Does being religious lead to greater self-forgiveness?

Frank D. Fincham, Ross W. May, Fiorella L. Carlos Chavez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Although the existence of an association between religion and self-forgiveness is well documented, the direction of effects and possible causal nature of the relationship is unknown. Two studies were therefore conducted using longitudinal and experimental designs, respectively. Study 1 (n = 393) examined the temporal relation between self-forgiveness and two indices of religion, religious activity and forgiveness by God. For both indices of religion, the effect from earlier religion to later self-forgiveness was significant but the reverse was not the case. In Study 2 participants (n = 91) were randomly primed with images that depicted an angry God, a benevolent God, or non-religious (abstract art) images before completing a measure of self-forgiveness. Respondents in the angry God condition were least self-forgiving and differed significantly from those in the non-religious (abstract art) condition who were most self-forgiving. These findings point to the need for investigation of mechanisms that might account for a potential causal relation between religion and self-forgiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)400-406
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Positive Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 3 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • divine forgiveness
  • priming
  • religion
  • Self-forgiveness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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