Humility and its Impact on How We Respond to Our Own Transgression: Defensiveness, Self-Condemnation and Self-Forgiveness

Woodyatt, L. (Flinders University), Onody, A. (Flinders University), Cornish, M., (Auburn University, United States), Sheldon, A. (Flinders University), Cibich, M., (Flinders University)

Those who struggle with self-condemnation often report rumination about how they should or could have acted differently. Humility (the ability to see oneself as part of, and engage empathetically with, a larger whole; see Wright et al., 2017), may foster the ability to take a balanced view of the self, reducing both defensiveness and self-condemnation. We tested whether humility was associated with increased self-forgiveness via reduced self-condemnation and defensiveness. In Study 1 (N = 302) we found trait humility was associated with higher levels of trait genuine self-forgiveness directly and indirectly via reduced defensiveness (but not self-condemnation). In Study 2 (N = 194) we found that baseline trait and state humility were associated with higher levels of genuine self-forgiveness directly and indirectly via reduced defensiveness, and through both of these mediators, humility was positively associated with reconciliation. There was also a weak positive indirect effect of humility on reconciliation via reduced self-condemnation. Using a brief intervention to manipulate state humility (with a combination of awe and perspective-taking tasks), we found that the interaction of these two tasks was associated with reduced defensiveness, and via this, higher levels of genuine self-forgiveness and reconciliation. We will discuss implications for humility research.

Twitter: @LydiaWoodyatt

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