The Process of Forgiving: psychological aspects.

Andrea Ceccarelli, Enrico Molinari


Man is a relational being and interacts with the world around him from birth. Wallon, observing that a newborn baby needs assistance every moment, states that he is essentially “social”: all his reactions need to be completed, compensated, interpreted; incapable of doing anything alone, he is manipulated by others and it is in others’ movements that his first behaviors will take shape. For man, therefore, being “social” is a deep-seated necessity, a genetic condition.
Human beings spend much of their lives involved in significant relationships, interacting with people they care about. During social interactions, they inevitably perform actions that hurt others. The opportunities to hurt and be hurt are numerous, from the least to the most serious, but their impact varies considerably from person to person and from relationship to relationship. 
Interpersonal relations satisfy the deepest human needs of affiliation, but are also the source of the most painful wounds. When an offence occurs, negative emotions like anger and resentment are rather common reactions which create a potential breakdown of the relationship itself (Fincham, Paleari & Regalia, 2000).
What creates further distress is the natural need to respond, through revenge, to the offence suffered, to get even for the insult. This feeling of revenge can degenerate into rancour: it is no longer the simple reparation of a violated right that is sought, but the harm that one can visit upon the offender in exchange for the offence suffered. Rancour is a passion that, on top of the suffering for the offence, accentuates its alienating character  (Scabini & Rossi, 2000). 
A significant factor that can help to cope adaptively with the inevitable daily relational breakdowns, is the capacity to forgive. The willingness to forgive has important implications not only for the health of the relationship, but also for personal well-being.
Forgiveness therefore represents a means that is available to man to safeguard a threatened relationship and to respond with trust and acceptance to a hurt inflicted on him. 
Ide (1997), quoting St.Thomas, writes: “Man is by nature inclined to harmony and to unity among men, forgiveness re-establishes the lost bond, the disturbed communion, there is a natural predisposition for forgiveness in the heart of every man”.

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Rivista di Psicologia Clinica. Teoria e metodi dell'intervento

Rivista Telematica a Carattere Scientifico Registrazione presso il Tribunale civile di Roma (n.149/2006 del 17/03/2006)

ISSN 1828-9363