Forgiveness as a catalyst for psychological, physical, and spiritual resilience in disasters and crises

Everett L. Worthington, Brandon J. Griffin, Loren L. Toussaint, Camilla W. Nonterah, Shawn O. Utsey, Rachel C. Garthe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this conceptual article, we argue that some people are resilient in the face of disasters while others are not. Resilience may necessitate forgiveness—of perpetrators of interpersonal harms (e.g., Rwandan Genocide in 1994); of inadequate responder assistance (e.g., Hurricane Katrina); or in situations where community members perceive themselves as victims of offense by virtue of their group affiliation, although they themselves were not actually harmed (e.g., survivors of school shootings). Victims may experience unforgiveness toward others in human-caused disasters and may deal with unforgiveness toward God in natural disasters. Forgiveness may be an effective response to disaster-related injustices that promotes resilience. We used a meta-analysis of forgiveness interventions and an empirical study of awareness-raising campaigns on college campuses to estimate the effects of forgiveness on public health, public mental health, relationships, and spirituality across society after disasters. We advocate for forgiveness as one of many potential resilient responses. Specifically, forgiveness could potentially transform unforgiveness into a stronger sense of purpose and improved social relations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-165
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Psychology and Theology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Psychology(all)

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