When the Sacred Is Violated: Desecration as a Unique Challenge to Forgiveness

Authored by: Annette Mahoney , Mark S. Rye , Kenneth I. Pargament

Handbook of Forgiveness

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

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


 Download Chapter



In this chapter, we address unique challenges that arise when people interpret interpersonal violations from a religious frame of reference. Although the construct of forgiveness has long been embedded within religious systems of meaning in many cultures (Rye et al., 2000), contemporary psychological theory and research on forgiveness have largely avoided explicit discussion of the spiritual dimension of forgiveness. However, most people in the United States and in many other parts of the world adhere to religious frameworks of meaning. For example, most Americans believe in God or a higher power and commonly engage in religious practices, such as prayer (Gallup & Jones, 2000). Thus, it would seem important for social scientists to integrate religiously based beliefs and behaviors into models of how people interpret and come to terms with interpersonal violations. For example, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, reflected more than a terrible loss of life and property in the eyes of many Americans; these public tragedies also represented a violation of fundamental spiritual symbols and values, including the sacredness of the nation, the sanctity of life, and the sublime virtues of justice and compassion. Private traumas can likewise affect people spiritually, as we hear in the pain and anger voiced by a 48-year-old woman after she discovered that her partner was in a three-year-long affair with a mutual friend: “I could not comprehend the level of ongoing purposeful deceit on the part of my significant other. [It was] unimaginable that an ‘upstanding, prominent, religious, moral, preaching’ person could be so utterly deceitful in so many ways for such an extended period of time” (Pargament, Magyar, Benore, & Mahoney, in press).

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.