Although the existence of an association between religion and self-forgiveness is well documented, the direction of effects and possible causal nature of the relationship is unknown. Two studies were therefore conducted using longitudinal and experimental designs, respectively. Study 1 (n = 393) examined the temporal relation between self-forgiveness and two indices of religion, religious activity and forgiveness by God. For both indices of religion, the effect from earlier religion to later self-forgiveness was significant but the reverse was not the case. In Study 2 participants (n = 91) were randomly primed with images that depicted an angry God, a benevolent God, or non-religious (abstract art) images before completing a measure of self-forgiveness. Respondents in the angry God condition were least self-forgiving and differed significantly from those in the non-religious (abstract art) condition who were most self-forgiving. These findings point to the need for investigation of mechanisms that might account for a potential causal relation between religion and self-forgiveness.
- divine forgiveness
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