A consensus definition of self-forgiveness: Implications for assessment and treatment

Jon R. Webb, David J. Bumgarner, Elizabeth Conway-Williams, Trever Dangel, Benjamin B. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Although forgiveness is a broad psychological construct of increasing interest, the majority of research has focused on forgiveness of another person for a specific transgression. Independent of other dimensions of forgiveness, self-forgiveness has been significantly associated with health and well-being. Many dimensions of forgiveness share common definitional components; however, due to conceptual differences based on the self as both the offender and the offended, a distinct definition of self-forgiveness is necessary. Indeed, definition and resultant measurement-related limitations have likely slowed the progression of research on self-forgiveness, including understanding the role of self-forgiveness in the promotion of health and well-being and the role of self-forgiveness in facilitating treatment itself. A comprehensive literature review was conducted revealing 177 peer-reviewed scientific journal articles focused on the psychology of self-forgiveness. Of those 177 articles, 85 (48.02%) contained explicit definition-based information regarding self-forgiveness as a particular construct, from which 5 key distinctive definitional components were identified: reconciliation, acceptance, accountability, human-connectedness, and changecommitment. A comprehensive and accessible definition of self-forgiveness is proposed based on a consensus of the scientific peer-reviewed psychological literature. In addition, implications of a consensus definition for more effective assessment and treatment are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)216-227
Number of pages12
JournalSpirituality in Clinical Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • definition
  • health
  • self-forgiveness
  • treatment
  • well-being


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