How The Act of Forgiveness Impacts Women
Forgiveness is one of the most delicate dichotomies of the human experience.
A personal choice and a cognitive sacrifice, the act of forgiveness counteracts everything we know about ourselves as a species. Thousands of researchers have attempted to measure the paradoxical art and science of forgiveness, with hundreds of studies available online.
Collecting this empirical evidence is vital. Not only does it help us understand how and why we forgive, but it supports many of us on our journeys of forgiveness, both for ourselves and others.
But despite all of this, a shockingly limited amount of research has looked into the science of female forgiveness – until now.
The act of forgiveness frees women to heal themselves and their bodies, impacting their lives in a number of emotional, physical, and spiritual ways.
The Science of Female Forgiveness
The difference in forgiveness between women and men is stark.
Women are far more likely to forgive than seek revenge.
But this is not because women are less inclined to show love. Digging deeper into the findings, it’s likely because women are less able to overcome negative feelings toward themselves and situations outside their control.
In other words, women may be able to forgive others – but they struggle significantly with forgiving themselves. This cycle of shame can continue for weeks, months, and even lifetimes, crippling their quality of life.
What Forgiveness Does to Women
The act of forgiveness is anything but easy. However, the lasting impact on women’s lives is far from forgettable.
Women avoid extending forgiveness due to four primary reasons:
Negative affect (painful physical impacts)
Anxiety (agitating old and new worries)
Control of anger (letting go of bitterness)
Management of depression (reliving the grief)
The prospect of forgiveness may cause women to feel like deer in the headlights. Faced with many stressors and invariable factors, they cannot move forward without experiencing more significant pain.
But when women choose to forgive, the results are immediate and observable.
Research has found that women experience a wide range of impacts post-forgiveness:
Less personal anxiety
Fewer depressive symptoms
Less general malaise
Less overall life stress
Interventions for Forgiveness
Men and women don’t just experience forgiveness differently, they also require different environments to facilitate a healthy forgiveness process.
For women, this may be possible with constructive communication.
“Females need more self-forgiveness interventions, releasing anxiety and promoting more open expression of negative emotions in the way they can accept, for instance, in constructive communication,” write Kinga Kaleta and Justyna Mróz, lead researchers on Gender Differences in Forgiveness and its Affective Correlates.
There is still much to explore in the world of female forgiveness, including multidimensional forgiveness patterns and perceptions of pardoning. But from the available research, it’s clear that forgiveness impacts women profoundly.
And, in many cases, in how they see themselves.
Embracing Forgiveness in Your Own Life
Starting on the path of forgiveness is no easy task. Whether it’s a fresh wound or a multi-year grievance, moving toward resolution can restore a quality of life you never knew was lost.
As you begin this journey, focus on acquiring tangible resources while backed by a supportive community:
Get in touch with a trusted counselor to professionally walk through your grief. Depending on where you live, you may be able to access free counseling services through a place of worship or a local charity.
Podcasts like The F Word discuss the reality of forgiveness with diverse, real-life stories. Hosted by The Forgiveness Project, discussions on finding peace and the reality of saying ‘I forgive you’ is highlighted in a responsive way.
Plug into an online community of women searching for forgiveness alongside you. Social media platforms like Facebook or Reddit are an excellent place to start, as well as more commentary-based platforms like Discord.
In the eternal words of Paul Boese, “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” You might not find it in yourself to forgive at the present moment – but given time, love, and stalwart attention – you may find you are stronger than you believe.