Skip to Main Content
CrossRef citations to date

Original Articles

Forgiveness is an emotion-focused coping strategy that can reduce health risks and promote health resilience: theory, review, and hypotheses

Pages 385-405
Received 26 Sep 2002
Published online: 01 Feb 2007
Translator disclaimer

Experimental evidence suggests that when people are transgressed against interpersonally, they often react by experiencing unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is conceptualized as a stress reaction. Forgiveness is one (of many) ways people reduce unforgiveness. Forgiveness is conceptualized as an emotional juxtaposition of positive emotions (i.e., empathy, sympathy, compassion, or love) against the negative emotions of unforgiveness. Forgiveness can thus be used as an emotion-focused coping strategy to reduce a stressful reaction to a transgression. Direct empirical research suggests that forgiveness is related to health outcomes and to mediating physiological processes in such a way as to support the conceptualization that forgiveness is an emotion-focused coping strategy. Indirect mechanisms might also affect the forgiveness-health relationship. Namely, forgiveness might affect health by working through social support, relationship quality, and religion.

Additional information


We wish to express our gratitude to and acknowledge support from Virginia Commonwealth University's General Clinical Research Center, which is supported by NIHS M01 RR000065, and from the John Templeton Foundation (grant #239). Portions of this chapter were supported by each. In addition, we acknowledge the support of the John Templeton Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropic Society for administering A Campaign for Forgiveness Research. The authors compiled this research on forgiveness partially in their work as Executive Director and Executive Assistant, respectively, for the Campaign.

People also read