Psychology Survey on Divine Forgiveness

According to Loren L. Toussaint, 75% of Americans say they know God has forgiven them for any previous sins. Despite their confidence in their innocence, only 52% reported forgiving other people and 57% say have forgiven themselves. The study did not ask participants to specify the nature of their transgressions.

1,423 randomly selected adults were asked about experiences with forgiveness as part of a larger consumer telephone survey. They also answered questions about their religious practices and physical and mental health.

Middle-aged and older adults were far more likely than younger people to report that they’d forgiven their trespassers. Adults over 45 were also most likely to believe God had forgiven them. 54% of women forgave, compared to 49% of men. Religious affiliation did not change someone’s likelihood to forgive.

Toussaint and his colleagues also confirmed that forgiveness reduces stress and may benefit personal heath. However, people of all ages who reported that they often asked forgiveness from others or God, or those who asked God to forgive those who hurt them, reported feeling greater psychological distress than others. The researchers attribute this to the stress involved in asking for forgiveness in the first place.

Forgiving is one of the most noble and most difficult things a man can do. Therefore, I am not surprised that only half of the respondents to the survey really forgave other people and themselves; I suspect that the true figure is even less. I am very interested, however, in the large majority of people who believe God has forgiven them for their sins. They reflect the great growth of the latest century and Big Religion’s adaptation to it.

The Catholic Church has always taught that sins can be forgiven through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this sacrament, a person tells their sins to a priest, who absolves sins if one is truly sorry. The Church did not tell a person their were going to heaven or hell; Martin Luther, in his fear of going to hell, broke away for the Church because of it. He took solace in knowing exactly where he was going; thus, the first of over 22,000 Protestant denominations was made. Certainty of salvation leads many to believe all their sins are forgiven before they have even been committed. Some even believe they never committed sins in the first place. It is no wonder Christians believe they are saved.

Still, we must strive to forgive and forget, seventy times seven times, and do what the Lord wills us to do.

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