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Forgiveness is an emotion-focused coping strategy that can reduce health risks and promote health resilience: theory, review, and hypotheses

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Experimental evidence suggests that when people are transgressed against interpersonally, they often react by experiencing unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is conceptualized as a stress reaction. Forgiveness is one (of many) ways people reduce unforgiveness. Forgiveness is conceptualized as an emotional juxtaposition of positive emotions (i.e., empathy, sympathy, compassion, or love) against the negative emotions of unforgiveness. Forgiveness can thus be used as an emotion-focused coping strategy to reduce a stressful reaction to a transgression. Direct empirical research suggests that forgiveness is related to health outcomes and to mediating physiological processes in such a way as to support the conceptualization that forgiveness is an emotion-focused coping strategy. Indirect mechanisms might also affect the forgiveness-health relationship. Namely, forgiveness might affect health by working through social support, relationship quality, and religion.
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Keywords: Coping strategy; Forgiveness; Health risks

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Virginia Commonwealth University

Publication date: June 1, 2004

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