Dr Everett Worthington

Dr Everett Worthington on promoting forgiveness in every willing heart, home and homeland (#10)

Are all offenses forgivable? 

Does forgiveness let the other person off the hook? 

If I still feel angry, does it mean I haven’t forgiven? 

These are some of the questions we discuss in our episode today.  

It’s impossible to live in this world full of other people without getting hurt, or hurting others. And yet, we need each other. That’s why forgiveness is so important. 

Today we talk to Dr Everett Worthington about forgiveness. 

Everett Worthington Ph.D.  is Commonwealth Professor Emeritus working from the Department of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University.  He holds a Faculty Affiliate appointment at the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University (Human Flourishing Program). He continues to be active in research and speaking around the world.  

He has published over 40 books and around 500 articles and scholarly chapters, mostly on forgiveness, humility, positive psychology, marriage, and family topics.  

He is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in Virginia.  

Ev has developed the REACH Forgiveness model which is being tested currently in a global grant-funded randomized controlled trials in 6 countries, and he has developed numerous other positive psychological interventions. 

Ev is not only an expert on forgiveness, but he shares some very personal experiences with forgiveness that add weight to his academic and clinical knowledge.  

You can connect with Ev through his website: http://www.evworthington-forgiveness.com

We hope you enjoy this meaningful conversation with Dr Everett Worthington.  You can listen on Apple, Google, Spotify or Simplecast.

Show Notes

2:12 – started as a nuclear engineer.
3:14 – Ev’s mission is to do all I can to promote forgiveness in every willing heart, home and homeland.
4:16 – why is forgiveness so important to you?
6:01 – why is forgiveness so hard?
8:05 – what causes hurt.
9:28 – what is justice.
10:07 – both revenge and reconciliation is required for survival.
11:00 – the consequences of holding onto a grudge.
12:04 – spiritual consequences of holding onto grudges.
12:18 – mental health consequences of grudges.
13:33 – impact on physical health.
15:54 – does forgiveness let the other person off the hook?
16:30 – two types of forgiveness.
17:38 – you can forgive too early.
17:56 – you can both forgive and hold them accountable.
18:17 – the hardest thing Ev has forgiven.
18:43 – there are some things that I just don’t think I can forgive.
19:10 – all events are forgivable.
19:18 – injustice gaps.
20:23 – forgiveness is not the only way to deal with injustice.
21:23 – REACH forgiveness model.
22:03 – R: Recall the hurt.
22:32 – E: Empathise.
23:32 – A: Altruistic gift. Forgiveness is not something anyone deserves.
24:11 – C: Commit
24:21 – H: Hold onto the commitment to forgive when I doubt.
24:51 – feeling angry doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven.
25:46 – repeat offenders.
27:35 – Christian view on forgiveness.
28:16 – applying the empathy step of REACH.
29:46 – what to do when we’re the offender.
30:31 – make it right with what you hold sacred.
30:51 – make it right with the person.
31:12 – CONFESS model for the offender.
31:26 – C: Confess without excuse.
31:47 – O: Offer an apology.
31:59 – N: Note the other person’s pain.
32:09 – F: Forever value the person.
32:35 – E: Equalize.
32:46 – S: Say ‘never again’.
32:58 – S: Seek forgiveness.
33:19 – make it right psychologically with yourself.
33:46 – use REACH to forgive yourself.
34:29 – hardest step: accept myself.
34:56 – struggle with self acceptance is what keeps psychotherapists in business.
35:12 – last step: live virtuously.
35:22 – Ev’s personal experience with self forgiveness.
40:59 – it’s hardest to help the people closest to us.
43:13 – helping a country to forgive: contribution in South Africa after Apartheid.
45:39 – difference between personal and group forgiveness.
48:00 – the difference one person can make through forgiveness.
48:20 – forgiveness research has taken off in recent years due to international need for reconciliation.
49:54 – the role humility plays in forgiveness.
50:19 – what humility actually is.
53:35 – free resources for forgiveness and humility.
53:44 – how to get in touch with Ev.
54:25 – final thank you.


Some of Ev’s books can be found here 

Ev’s graduate students: Mike McColloughSteve SandageJennfier Ripley,  

Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct by Michael McCullough 

Socrates is the protagonist in The Republic by Plato 

REACH forgiveness 

Heroic Humility: What the Science of Humility Can Say to People Raised on Self-Focus by Dr. Everett L. Worthington Jr. PhD and Scott T. Allison  

Free resources and workbooks for forgiveness and humility 

Six Steps to Self forgiveness

Key Quotes

“my mission is……to do all I can to promote forgiveness in every willing heart, home and homeland”

“almost every troubled couples issues boiled down they had hurt each other and didn’t forgive each other”

“some people have the mistaken the idea that I have to get back and reconcile with the person who has hurt me…..

“anger has the function of removing blocks to our pleasure”

“holding on to a grudges in in some way feels rewarding although forgiveness has much more value”

“to love is to value the other person and not devalue the person…when a person feels devalued and unloved that is hurtful…that hurt is responded to in resentfulness, bitterness……”

“holding a grudge has  negative impact on our relationship……relationship can be damaged….research shown positive relationships……contribute to health – physical, mental and spiritual…”

“if I’m holding on to a grudge I usually feel stressed…..and unforgiveness is a stress response that people have and the body attempts to deal with that in a lot of different ways…”

“Cortisol at an elevated level…affects every physical system in the body….high levels of cortisol…..affects the brain…the cardiovascular system….the immune system…..”

“if you get an opportunity to hold a grudge…it is better not to…”

“forgiveness happens inside my skin…it is an intrapersonal experience….i can forgive but still stand up for responsibility between us….there is nothing wrong with forgiving a person but holding them accountable”

“in an ideal world…all events are forgivable….if someone hurts me it creates an injustice gap….if it is a large gap it is hard to deal with….from a personal stand point that gap can be so large…”

“REACH Model… R = Recall the hurt, E = Empathize with the person, A = give an Altruistic gift of forgiveness, C = Commit to the forgiveness that I have experienced, H= Hold on to that when I doubt”.

“my body reminds me that I got hurt in this situation before so I need to be careful or I will get hurt again….”

“to forgive because God has forgiven you….don’t forgive because this is a rule..you forgive out of gratitude because of the gift you have been given….”

“how did you feel when you received the gift of forgiveness from someone else…they feel gratitude….if you feel tis gratitude can you give that gift to someone else…”

“a lot of people feel a sense of moral injury if they feel that they have hurt a person……”

“I knew how to deal with resistance…but I did not apply that…I felt down on myself…..in the course of working through it I developed the six steps of forgiveness”.

“it is harder to give help to the people we love…”

“sometimes I think what started this forgiveness stuff….forgiveness has existed for thousands of years….all of a sudden it got really big…”

“1994 Nelson Mandella gets elected and there is a nother great symbol…”

“at the societal level the leaders that are scattered throughout  the entire culture can make a big difference”

“humility has 4 necessary and sufficient conditions….”

About the author

Divan and Mark are co-hosts of the Candour Communication Podcast where we discuss interpersonal communication and all the human stuff that gets in the way.