The virtues of forgiveness, gratitude, and hope are developed through connections with others, according to Liz Gulliford, senior lecturer of psychology at the University of Northampton, UK.
“What is the value of forgiveness, gratitude, and hope?” Gulliford said. “What are the grounds for these virtues? What is served by forgiveness, gratitude, and hope? What’s at stake here, what’s being valued, and what are the means through which we can forgive and be grateful?”
Gulliford examined forgiveness, gratitude, and hope from a positive psychology perspective in a lecture in Devlin Hall on Feb. 21.
“Positive psychology focuses on promoting hopeful optimistic dispositions to enhance an individual’s well-being,” Gulliford said.
Gulliford said one problem with most psychological approaches to forgiveness is the lack of attention toward how to genuinely forgive another person, rather than just granting forgiveness.
“Most of these process models are actually about how to forgive other people as if perhaps you don’t need to be forgiven by some,” Gulliford said. “This is actually reflected in many psychological definitions on forgiveness, which permits on granting as opposed to accepting forgiveness.”
The theological perspective on forgiveness, on the other hand, is well-balanced because it focuses on both the person seeking forgiveness and the person granting forgiveness, according to Gulliford.
“Within the theological discourse, forgiveness is as much received and appropriated as it is extended and offered to others,” Gulliford said. “So there’s more of a balance between forgiving the people and receiving forgiveness yourself.”
Gulliford also explained how learned optimism—when people with pessimistic attitudes begin to adopt a more positive outlook on life by challenging their negative inner thoughts—can also lead to forgiveness.
“We saw how the case of forgiveness is a means of neutralizing negative emotions, and we’ve got optimism being a way of increasing positive emotions … it’s founded in a confidence that’s placed on the individual’s ability to examine and challenge maladaptive cognitions,” Gulliford said.
According to Gulliford, part of learned optimism is learning to be gracious, which offers a host of benefits that promote happiness and overall well-being.
“Some of the intrapersonal benefits of gratitude are … gratitude improves psychological health, increases happiness, and reduces depression, helping to prevent emotions like envy, resentment and regret,” Gulliford said. “There are these interpersonal benefits as well. It helps to build social bonds, it helps people to feel more connected.
Gulliford wrapped up the lecture by explaining that forming strong relationships is the key to understanding the virtues of forgiveness, gratitude, and hope.
“Forgiveness is the virtue of participating as both receivers and givers,” Gulliford said. “Similarly, hope isn’t a purely internal resource, while there are aspects of hope that are under our control, hope is kindled and sustained with other people, so we can work on being more hopeful.”