Forgiveness at its Best - Yaletown Counselling

Posted on Tue, Jul 24, 2012

Making Things Right - Apology and Restitution

After someone has wronged you, what would you say is most important for you to forgive them?

Jo-Ann Tsang, Ph.D., and her associates at Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences recently conducted an experiment which shows a number of elements relevant to this question.

The study:  136 subjects, sitting apart from one another, were hoping to receive a winning raffle ticket for a $50 gift cart.   They were told that 10 raffle tickets would be divided between each person and an unknown partner over three rounds, and that messages may be sent to them by their partner. 

ROUND ONE: participants receive 2 tickets

ROUND TWO: participants receive 9 tickets.  Different notes were sent to the participants informing them that the distribution was either done by their partner or chance.  The apologetic note stated: “Sorry about that first round. I got carried away, and I feel really bad that I did that." Others received their partner’s tickets from the first round.

ROUND THREE: participants are given the opportunity to control this round’s distribution of tickets.

The researchers took a multi-pronged approach to forgiveness by measuring not only the manner of distribution in the third round, but also by asking the participants to rate their level of motivation to forgive their “partner.”

The RESULTS:  The participants demonstrated more forgiving behavior (more even distribution of tickets in the third round) when they had received restitution, BUT more frequently self-reported that they had forgiven their partner when they had received an apology. 

The TAKE-AWAY: People may say they forgive you after an apology, but without restitution you may not see a shift in their behavior.  Conversely, if you try to make restitution without apologizing, they may change their behaviour (out of a sense of fairness perhaps), but they may not have forgiven you.  The chances of being forgiven increase when you both and apologize and make restitution.   

How are you doing at “making things right?”  Do you look to apologize and create restitution with your partner, children, friends and peers, at work??

How about with yourself???

Jeff Ross, MA RCC

Resonate Wellness

Jeff is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and sees clients in Vancouver (Yaletown) and North Vancouver, BC, Canada.  He supports individuals with such issues as depression, anxiety, stress management, relationship issues, grief and bereavement, career and educational issues as well as growth and development.  In addition he also does couples counselling / marriage counselling.

If you have a comment or question about this post or any other, please feel free to join the discussion or send him a private and confidential email.  Let us know what Resonates with you!

Topics: Courage, Mental Health, Connection, Belonging, Forgiveness