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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2002 Apr;82(4):675-86.

Victim and offender accounts of interpersonal conflict: autobiographical narratives of forgiveness and unforgiveness.

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Department of Psychology, Loyola University of Chicago, Illinois 60626, USA.


Participants wrote 2 narratives that described an incident in which they angered or hurt someone (offender) or in which someone angered or hurt them (victim) and the offense was forgiven or not forgiven. Victims portrayed the offense as continuing (open), and offenders portrayed the offense as over (closed). Forgiveness narratives portrayed offenses as closed and with positive outcomes; however, for some victims, forgiveness coincided with continued anger, suggesting incomplete forgiveness. Dispositional empathy was associated with more benign interpretations of offenses, and situational empathy (e.g., for the offender) was associated with victims' forgiveness. In contrast, offenders' empathy for victims was associated with less self-forgiveness. Thus, both victim or offender role and forgiveness must be considered to understand narratives of interpersonal offenses.

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