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Forgiving Ourselves For Hurting Another Easier If We First Make Amends

Update Date: May 14, 2014 08:07 AM EDT

Forgiving ourselves for hurting another is easier if we first make amends, say psychology researchers in a new research. 

Previously studies have shown that inability to self-forgive is related to depression, anxiety and weakened immune systems which makes the current findings significant. 

"One of the barriers people face in forgiving themselves appears to be that people feel morally obligated to hang on to those feelings. They feel they deserve to feel bad. Our study found that making amends gives us permission to let go," said researcher Thomas Carpenter, a doctoral student in psychology in Baylor's College of Arts and Sciences, in the press release.

The research comprised two related studies. In the first more than 250 participants were asked to recall diverse "real-world" offenses i.e. romantic betrayals, physical injury to gossip to rejection. The second study involved more than 200 participants who were asked about a hypothetical wrong.

In the first study, participants were asked how much they have forgiven themselves for an actual offense; how much they had tried such efforts as apology, asking forgiveness and restitution; how much they felt the other person had forgiven them; and how much they saw self-forgiveness as morally appropriate, the press release added.

The more participants made amends, the more they felt that self-forgiveness was morally permissible. Also, receiving forgiveness appeared to help people feel it was morally all right to let go. 

The findings also suggested that the guiltier the person felt and the more serious the wrong, the less he or she was likely to self-forgive. 

Self-forgiveness may be "morally ambiguous territory," researchers wrote, and "individuals may, at times, believe that they deserve to continue to pay for their wrongs." But by making amends, they may be able to "tip the scales of justice."

The research has been published in The Journal of Positive Psychology.

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