Forgiveness, and our capacity to forgive, is a fundamental part of being in human relationships, romantic or otherwise. But according to a new study published in the journal Clinical Psychology and Special Education, our ability to forgive can be significantly impacted by our stress levels—though perhaps not in the way you might think.
Studying the connection between stress and forgiveness.
For this study, a team of researchers wanted to look for any correlations between stress, forgiveness, and authenticity. Authenticity, of course, relates to how much you’re able to be yourself, which is associated with mental wellbeing—as is having a strong capacity to forgive. But what happens when stress is at play?
To find out, the team looked at a few different cohorts (comprised of 140 young men and women aged 16 to 40) who were experiencing varying levels and types of stress. One cohort was experiencing low stress, another dealt with everyday stress, and the third with chronic stress.
In this study, the participants with chronic stress were people who had suffered spinal injuries. But in general, chronic stress can be defined as constant, ongoing stress experienced over a long period of time, often tied to trauma. On the other hand, everyday stress is the type of day-to-day stress experienced due to routine responsibilities and happenings.
Using self-reported questionnaires, the participants then recorded things like how forgiving they are, and how authentic they feel.
So what happens to forgiveness when we’re experiencing different kinds of stress? As you might imagine, stress can certainly impact how forgiving we are, but the type of stress makes a big difference.
Interestingly, the study found that people under chronic stress actually show the highest levels of authenticity—and the highest ability to forgive.
Further, those under low stress showed average authenticity and ability to forgive, while the cohort dealing with everyday stress had the lowest authenticity and ability to forgive.
The study authors explain that for those under chronic stress, facing difficulties can often result in a resilience—sometimes known as post-traumatic growth—that allows people to live more authentically and be more forgiving of others (or of undesirable situations). On the other hand, those dealing with everyday stress may not even be aware of how stressed out they really are, leading to behavior that’s overly demanding of others and themselves.
In terms of relationships, these findings suggest it’s important to be aware of when you’re under stress—and how it could be influencing your behavior. Stress doesn’t automatically make you a more difficult person to be around; it’s all about recognizing and managing it.
Many people deal with the everyday stress of our daily responsibilities and mishaps, and it could be impacting how authentic you are and how well you’re able to forgive the people you love. Being yourself and being able to forgive will only make relationships better, so if you needed another reason to prioritize your de-stressing routine, let this be it.