Common themes in narratives about seeking interpersonal forgiveness

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Title: Common themes in narratives about seeking interpersonal forgiveness
Author: Harter, Kathryn
Abstract: This study investigated common themes in the motivations for and obstacles to seeking forgiveness in participant narratives relating to seeking forgiveness in a sample of 156 narratives written by 78 students with a mean age of 21 years at a technical university in the Northeastern United States. Readers used a coding rubric to assess the motivations for and the obstacles to seeking forgiveness as written in the narratives. These motivations and obstacles were explored in the context of a three-stage forgiveness model. The main research question of the study was to explore common reasons that people did or did not seek forgiveness and the methods that they used to do so. Data from the study indicated that participant narratives describing seeking forgiveness did follow the proposed three-stage model and that the main motivation for seeking forgiveness was to reduce feelings of sadness or guilt on the part of the transgressor. A significant number also sought forgiveness for the benefit of the victim. Narratives about obstacles to seeking forgiveness indicated that the majority of people did not seek forgiveness because they felt that the victim deserved it. A smaller percentage did not seek forgiveness because they did not acknowledge their error or responsibility for any harm that was caused. Correlational analysis showed that individuals who sought forgiveness for the benefit of the victim were more likely to experience a positive effect on the relationship. The results of the study had several implications for theory and practice related to seeking forgiveness.
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Date: 2012-05-18

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