Ambivalence in Attitudes Toward Forgiveness


  • Susan D. Boon
  • Megan Kheong
  • Careen Khoury


Are attitudes toward forgiveness ambivalent? To answer this question and explore whether such ambivalence predicts individuals’ propensity to forgive and tendency to view forgiveness as desirable/virtuous, we asked undergraduates (N = 159) to complete measures of ambivalence toward forgiveness, attitudes toward forgiveness, and tendencies to be forgiving/vengeful. Using a number of metrics, our findings suggest that attitudes toward forgiveness are moderately ambivalent. In addition, and as predicted, ambivalence toward forgiveness was associated with diminished inclination to be forgiving, enhanced pro-vengeance orientation, and less idealistic views of forgiveness. Further, highly ambivalent participants scored the same or lower than anti-forgiveness participants in tendencies to be forgiving/vengeful. These findings suggest the existence of a disconnect between people’s actual attitudes toward forgiveness and popular discourses on forgiveness and underscore the need for investigations of and theorizing on forgiveness that more fully recognize its possible costs and limitations or, at the very least, laypeople’s views on these.