Those experiencing chronic stress are more likely to forgive, study finds

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A new study found that people under chronic stress due to severe trauma were more authentic and likely to forgive than those with no trauma, effected by everyday stressors.

The study, published in Clinical Psychology and Special Education, was led by Sofya Nartova-Bochaver, PhD, professor in the department of psychology at HSE University in Moscow, Russia. Nartova-Bochaver and her team of researchers aimed to find out if there was an association between lower-level personality traits, authenticity, and dispositional forgiveness. To do so, researchers gathered information on stress levels and personality traits from 140 men and women aged 16 to 40. The study grouped participants into cohorts depending on their stress levels. Groups were made up of participants who were relatively well-off in terms of stress, those who were experiencing stress from everyday life, and those experiencing chronic stress due to severe trauma. Data was collected through standardized questionnaires.

They found that participants with chronic stress showed the highest level of authenticity while those experiencing everyday stress had  low authenticity ratings, and the well-off had average results. Similar results were found with the ability to forgive. Researchers theorized that those under chronic stress had higher levels of authenticity and forgiveness due to post-traumatic growth.

In addition, researchers studied the correlation between authenticity, the ability to forgive, and stress level. Their results showed the level of one’s authenticity had little to do with their ability to forgive. Researchers also found a correlation between the ability to forgive oneself and authenticity in the well-off group as well as those experiencing everyday stressors.

These results suggest that the ability to forgive as well as someone’s level of authenticity is associated with the level of stress an individual experiences. According to researchers, practitioners can apply these results when working with clients struggling with forgiveness and authenticity to discover the root cause of their problem.

“In rapidly changing, highly ambiguous conditions, it is extremely important to have a wide range of life skills and personality qualities, among which the ability to forgive is undoubtedly essential,” said Nartova-Bochaver in a statement.