Research Into the Strength of Forgiveness
is a relatively new and uncharted field. Prior to 1985, only a handful
of studies had been completed, and in the fourteen years since,
less than sixty more. Nevertheless, social scientists have begun
to quantify the power of forgiveness in a variety of arenas:
Reducing Heart Disease
On January 2, 1998, ABC News reported "studies show that letting
go of anger and resentment can reduce the severity of heart disease
and, in some cases, even prolong the lives of cancer patients."
at the Source
A 1995 study conducted by The University of Montgomery analyzed
how much the desire for revenge (i.e., the opposite of forgiveness)
factors into the commiting of a crime. The study clearly indicates
that forgiveness education could play a key role in reducing the
vengeful responses that lead to criminal acts.
Dr. Frederick DiBlasio of the University of Maryland is one of many
family therapists successfully using forgiveness as a tool to reconcile
couples when other techniques have proved ineffective.
New studies into the
nature of forgiveness were conducted under the auspices of the John
Templeton Foundation and the 14 funding partners who supported A Campaign
for Forgiveness Research. Those studies were designed to help:
International research studies
also investigated the role of forgiveness in: Northern Ireland, where
several studies under the direction of Dr. Ed Cairns investigated the role of the social group in influencing
behavior; South Africa, where two studies analyzed transcripts of hearings at the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission will be studied; Rwanda, where Hutus
and Tutsis whose families engaged in genocidal warfare were brought
together to see whether forgiveness groups could promote healing among
the survivors (see research by Dr. Ervin Staub).
- At-risk adolescents
who have experienced physical or emotional abuse;
- Vietnam veterans coping
with post-traumatic stress and similar disorders;
- Substance abusers,
the terminally ill, and elderly patients coping with end-of-life
- Victims of domestic
- People living with
- Survivors of suicide
- Physcially disabled
Total number of forgiveness studies completed: 5
Lewis Smedes publishes Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts
We Don't Deserve, which is credited with inspiring a new wave
of forgiveness research.
International Forgiveness Institute established in Madison, Wisconsin.
Templeton Foundation sponsors "The Science of Forgiveness," a research
symposium encouraging more studies of forgiveness. Over 130 scientists
are invited to submit proposals for funding. The Foundation commits
$5 million to launch 29 of 60 studies.
Total number of forgiveness studies completed: 55 (not including
new studies funded by Templeton). "Campaign for Forgiveness Research"
launched to raise additional $5.5-million. Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
former President Jimmy Carter, Dr. Robert Coles, Ruby Bridges Hall,
and Elisabeth Elliot serve as campaign co-chairs.