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How Forgiveness Influences a Persons Stress

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How Forgiveness Influences A Persons Stress


Forgiveness is not only a key Christian value but it is an integral part of good health. Forgiveness has been shown in recent literature to be an important marker of well-being and physical health. Its converse, unforgiveness, has been strongly associated with higher incidences of stress and negative health outcomes. This study explores the definition of forgiveness and the theological principle of forgiveness and then searches current literature to find what effects forgiveness has on physical health, life satisfaction, mental health, and stress levels. It is found that forgiveness positively correlates with better health outcomes and higher life satisfaction and negatively correlates with depression and anxiety and stress.

Keywords: stress, anxiety, forgiveness, health, Christian values


Couenhoven, J. Forgiveness and restoration: A theological exploration. Journal of Religion, 90(2), 148-170.

Couenhoven explores various definitions of forgiveness and how it relates to God's relationship with His people. He evaluates different definitions for their theological and practical implications. This article informs the present work in the core task of defining forgiveness.

Cox, S. S., Bennett, R. J., Tripp, T. M., & Aquino, K. (2012). An empirical test of forgiveness motives' effects on employees' health and well-being. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 17(3), 330-340.

In this study, the researchers contrasted forgivers' perceptions of freedom in forgiving and determined whether freely given forgiveness differed from coerced forgiveness in its effects on health and well-being. Those who forgave because they wanted to rather than because they believed they had no choice reported better health outcomes. This helps the current study understand how forgiveness impacts well-being.

Elliott, B. (2011). Forgiveness therapy: A clinical intervention for chronic disease. Journal of Religion & Health, 50(2), 240-247.

Elliot (2011) evaluates the effect of helping patients forgive themselves and others when they suffer from chronic diseases that originated from early choices they made or that others made in their lives. This study helps the present research gain insight into how forgiveness increases positive emotional health and how this change positively impacts the autonomic, sympathetic and neurological systems in the body.

Gallop Poll. (2013). The state of well-being: 2012 well-being index state rankings. Retrieved from:

This source offers a recent 2012 poll on people's feelings of life satisfaction and well-being. This poll was conducted by the highly respected and authoritative organization Gallop. This poll benefits the current work by indicating how important life satisfaction and well-being are as American cultural values.

Ingersoll-Dayton, B., Torges, C., & Krause, N. (2010). Unforgiveness, rumination, and depressive symptoms among older adults. Aging & Mental Health, 14(4), 439-449.

This team of researchers found that feelings of unforgiveness contribute to increased experiences of depression in aging adults. The lack of perceived forgiveness can be from God, from others, or from self. This study informs the current research on the connection between forgiveness and mental health.

Lawler-Row, K. A. (2010). Forgiveness as a mediator of the religiosity--health relationship. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2(1), 1-16.

Lawler-Row found that forgiveness has a strong mediatory role in relation to religiosity and how people cope with aging and illness. This helps the present study understand how forgiveness and religion are related and how they both impact physical health and the aging process.

Lawler-Row, K. A., Hyatt-Edwards, L., Wuensch, K. L. & Karremans, J C. (2011). Forgiveness and health: The role of attachment. Personal Relationships, 18(2), 170-183.

This research team found that forgiveness is directly and positively correlated with physical health and stress levels. Forgiveness groups exhibited lower heart rate, blood pressure, and psychological distress. This study offers evidence of how forgiveness reduces stress and improves health.

Macaskill, A. (2012). Differentiating dispositional self-forgiveness from other-Forgiveness: Associations with mental health and life satisfaction. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 31(1), 28-50.

Macaskill shows in this study that there is a significant difference between forgiveness of other and self. She shares the emotional expressions related to each kind of forgiveness and explores how they impact life satisfaction. This study informs the current research by showing a correlation between forgiveness and greater life satisfaction.

Putt, B. K. (2009). Reconciling pure forgiveness and reconciliation: Bringing John Caputo into the Kingdom of God. Cross Currents, 59(4), 500-531.

Putt connects the Christian concepts of forgiveness, grace, and love. This article offers a cogent argument on how forgiveness is perceived in the Bible.

Shepherd, D. (2010). "Do You Love Me?" A narrative-critical reappraisal of αγαπαω and φιλεω in John 21:15-17. Journal of Biblical Literature, 129(4), 777-792.

Shepherd shows the lexical connections between Jesus's love for His disciples and His forgiveness of their transgressions. This helps the current study define Jesus's view of forgiveness as it relates to love in order to more fully appreciate the Christian perspective.

Webb, J. R., Toussaint, L., Kalpakjian, C. Z., & Tate, D. G. (2010). Forgiveness and health-related outcomes among people with spinal cord injury. Disability & Rehabilitation, 32(5), 360-366.

This article correlates forgiveness with better recovery from permanent spinal cord injury resulting from traumatic experiences. It also shows that forgiving patients experience less stress and better mental health. This study informs the current study in the relation between forgiveness and both health and stress.

Ysseldyk, R., Matheson, K., & Anisman, H. (2009). Forgiveness and the appraisal-coping process in response to relationship conflicts: Implications for depressive symptoms. Stress: The International Journal on the Biology of Stress,



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