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Does Rumination Hinder Forgiveness In The Context Of An Interpersonal Transgression

2223 words - 9 pages

Does rumination hinder forgiveness in the context of an interpersonal transgression?
Forgiveness theory has been widely researched in the social psychology arena in recent years. The role of rumination in forgiveness has received much attention, with several important studies by prominent researchers attempting to measure its effect. A dominant theoretical perspective on the relationship between rumination and forgiveness in the literature suggests that rumination is detrimental to forgiveness, and that changes in rumination are the antecedent to changes in forgiveness. This paper outlines the prevailing theoretical perspectives on this relationship and presents a critical analysis of a ...view middle of the document...

Several authors have investigated the relationship between rumination and forgiveness, resulting in a large volume of research which supports the underpinning theoretical perspective put forward by early research into this area. On the whole, there is a widely held consensus that rumination by the victim following a transgression is detrimental to achieving forgiveness. One of the most important early attempts at explaining the role of rumination in forgiveness is the framework of forgiveness put forward by McCullough et al. (1998). This framework presents rumination as one of the key and most proximal determinants of forgiveness (together with empathy), and posits that the mechanism by which rumination affects forgiving is via the “rumination revenge sequence” (p.1598). Rumination is thought to lead to increased motivation by the victim to seek revenge, independent of other factors such as the victim’s level of empathy or the presence of an apology by the transgressor. The increased motivation for revenge is in turn correlated to a decrease in forgiveness.
Worthington and Wade (1999) present a complex model explaining the process of forgiveness and unforgiveness, which differentiates between interpersonally active (external actions) and passive (not communicated to the transgressor) responses. Rumination is classified as a passive response, which enhances the victim’s motivation to seek revenge and to avoid the transgressor, leading to a state of unforgiveness. In order to break through the unforgiveness, an event that is emotionally dissonant with unforgiveness must occur. Once the emotional dissonance is resolved, forgiveness can then result (Worthington & Wade 1999).
Several studies have corroborated these theoretical perspectives. In an important longitudinal study, McCullough, Bono and Root (2007) hypothesised that rumination about a transgression by the victim leads to re-experiencing of the incident and surrounding emotions, which results in a heightened readiness to avoid and/or seek revenge against the transgressor. They operationalised this hypothesis by measuring the victims’ “transgression-related interpersonal motivations” (TRIMs), (p. 491) during the transition to forgiveness over several weeks following an interpersonal transgression. This was measured by means of the TRIM Inventory, a self-report tool developed by McCullough et al. (1998). Their findings strongly support the hypothesis that rumination leads to increases in avoidance and revenge motivation, thereby decreasing the likelihood of forgiveness. This conclusion was further supported by temporary increases in avoidance and revenge motivation found in study participants after they ruminated about the transgression more than was typical for them. A limitation of this study is the difficulty in determining causality between rumination and forgiveness, due to the possibility that a third variable could explain this relationship in a non-experimental setting. This...

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