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The Specific Forgiveness ‘Ability’ that Protects from Depression

Please, forgive me...The true test of a person’s character, in my opinion, is their ability to forgive others when they make mistakes. Being someone who has made many mistakes in my day, I am faced with some who have forgiven me, and some who to this day have not. Not being forgiven can be painful, and it has helped me to empathize with others when they happen to mess up, and genuinely feel bad about it.

“It doesn’t feel good when we perceive that others haven’t forgiven us for something,” said Christine Proulx, study co-author and an associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science. “When we think about forgiveness and characteristics of people who are forgiving — altruistic, compassionate, empathetic — these people forgive others and seem to compensate for the fact that others aren’t forgiving them. It sounds like moral superiority, but it’s not about being a better person. It’s ‘I know that this hurts because it’s hurting me,’ and those people are more likely to forgive others, which appears to help decrease levels of depression, particularly for women.”

Proulx and lead author Ashley Ermer, a doctoral student in the Department of Human Development and Family Science, conducted a survey involving 1,000 adults over the age of sixty-seven, questioning them about their religion, health, and psychological well-being.

They believed that questioning older adults would be more beneficial to the study, because older people have the tendency to be more empathetic to others’ mistakes. They can look at their lives, and past mistakes they have made, and understand why someone else made a mistake.

The study revealed that it didn’t matter whether the individual at hand could forgive themselves for past mistakes, but rather if they had the ability to forgive others. Only this would protect the individual from depression. “Self-forgiveness didn’t act as the protector against depression,” Proulx said. “It’s really about whether individuals can forgive other people and their willingness to forgive others.”

Forgiving others protects women from depression, but not men: Results may help counselors develop gender-appropriate interventions — ScienceDaily. (n.d.). Retrieved from

The Specific Forgiveness ‘Ability’ that Protects from Depression

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2015). The Specific Forgiveness ‘Ability’ that Protects from Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Oct 2015
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