A theory of forgiveness motivations.




Carlisle, Robert D.

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Previous social psychological work in forgiveness has focused on the motivations for revenge, avoidance, and benevolence. These motivations are used primarily as a way of measuring forgiveness. McCullough et al. (2000) suggest that a decrease in the motivation for revenge and avoidance, and an increase in the motivation for benevolence constitute forgiveness. This theory, however, does not explain what happens when a victim chooses revenge or avoidance following an offense instead of forgiving. This theory also does not integrate other theories of motivation. One possible theory of motivation is the Two Process Model (TPM, Sheldon 2011). In this theory, experiencing a psychological need (competence, relatedness, or autonomy) leads to a desire to satisfy the need, which will lead to a behavior that will satisfy the need. This paper combines the theory of forgiveness motivations with TPM suggesting that an interpersonal offense leads to a psychological need which will lead to the motivation for revenge, avoidance, and benevolence. It is further suggested that only forgiveness will lead to need satisfaction, while revenge and avoidance are mechanisms for preventing further need depletion. Two online studies were conducted to validate the model along with one lab study that attempted to further examine the model. The results showed that offenses had no effect on need satisfaction. Revenge, avoidant, and benevolent motivations were affected by revenge, avoidance, and forgiveness. This suggested that any response does in fact affect forgiveness motivations. There was, however, no pattern for the results. Future work should attempt to examine if there is a pattern in forgiveness motivations following an offense response. Significance, limitations and suggestions for future work are also suggested.