Power, Forgiveness and Revenge – a Study


What are you more likely to choose- revenge or forgiveness, if you have more power than the other person?

I’ve always thought, that forgiving is what the stronger ones do. It takes a lot of self-confidence, maturity, feeling secure personally and confidence in your self-efficacy. Revenge is more like what you would do in defense, when you’re affected, when you feel threatened and just want to strike back, to show that you have that power. Forgiveness is what you do when you know, that you have that power, that you’re strong enough and don’t feel the need to prove it to someone anymore. That’s a big part of the growing-up process to me.

Recently a study* examined a remotely similar idea. The authors suggested that forgiveness is more likely when the person has more power* in a relationship and is strongly committed to the partner; that power increase forgiveness and not vice versa; that rumination is an important negative factor for forgiveness.

To make it short – the study confirmed these suggestions. The researchers measured perceived power,  level of commitment, severeness of former offend, willingness to forgive, tendency for rumination, correlation and regression were calculated. If you want details or can’t access the pdf – ask 😉

As usual there’s not really a point in this post, I just thought that this study is worth mentioning.

*Karremans, J. C. & Smith, P. K. (2010). Having the Power to Forgive: When the Experience of Power Increases Interpersonal Forgiveness. In Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 36(8), 1010-1023

*the authors define power as “experience of power” in the context of relationships – “people who have many experiences in which they have the capacity to control others across a variety of relationships should develop a general sense of power”.

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4 Responses to “Power, Forgiveness and Revenge – a Study”

  1. Bain Says:

    Power, Forgiveness and Revenge – a Study
    By teo

    What are you more likely to choose- revenge or forgiveness, if you have more power than the other person?

    About the research – probably done by people, who get pushed back when waiting before the store by huge people with muscles, and don’t dare say a thing back at them.

    Also… This can be discussed a lot. Forgiveness is hardly an option. Forgiveness if you MAKE him realise the mistake, yes, well, that may do. Revenge? No, fuck no. Punishment? Fuck yes. Similar, but different, like your glasses.

    It depends on the crime. It depends on the person, and if it has committed this crime before. Really, if you started asking those questions to a court judge, he would laugh his face off at the silliness.

    To sum up – the REAL strong people aren’t those who only FORGIVE. The REAL strong people aren’t those who only AVENGE/PUNISH. The REAL strong people are those that do BOTH and know WHEN to do each of them.

    Why? Because punishment may sometimes cause more damage than the crime itself did. Why again from the other part? Because forgiving only may cause the damage to repeat itself even bigger.

    Like some other posts of mine, this one isn’t arguable about. It’s the truth. I am sorry that I killed the conversation already by shredding light at the subject, if you want, I’ll promise not to do it again before at least 4-5 discussion posts.

    Bain Hardtime

    • teo Says:

      “About the research – probably done by people, who get pushed back when waiting before the store by huge people with muscles, and don’t dare say a thing back at them.” – I didn’t knew that you know them 😉

      From the article the authors make it clear, that they were on the search of positive consequences of power, since the research before has focused on power-corruptness etc. Also they make a pretty logical suggestion – that people with more power are simply more goal-orientated and if keeping the relationship is an important goal for them, they’ll do the more constructive thing, which in most cases is forgiving.

      May be it wasn’t clear – it’s not about crimes, but little or big offends or hurtful things in a relationship, like if he/she has forgotten your birthday or something else that was hurtful to you.

      “The REAL strong people are those that do BOTH and know WHEN to do each of them.” exactly, just in the context of relationship and non-crimes forgiving is MOSTLY (not always!) the more constructive choice.

      “Like some other posts of mine, this one isn’t arguable about. It’s the truth.” – it’s the truth for you, never forget that it’s all relative 😉

  2. Bain Says:

    No. MOST things are all relative. Some aren’t, so I point them out, so cute gold skinned koala bears don’t have to thing too hard.

    • teo Says:

      There’s a little twist there, I’ve thought that you would appreciate it. “It’s all relative” includes the statement itself too, so it’s relative that it’s all relative 😉 …

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