Dynamics of Moral Repair: Forgiveness, Self-Forgiveness and the Restoration of Value Consensus as Interdependent Processes

Wenzel, M. (Flinders University), Woodyatt, L. (Flinders University), Okimoto, T.G., (University of Queensland), Worthington Jr., E.L. (Virginia Commonwealth University)

A victim’s forgiveness and an offender’s genuine self-forgiveness are elements of moral repair following wrongdoing. However, most psychological research has investigated these one at a time, ignoring the interactive and dynamic processes between victim and offender. Specifically, both parties are interdependent in their revalidation of values that were violated by the wrongdoing. Acts of forgiveness and self-forgiveness can communicate one’s value commitment to self and other; conversely, the communicated affirmation of values can motivate the other party to engage in forgiveness or self-forgiveness. We report two studies: Study 1 surveyed the two partners of 76 close relationships repeatedly over three time-points following the report of a wrongdoing by one of the partners. Latent growth modelling was used to explore reciprocal intrapersonal and interpersonal causal dynamics. Study 2 employed a role-play approach (N = 167). Participants assumed the roles of victim or offender in a workplace transgression and were instructed to engage in a discussion about it (vs. not). The causal relationships derived from Study 1 were subjected to a confirmatory test using structural equation modelling. The results support the view that forgiveness and self-forgiveness are interdependent processes in an unfolding dynamic of moral repair.

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Conflict and Morality