Journal Article Review Essay

The general topic of forgiveness has received a magnitude of attention and research on a conceptual level in recent years. Hall and Fincham consistently noted, however, that self-forgiveness had little to no empirical study or research documented and believe this is a critical piece to an individual’s overall emotional health. In an effort to stimulate additional research on the subject, they wrote the aforesaid journal article. The article describes self-forgiveness by definition in both a spiritual and a psychological context.

Much insight is given to the similarities and differences between self-forgiveness, or intrapersonal forgiveness, and interpersonal forgiveness. Many conceptual distinctions are addressed and appropriately confirm the need for further research on self-forgiveness as it relates to the inflated interest in the importance and nature of forgiveness in general. In addition, much discussion covers the relation of self-forgiveness to interpersonal forgiveness in regards to the importance, or even necessity, of one to the other.

A theoretical model of self-forgiveness is outlined and described in relation to forgiveness of interpersonal transgressions.

Self-inflicted pain takes on a particular importance as a catalyst to the healing process in both self-forgiveness and interpersonal forgiveness. Finally, different types of determinants are described and analyzed in relation to the theoretical model and its limitations.

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Self-forgiveness is an intriguing topic, from my own personal perspective, and one that immediately caught my attention when scanning the journal articles offered. I agree with Hall and Fincham that further research on the subject would be extremely beneficial and embraced. Of particular interest to me was the complicated nature of categorizing and defining self-forgiveness. What seemed to be a simple concept is, in fact, layered with multiple levels of complex considerations that must be addressed in order to properly define and diagram self-forgiveness.

In general, self-forgiveness is identified by a common ability to exhibit self-respect in spite of the acceptance of wrong-doing (Hall, J., Fincham, D., 2005). I never considered the distinction between interpersonal forgiveness and intrapersonal forgiveness. While they share many similarities, there is even greater evidence of the differences between the two. One significant difference involves the consequences of withholding forgiveness from self. It is likely that intrapersonal unforgiveness can be much more detrimental than interpersonal. Hall & Fincham state “ Self-forgiveness often entails a resolution to change” (2005).

It is this process of acceptance of one’s own imperfections and sinful nature that catapults a desire for self-improvement and growth. This is a critical component of healing the soul and beginning the journey to spiritual and mental health. Also enlightening was the declaration that one can experience pseudo self forgiveness by failing to acknowledge any wrong doing and convincing him/herself that they are without fault. Finally, I was struck by the notion that self-forgiveness will typically vary and should be approached as such.

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The idea that “self-forgiveness has be overshadowed by research on interpersonal forgiveness prompts further contemplation into the root causes of many emotional determinants such as depression, shame, and guilt. If a counseling situation arose and my client presented any of the above emotions, I would encourage conversation that delves deeper into the core source of these emotions. It is highly likely that unforgiveness is present. The Bible warns us about the repercussions of unforgiveness and I believe this pertains to self-unforgiveness as well as interpersonal. Bitterness is usually a result of unforgiveness and ultimately, recognizing your worth through the eyes of God is freeing and can soften a hardened heart.

If we are to look at healing of the whole person, which should be our ultimate goal as counselors, a huge part of that will be making peace with our past mistakes and choices. We all have regrets and, to an extent, we probably all carry around a certain amount of self-unforgiveness. Hall and Fincham state “self-forgiveness can be used as the vehicle through which self-reconciliation occurs” (2005). I would apply this to most any counseling situation. Discovery of the source of our pain, shame, and guilt can be the beginning of the journey of the healing process. Because we are incapable of escaping ourselves, and our own thoughts, at some point, self-unforgiveness is going to surface. A good counselor is going to be aware of this and recognize it from the beginning. It could easily lay the groundwork for the working stage of the counseling process and give the counselor direction in how to proceed. Healing the soul is not always easy work, but it helps when you know the source of the brokenness.

Hall, J. & Fincham, F. (2005). Self Forgiveness: The step-child of forgiveness. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, volume number 24, 621-637.

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