Defining forgiveness: Christian clergy and general population perspectives.

MACASKILL, A. (2005). Defining forgiveness: Christian clergy and general population perspectives. Journal of personality, 73 (5), 1237-1267.


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The lack of any consensual definition of forgiveness is a serious weakness in the research literature (McCullough, Pargament & Thoresen, 2000). As forgiveness is at the core of Christianity, this study returns to the Christian source of the concept to explore the meaning of forgiveness for practicing Christian clergy. Comparisons are made with a general population sample and social science definitions of forgiveness to ensure that a shared meaning of forgiveness is articulated. Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy (N = 209) and a general population sample (N = 159) completed a postal questionnaire about forgiveness. There is agreement on the existence of individual differences in forgiveness. Clergy and the general population perceive reconciliation as necessary for forgiveness while there is no consensus within psychology. The clergy suggests that forgiveness is limitless and that repentance is unnecessary while the general population suggests that there are limits and that repentance is necessary. Psychological definitions do not conceptualize repentance as necessary for forgiveness and the question of limits has not been addressed although within therapy the implicit assumption is that forgiveness is limitless.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: The definitive version is available at
Uncontrolled Keywords: Forgiveness, definitions, Christian clergy perspective, general population, reconciliation, repentance, limits
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Psychology Research Group
Identification Number:
Page Range: 1237-1267
Depositing User: Ann Betterton
Date Deposited: 08 Feb 2008
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 14:07

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