Forgiveness and Health: A Review and Theoretical Exploration of Emotion Pathways

Charlotte V.O. Witvliet, Michael E. McCullough

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

32 Scopus citations


This chapter addresses the possible health connections of forgiveness, which is defined as an unusual expression of altruistic love that can only occur after a person has first suffered harm from an offender. Forgiveness is an act of gift giving to the undeserving offender that attempts to overcome injustice with goodness and potentially to edge out negative feelings associated with the transgression with prosocial emotions like empathy, compassion, and love. Based on emotion theory, the chapter identifies forgiveness as a positively valent low-arousal emotion (like peace and calm) and the opposite, 'unforgiveness', as a negatively valent high-arousal emotion (like fear and anger). Forgiveness as an antidote to negative responses to transgression and research on the negative health effects of hostility, stress, rumination, and suppression, along with ways in which forgiveness can counter these effects, is presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAltruism and Health
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives from Empirical Research
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199786794
ISBN (Print)9780195182910
StatePublished - Sep 1 2007


  • Altruism
  • Altruistic love
  • Forgiveness
  • Forgiving
  • Health outcomes
  • Transgression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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