Self-Esteem Moderates the Response to Forgiveness Instructions Among Women with a History of Victimization


The present study examined whether self-esteem would moderate women’s affect after being exposed to brief instructional interventions tapping into two dimensions of forgiveness: an interpersonal dimension focusing on forgiving the offender, and an intrapersonal dimension focusing on letting go of one’s negative affect toward the offender. The positive and negative affect of 79 women with a history of victimization was assessed after they listened to instructions for either granting forgiveness, letting go of their negative affect, or relaxation (control). Results indicated differential effects of the instructions on emotions directed toward themselves versus toward the offender. Women had more negative emotions about themselves when they received the granting forgiveness instructions, but they had greater positive emotions toward their offenders. Women’s responses were moderated by self-esteem in that there was no differential effect of the instructions among women low in self-esteem, but women high in self-esteem had a relatively positive response to the letting-go instructions and a generally negative reaction to the traditional forgiveness instructions.

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This article was available online November 20, 2006.

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