- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Americans are more likely to forgive themselves and feel forgiven by God than to forgive others or seek restitution for their sins, says a study released yesterday by the University of Michigan.
Nearly 60 percent of 1,423 persons polled say they have forgiven themselves for past mistakes, and nearly three-quarters said they felt forgiven by God. But 52 percent said they have forgiven others, and 43 percent admitted to seeking forgiveness for wrongs they have committed.
The study, conducted by the university's Institute for Social Research, found middle-aged and older adults were more apt to be forgiving and reported more peace of mind for having done so.
"The benefits of forgiveness seem to increase with age," said Loren Toussaint, one of the three authors of the study.
Older people 80 percent of those older than 45 also were more likely to feel forgiven by God. Sixty-nine percent of those ages 18 to 44 were likely to feel forgiven by the Almighty.
"I think all of us, at one time or another, when we've made the same mistakes over and over again, have felt that we must be a disappointment in God's eyes," Mr. Toussaint said. "Yet, there's a remarkably high level of confidence across the country that God forgives us, compared to a much lower level of forgiveness of oneself and others."
Researchers also found women to be more forgiving than men, and women more likely than men 54 percent to 49 percent to report they had actively sought another's forgiveness.
Some types of forgiveness turned out to be stressful.
"High levels of 'proactive forgiveness,' which involves asking forgiveness from someone you've hurt, asking God to forgive you or praying to God to forgive someone who has hurt you, were strongly linked with high levels of psychological distress," Mr. Toussaint said.
"Furthermore, older adults with high levels of proactive forgiveness reported less satisfaction with their lives than other older adults. This is understandable, since asking forgiveness can be stressful. It involves admitting to yourself that you've done something wrong. Also, you risk rejection from the other person."
Mr. Toussaint, a psychologist at Idaho State University, was aided by sociologist Marc Musick of the University of Texas at Austin, and Susan Everson, an epidemiologist in Chicago.

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