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The Relationship Between Forgiveness, Gratitude, Distress, and Well-Being: An integrative review of the literature

forgiveness on Resources - Research findings point consistently to the conclusion that forgiveness is positively associated with well-being, quality of life, life satisfaction, gratitude, optimism, hope, trust, self-worth and positive beliefs. Forgiveness also affects and is negatively associated with emotional distress and negative affective states such as depression, anger, vengeance, anxiety, somatic symptoms, guilt and vulnerability. Gratitude, like forgiveness, has been shown to have positive associations with well-being, positive affect and emotions, happiness, trust, altruism, life satisfaction, forgiveness, vitality, spirituality, optimism and positive beliefs. Gratitude also has negative associations with emotional distress and negative affective states such as hostility, anger, aggression, depression, anxiety, stress and vulnerability.


Forgiveness is a multidimensional construct (including dimensions of self, others, circumstances) that shows negative associations with negative affective states and positive associations with positive affective states and well-being. However, to-date, forgiveness research is based on a set of assumptions that assume an underlying duality amongst the constructs. Forgiveness can be seen from a dualistic or non-dualistic perspective. A dualistic perspective assumes a basic underlying separateness between people and often assumes one person is better or of higher status or value in some way than another. A non-dualistic perspective assumes an underlying unity and equality amongst people and is therefore more likely to connect with spirituality and divinity than a dualistic perspective. Almost all research on forgiveness to date assumes a dualistic perspective. A comprehensive forgiveness theory is needed that clarifies the relationships between these different constructs.

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