How religious groups promote forgiving: A national study

Robert Wuthnow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


A nationally representative survey was conducted of adult Americans who were currently involved in prayer groups, Bible studies, or other religiously oriented small groups. The purpose of the study was to determine if these respondents had engaged in forgiving behavior as a result of being in their group and, if so, to ascertain which group activities were most likely to facilitate this behavior. Of the 1,379 respondents, 61 percent said their group had helped them to forgive someone, 71 percent said they had experienced healings of relationships as a result of their group, and 43 percent said they had worked on improving a broken relationship in recent months. Group activities generating "social capital" or "cultural capital" were mostly unrelated to these responses, while activities involving "emotional capital" and "spiritual capital" showed strong positive relationships. Further analysis suggests that forgiving behavior is especially facilitated by groups that emphasize prayer, sharing, and learning about forgiveness. The study also suggests that forgiving behavior may have such consequences as encouraging prosocial involvement, helping to overcome addictions, and promoting emotional well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-139
Number of pages15
JournalJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies


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