Who Forgives?

By Shannon McIntyre | December 26, 2007 | 0 comments

A growing body of research has shown that forgiveness is associated with many different health benefits, including lower levels of depression and greater satisfaction with one's life. But it remains unclear what makes one person more likely to forgive than another person. A major culprit has been rumination: Previous studies suggest that people are less likely to forgive, and be less satisfied with their lives, when they persistently dwell on an offense committed against them.

But a recent study now suggests that a certain type of rumination might actually make a person more likely to forgive others and, in turn, become more satisfied with his or her life. Researchers at the University of Carlton in Canada measured participants' tendencies to be forgiving or vengeful, as well as their levels of life satisfaction and depression. They also measured the extent to which participants exhibited one of three different types of rumination: ruminative depression (the repetitive thinking experienced by depressed individuals), brooding (critical thinking about the self or others), and reflective rumination ("contemplating the basis for one's [own] feelings").

They found that forgiving people not only experience more life satisfaction and less depression than others; they also have a greater propensity to engage in reflective rumination, and a lower tendency to engage in any other type of rumination.

These findings did not surprise the researchers. After all, they write, in order to "let go of resentment and adopt more pro-social attitudes"—as required for forgiveness—it makes sense that people would need to uncover "the basis for one's [own] feelings"—the type of self-exploration that's part of reflective rumination.

But the results aren't all positive for the self-reflective: The most conclusive results of the study were that all types of rumination—even reflective rumination—are associated with depression.

Tracker Pixel for Entry

Greater Good wants to know:
Do you think this article will influence your opinions or behavior?

  • Very Likely

  • Likely

  • Unlikely

  • Very Unlikely

  • Not sure

About The Author

Shannon McIntyre is a Greater Good editorial assistant.


Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

blog comments powered by Disqus



Greater Good Events

The Science of Burnout: What Is It, Why It Happens, and How to Avoid It
International House at UC Berkeley
April 29, 2017
6 CE Hours

The Science of Burnout: What Is It, Why It Happens, and How to Avoid It

A day-long semiar with GGSC Science Director Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., celebrated compassion teacher Joan Halifax, burnout expert Christina Maslach, Ph.D., and UCLA psychiatrist Elizabeth Bromley, M.D., Ph.D.


Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!


Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.


Greater Good Resources


Book of the Week

How Pleasure Works By Paul Bloom Bloom explores a broad range of human pleasures from food to sex to religion to music. Bloom argues that human pleasure is not purely an instinctive, superficial, sensory reaction; it has a hidden depth and complexity.

Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement