The Doormat Effect: When Forgiving Erodes Self-Respect and Self-Concept Clarity

Laura B. Luchies*, Eli J. Finkel, James K. McNulty, Madoka Kumashiro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

109 Scopus citations

Abstract

We build on principles from interdependence theory and evolutionary psychology to propose that forgiving bolsters one's self-respect and self-concept clarity if the perpetrator has acted in a manner that signals that the victim will be safe and valued in a continued relationship with the perpetrator but that forgiving diminishes one's self-respect and self-concept clarity if the perpetrator has not. Study 1 employed a longitudinal design to demonstrate that the association of marital forgiveness with trajectories of self-respect over the first 5 years of marriage depends on the spouse's dispositional tendency to indicate that the partner will be safe and valued (i.e., agreeableness). Studies 2 and 3 employed experimental procedures to demonstrate that the effects of forgiveness on self-respect and self-concept clarity depend on the perpetrator's event-specific indication that the victim will be safe and valued (i.e., amends). Study 4 employed a longitudinal design to demonstrate that the association of forgiveness with subsequent self-respect and self-concept clarity similarly depends on the extent to which the perpetrator has made amends. These studies reveal that, under some circumstances, forgiveness negatively impacts the self.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)734-749
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Volume98
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2010

Keywords

  • amends
  • betrayal
  • forgiveness
  • self-concept clarity
  • self-respect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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