Differentiation of Self Forgiveness and Spirituality Several authors have

Differentiation of self forgiveness and spirituality

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Differentiation of Self, Forgiveness, and Spirituality Several authors have suggested the psychol- ogy of religion needs a “multilevel interdisci- plinary paradigm” (Emmons & Paloutzian, 2003, p. 395; also see Belzen & Hood, 2006; Hampson & Boyd-MacMillan, 2008) that in- volves engagement with other disciplines, such as theology, to contextualize psychological in- sights about religious phenomenon. In many spiritual and religious traditions, practicing for- giveness takes on sacred significance (Rye et al., 2000). For example, Exline (2008) found specific theological core beliefs of God mandat- ing forgiveness predicted higher levels of inter- personal forgiveness in a small sample of evan- gelical Christians. Volf (1996) proposed an interdisciplinary model that relates forgiveness, differentiation, and spirituality to relational stances of exclu- sion and embrace. Volf suggested that persons are apt to intrapersonally and interpersonally exclude others when experiencing negative af- fect as a result of having been hurt or wronged. An internal equilibrium is maintained by a num- ber of exclusionary strategies that involve a negation of the other in relation to the self or distancing of oneself from the internal pain and interpersonally from the perpetrator. Embrace, or forgiveness, consists of intentionally opening up space in the self for the other; that is to say, accepting the other as part of one self rather than maintaining impermeable boundaries. For Volf, “embrace” is not a literal behavior but an open, differentiated stance toward an offender. Intrapersonally, in order to forgive, or embrace, one can only accept the other by regulating his or her internal state; that is to say, soothing or calming oneself in the face of the hurt or injus- tice (Shults & Sandage, 2003). This may then lead to differentiated interpersonal relating on the part of the victim, even if there is no recon- ciliation between perpetrator and victim. Volf (1996) proposed that the differentiated capacity to embrace is facilitated by a relationship with God in which the person has experienced God’s loving embrace of him or her. Volf’s (1996) ideas draw attention to the larger social and relational context in which forgiveness occurs. While forgiveness is a re- sponse to an interpersonal injury, for many (though not all) persons the meaning of forgive- ness is also embedded in spiritual or religious contexts and experiences (Shults & Sandage, 2003; Rye et al., 2000; Worthington, 2005). The dynamics of a person’s relational experience with God or the sacred can be connected to his or her tendency to forgive (Tsang et al., 2005). Given that DoS, or a person’s capacity for self- regulation and interdependent relating, is thought to facilitate the relationship between forgiveness and spiritual maturity (Shults & Sandage, 2003, 2006), and given the lack of empirical support for the relationship, it is im- portant to empirically examine the relationship between forgiveness, DoS, and spirituality.
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