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Self-forgiveness – A neglected area within the pastorate

The scientific study of the theme of forgiveness in general, has only begun to gain momentum during the 1970s – it is thus a relatively new concept within the helping professions. Since the sub-discipline of positive psychology has also gained momentum over the past number of years, it has largely contributed to a more realistic approach to the concept of forgiveness. However, within this broad context of the development of research on the theme of forgiveness, the specific aspect of self forgiveness did not come to fruition from the very onset and was even occasionally described as the ’stepchild’ of research on forgiveness. In this article, we focus on four of the most prominent pastoral-psychological models of self-forgiveness. Aspects that are discussed in this regard are some important definitions, the relationship between interpersonal and intrapersonal forgiveness, characteristics indicating a lack of forgiveness, factors that necessitate self-forgiveness and barriers to self-forgiveness. The basic point of departure in this article is that of a literature study regarding the theme of self-forgiveness. Particular attention is given to the approaches within the abovementioned four models, while data from other relevant sources are also incorporated. Finally, from the various models as well as supplementary literature, several strategic moments regarding the facilitation of self forgiveness are identified. The importance and topicality of the theme of self forgiveness, which has been ignored for quite a long period, becomes very evident from this research – for the helping professions and for the pastorate specifically.

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