Forgiveness, Unforgiveness, Health, and Disease

Authored by: Alex H.s. Harris , Carl E. Thoresen

Handbook of Forgiveness

Print publication date:  June  2005
Online publication date:  December  2007

Print ISBN: 9780415949491
eBook ISBN: 9780203955673
Adobe ISBN: 9781135410889


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Five years ago, we observed that no evidence existed from controlled studies linking forgiveness to physiology, health, or disease (Thoresen, Harris, & Luskin, 2000). Since then, the theory, measurement, and empirical study of forgiveness have developed substantially. Evidence has been produced linking both forgiveness and unforgiveness to short-term physiological variables, such as cortisol reactivity (Berry & Worthington, 2001) as well as blood pressure and skin conductance (Lawler et al., 2003; Witvliet, Ludwig, & Vander Laan, 2001). Coupled with the related literature on stress and health, this evidence makes hypotheses directly linking unforgiveness and forgiveness with health and disease variables more plausible and ripe to be tested. However, direct evidence that forgiveness or unforgiveness are related to health or disease is still virtually nonexistent (cf. Toussaint, Williams, Musick, & Everson, 2001). We write this chapter with hopes of inspiring researchers to address this clinically-relevant gap in our knowledge.

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