The study of a nationally representative sample of 1,423 Americansconducted by the university's Institute for Social Research also foundthat while nearly 60 percent of those surveyed said they had forgiventhemselves, only 43 percent said they had actively sought forgivenessfor harm they have done.
Older people were more likely than younger ones to feel forgiven byGod, although respondents of all ages reported feeling high levels ofdivine forgiveness. That finding "slightly surprised" Loren Toussaint, apsychologist who is the lead author of the study report published in theJournal of Adult Development in October.
"I think all of us, at one time or another, when we've made the samemistakes over and over again, have felt that we must be a disappointmentin God's eyes," he said. "Yet there's a remarkably high level ofconfidence across the country that God forgives us, compared to a muchlower level of forgiveness of oneself and others."
About 80 percent of adults aged 45 and older said they knew that Godforgave them for their sins and that this knowledge strengthened them infacing their faults and being better people, compared with 69 percent ofadults 44 and younger.
Researchers discovered that some kinds of forgiveness led tonegative outcomes.
"High levels of `proactive forgiveness,' which involves askingforgiveness from someone you've hurt, asking God to forgive you, orpraying to God to forgive someone who has hurt you, were strongly linkedwith high levels of psychological distress," said Toussaint, who iscurrently affiliated with Idaho State University.
The study was funded by the Fetzer Institute as part of the JohnTempleton Foundation campaign for forgiveness, the National Institute ofMental Health and the University of Michigan Office of the VicePresident for Research.