Dr. Carl Thoresen
and Dr. Fred Luskin, Stanford University
This work studies five modes of forgiveness training. It also evaluates
gender differences in attitudes and willingness regarding forgiveness,
with the goal of making forgiveness possible for men and women.
From a decade-old grudge
against the third-grade bully to deep-seated rage against a cheating
spouse, millions of Americans harbor long-term grievances.
Now, Dr. Carl Thoresen,
a professor at Stanford University, and his colleague, Dr. Fred
Luskin, are exploring whether the unresolved anger that blights
many people's lives can be alleviated with the help of an age-old
concept - forgiveness.
After 25 years working
with "Type A" personalities - people who are characterized by impatience,
being quick to anger and a harboring of hostility - Thoresen had
seen for himself over and over the physical and psychological benefits
that forgiveness can bring.
So, five years ago,
Thoresen teamed up with Luskin, the author of a highly-structured
psychological treatment program that teaches adults about forgiveness.
Together, the pair launched a comprehensive research project: The
Stanford Forgiveness Study.
Working with almost
200 participants aged 25 to 50 who have unresolved feelings of hurt
or hostility, Thoresen and Luskin will assign participants randomly
to one of five treatment groups or a control group. Each group will
receive a different level of forgiveness training during an eight
week period with time devoted to sharing their forgiveness experiences.
As well as evaluating
the impact of forgiveness trainings on these groups, the Stanford
study takes a bold step into uncharted territory: the impact of
gender on forgiveness. By ascertaining whether men or women are
more likely to forgive, and whether men and women regard forgiveness
differently, the researchers hope to learn how to make forgiveness
accessible to both genders.
Thoresen and Luskin
hope the impact of their work will be preventative as well as therapeutic.
"It's our hope that family and school violence, including shootings,
road rage, gang violence and workplace conflict will be diminished
- if not avoided - if more people understand the role that forgiveness
can play in interpersonal relations," says Thoresen, "It takes courage
and commitment to act in a more forgiving fashion. It's not at all
a sign of weakness but a mark of strength."
Dr. Carl Thoresen
is a professor of Education, Psychology and Psychiatry at Stanford
University. Dr. Fred Luskin is a research associate at the Stanford
Center for Research in Disease Prevention.