The psychology of self-forgiveness

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Despite its appointed status as the “step child” of forgiveness research, self-forgiveness is an important and complex human process impacting on individual and relational health and well-being. Self-forgiveness can be understood as one way people can work through a perceived wrongdoing of the self and any associated self-condemnation following failures and transgressions. Many people experience self-condemnation-for relationship failures, poor choices we make when caring for others, struggles with addiction, the negative impact of our illnesses on others, or even for the harm we do while doing good. In this chapter we will examine the major movements in the development of the science of self-forgiveness. We will then explore potential mechanisms of self-forgiveness and questions that remain central to understanding the experience of those who struggle to self-forgive: (1) Why do people get stuck in self-condemnation and its associated emotional, cognitive and behavioral patterns? (2) How can we help those people to move forward beyond that distress? We propose a theoretical model of the experience of self-condemnation, how it may arise and persist, and how we might help people move from self-condemnation toward self-forgiveness. While our understanding of self-forgiveness has substantially broadened since 2005, we are still scratching the surface of this important phenomenon.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHandbook of Forgiveness
    EditorsEverett L. Worthington, Nathaniel G. Wade
    Place of PublicationNew York, USA
    PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis
    Number of pages11
    ISBN (Electronic)9781351123334
    ISBN (Print)9780815357988
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


    • forgiveness research
    • self-forgiveness
    • cognitive
    • behavioral patterns


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