, objective, design, setting participants, manipulated variables, assessment of outcome variables, main results, conclusion and commentary. - AMTheology DigestFall, 1999 This volume stems from a 1997 symposium sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation at Hope College, Holland, Michigan. The 10 articles published here were drafted from the presentations and revised in the light of further discussion. They examine the ethics of Christian forgiveness; a Jewish approach; forgiveness and religious coping; the victim role; grudge theory; the pyramid model of forgiveness; the process model; science and forgiveness interventions; forgiveness and hope; and empirical research on forgiveness. Also included is an annotated bibliography.Science & Spirit MagazineDecember, 1998 Ten presentations from a symposium promoting the scientific study of the value of multiple dimensions of forgiveness in our lives. The symposium's goals were to study the value of forgiveness, to help people learn how to forgive, to encourage scholarly dialogue, and to advance research on the value of forgiveness in society.Religious Studies Review - Valparaiso, INJuly, 2001 This book collects presentations from a 1997 conference entitled "A Journey to Hope: A Research Workshop to Launch the John Templeton Foundation's Program to Encourage the Scientific Study of Forgiveness." Three articles articulate theological perspectives (M. Marty, E. N. Dorff, and L.B. Smedes); six are social scientific in perspective; one is an extensive annotated bibliography of research on forgiveness. The articles are primarily aimed at scholars in relevant fields, but pastors and ethicists will benefit from their analyses as well. Taken together, the articles point to significant research and mutually supportive definitions and emphases around the topic of forgiveness. The theologian will probably find th Smedes article the most stimulating, with the Dorff article on Jewish considerations a close second. The volume is a good entre into the subjects of forgiveness and reconciliation, but hardly definitive or inclusive of all theological considerations.East Hampton (NY) IndependentAugust 12, 2004 In my last column, you were taught how to see the forest of good things about those who may have wronged you, and not just focus on the one tree of an incident of resentment. Today we are going to look at a more complex and demanding form of forgiveness described under the acronym of R.E.A.C.H. The man who created this approach, Everett Worthington, wrote the book, Dimensions of Forgiveness and is the world-recognized expert on the subject. All the more incredible then, that he should get the news in 1996 that his mother had been brutally raped and murdered by intruders on New Year's Eve! What a dilemma! He had to practice what he preached in a way he had undoubtedly never anticipated. And so he used his model to achieve a place of equanimity and peace with what happened.Now this is a more complicated approach, which deserves more than an outline, but let me run through the letters to give you an idea. R means Recall, that is, recall what happened in as objective a way as you can without demonizing the perpetrators and without getting yourself into a place of deep emotional distress. You have to visualize what happened, but then in E you have to find a way to Empathize with those responsible. Wow, difficult, hmm? Yes, it is! But by seeing those responsible as human, perhaps fearful, driven people, you can get a handle on their motivations and the spontaneity of most unplanned violence. Of course there are even worse scenarios, but the goal is the same.A is the altruistic gift of forgiveness. This is the act of ultimate self-liberation and of human understanding at the same time. As I said in my last column, you are the one on the hook when you are locked in the embrace of intense hatred and bitterness towards those who may have wronged you, perhaps quite unimaginable severely. However huge a mountain it may seem to climb, you will only find peace and a restored sense of balance and purpose in your life by unburdening yourself of you feelings of victimization, no matter how justified they may seem.C means commitment to publicly acknowledge your forgiveness. You can do this by writing a forgiveness letter, sharing the whole experience with friends, but in any even making the process an external demonstration through some ritual or activity. And lastly, H stands for hold. You have to hold on to and sustain your attitude of forgiveness over time so that you can make it a complete part of the weave and pattern of your soul, so to speak.Surely some of you are shaking your heads over this and saying to yourselves that there is no way you could do that with some heavy duty event such as Worthington experienced. Okay, okay, I fully understand. But just remember that all that misery is the wall that keeps you imprisoned in the penitentiary of your unwillingness to adopt a different attitude toward the hurt that comes your way. This is a key concept that will run throughout all the columns I write in one form or another. That is, response to how the world has treated us, or, more importantly, how we have interpreted how the world has treated us. Unless we can climb up and get sufficient perspective on our own responsibility for our unhappiness, we will live alienated from the wonderful horizons of potential joy. Sit down, take a deep breath, take in the details of your surroundings, and give this some consideration.


About The Author

Dr. Everett Worthington Jr. has dedicated his life to the study and teaching of marriage and family-related topics.

He is a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University and has taught at the Universityrsquo;s American Psychological Association–accredited psychology (counseling) program for almost twenty years. A prolific writer and producer of multimedia resources, Dr. Worthington has published twelve books on marriage and family topics and has several others in press or under contract. Additionally, he has published over one hundred chapters or papers in refereed journals and has produced numerous videotapes and audiotapes. Dr. Worthington has won national recognition for his research and teaching and is frequently requested as a speaker before national audiences.

He has provided over one hundred convention presentations and colloquia and has given over fifty presentations at professional workshops and conferences, mostly on marital therapy and enrichment. No stranger to the media, Dr. Worthington and his work have been featured on numerous television and radio programs, newspapers and magazines. He is also a member of nearly ten professional organizations.