Can Religion Promote Virtue?: A More Stringent Test of the Model of Relational Spirituality and Forgiveness

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Rather than simply studying whether religious individuals are more forgiving than nonreligious individuals, recent research has focused on how religion may promote a more fluid and efficient forgiveness process. The present studies sought to strengthen evidence for a model of relational spirituality and forgiveness (Davis, Hook, & Worthington, 2008), given the reliance of prior studies on cross-sectional designs that did not control for hurtfulness of the offense. In Study 1, spiritual appraisals predicted unforgiveness, controlling for hurtfulness and other covariates. Furthermore, using structural equation modeling, empathy was found to partially mediate the relationship between spiritual appraisals and unforgiveness. In Study 2, participants (N = 123) completed a survey weekly for 6 weeks that included measures of relational spirituality and forgiveness. Appraisals of relational spirituality predicted subsequent unforgiveness, as well as the rate of decline in unforgiveness. Thus, using a more stringent test, we found additional evidence for the model.