Forgiveness Interventions from a Multicultural Perspective: Potential Applications and Concerns
Forgiving others for their offenses has been shown to have considerable, wide-ranging effects for people from improved relationship satisfaction and mental health to better physical health in old age. Furthermore, evidence shows that professional interventions designed to help people forgive others are effective. However, little research has explored these findings with a multiculturally-diverse sample of individuals. In many parts of the world, there is a history of oppression of individuals who do not identify with the majority or privileged identity groups (e.g., in the United States: those who are not European-American, heterosexual, male). This oppression can result in psychological wounds and negative health outcomes that can be carried a lifetime and passed down through generations. Forgiveness might provide a measure of relief and healing for these groups. However, forgiveness might also be used in oppressive ways by privileged groups to further demoralize and control marginalized groups. Even in the hands of well-meaning individuals, forgiveness might lead to as much or more negative outcomes than positive ones for some people. This chapter provides a systematic review of the literature on forgiveness in multicultural contexts with a focus on three dimensions of identity: race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender. We examine the role of forgiveness in such contexts and how mental health providers and other professionals might (or might not) promote forgiveness in multiculturally-competent ways with individuals who hold historically marginalized identities. Recommendations and suggestions to minimize further oppression and maximize the potential of interventions designed to promote forgiveness are also provided.
KeywordsForgiveness Race Gender Sexual orientation Forgiveness interventions
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