New research provides evidence that people who are more mindful are more prone to forgiveness and that mindfulness exercises can facilitate a forgiving attitude. The findings appear in the journal Emotion.
“While mindfulness is studied extensively, there is relatively little research on the potential interpersonal impact of mindfulness. Studying the link between mindfulness and forgiveness is one of the small steps towards understanding the interpersonal impact of mindfulness,” said study author Johan C. Karremans, an associate professor Radboud University Nijmegen.
“Secondly, understanding the role of mindfulness may actually provide novel insights into how people forgive. The difficulty in forgiving another person often lies in the process of immersing oneself in emotions and thoughts about what happened, which tends to fuel rather than lower the hurt. Taking a step back, and taking a third-person perspective on such internal processes (which mindfulness may help you to do) could prevent this extra layer of distress in the wake of being offended, and make it easier to forgive.”
The researchers conducted five separate studies with 592 participants in total. Supporting a general link between mindfulness and forgiveness, the researchers found that people who agreed with statements such as “I perceive my feelings and emotions without having to react to them” and “I am good at findings words to describe my feelings” tended to also agree with statements such as “I tend to get over it quickly when someone hurts my feelings.”
Karremans and his colleagues also found that listening to guided mindful attention instructions led to higher levels of forgiveness regarding a past offense, and that higher levels of mindfulness were associated with higher levels of forgiveness as rated by a romantic partner.
“Mindfulness might not just be helpful in reducing stress and improving happiness (as it is often seen, somewhat stereotypically), but it may help to foster better interpersonal relationships by making one a bit more forgiving,” Karremans told PsyPost.
The findings also indicate that mindfulness is positively associated with forgiveness because of its association with empathic perspective taking. In other words, more mindful people were also more likely to report being better at adopting the psychological point of view of others, which in turn was linked to heightened forgiveness.
But as with all research, the findings come with some caveats.
“I regard our studies as providing initial and suggestive evidence for our main prediction. However, there are limitations: Most of the studies are based on self-reports of mindfulness (measuring individual differences in what we call trait mindfulness; some people are simply more mindful than others), and self-reports of forgiveness,” Karremans explained.
“The next step would be to see whether mindfulness intervention (e.g. the standardized 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction training) would causally result in more forgiving responses (as compared to a proper control intervention), ideally assessed with physiological and behavioral indicators of forgiveness, that are less prone to self-report biases (e.g. social desirability) as compared to self-report measures on a questionnaire.”
The study, “Is Mindfulness Associated With Interpersonal Forgiveness?“, was authored by Johan C. Karremans, Hein T. van Schie, Iris van Dongen, Gesa Kappen, Gaia Mori, Sven van As, Isabel M. ten Bokkel, and Reine C. van der Wal.