Transgressors' Guilt And Shame: A Longitudinal Examination Of Forgiveness Seeking

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The current study examines forgiveness from the perspective of the transgressor, an often overlooked aspect of interpersonal forgiveness and a model of forgiveness seeking is proposed. Using a 2-wave longitudinal design, 166 participants completed measures of the characteristics of their transgressions, their feelings of guilt and shame, and their forgiveness-seeking behaviors. Cross-lagged correlational analysis indicated that guilt at time 1 was related to forgiveness seeking at time 2, but the opposite was not true. Path analyses revealed that guilt mediated the impact of transgression and relationship factors (i.e., transgression severity, responsibility, rumination, and relationship commitment) on forgiveness-seeking behavior over time. Shame, however, did not demonstrate any unique relationship with forgiveness-seeking behaviors. These findings suggest that guilt serves as a primary motivator for forgiveness seeking, indicating that it is a particularly important element to consider when working with transgressors. Overall, this study provides a conceptual model of the antecedents of forgiveness-seeking behaviors by transgressors, similar to those available for the antecedents of forgiveness seeking by victims.