Accepting the apology: How forgiving are you?

January 07, 2013, 5:32 PM GMT+0

The American Psychological Association and the United Nations have published a report which focused on the psychological research into forgiveness.

The report concluded that forgiveness is of immense importance – not only in personal relationships, but also between war-torn nations.

According to Dr Louisa Dillner, author of Love By Numbers, forgiveness is the key to a happier life.

The research by the APA concluded that forgiving makes you ‘healthier and happier’ as well as stronger, as ‘Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”.

However, forgiving is not easy, many would agree. It is a ‘complicated and emotive issue’, which often means long years self-convincing and contemplation.

As forgiving is something we often have to deal with, we asked Labs participants to evaluate their own experiences – and see how forgiving they were in certain scenarios.

  • Would you forgive your partner who cheated on you?

  • Would you forgive a colleague who has been taking credit for your work?

  • Would you forgive a close friend who has betrayed you in some way?

Here’s what we found…

Labs participants admitted not being very forgiving.

A partner cheating

Most participants said they would be either ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ forgiving to their partners who have cheated on them.

Only a small number of participants said they would be ‘very forgiving’, while a slightly bigger number said they would be ‘fairly forgiving’.

More men than women would be forgiving to their partners who cheated.

Participants who said they would forgive said they would do so because:

  • They do not demand exclusivity in their relationships

  • It could be partially their fault

  • They think that humans are biologically meant to ‘stray’

Most of those who said they would forgive their partners for cheating stated that they would not stay in a relationship with them, but would forgive in order to move on.

A colleague taking credit for their work

Most participants would not forgive their colleagues for taking credit for their work.

However, out of all the given scenarios, participants would be the most forgiving to their colleagues for taking credit for their work.


Labs members would not be forgiving to their friends who have betrayed them.

Most said they would be ‘not very forgiving’ or ‘not at all’ forgiving in this scenario.

Interestingly, more participants would be ‘very forgiving’ if their partners cheated on them than if their friends betrayed them.

Participants who would be ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ forgiving to their partners who cheated

“There's very little that could really hurt me. I'm also not the one for taking revenge. So many times the alternative to forgiving is punishment and vengeance, why continue the cycle of pain. Instead I would tackle the issue and find out why such actions occurred - that would be the intelligent and constructive thing to do” Chris, Oxford

“I would forgive, but I would end it there Michael Stuart, Dundee

People have their reasons for cheating, perhaps they are unhappy or their feelings towards the relationship have changed for them - maybe only subconsciously. Therefore I would be able to find it possible to forgive that person but I would never trust that person again which would lead to a completely different relationship. Not one where we would be togetherAnon

Cheating is usually only about sex, not love. No one person can give everything sexually that people need so seeking a new experience of sex is just satisfying a human need. Why get wound up about that? We don't possess people, we are only loaned them for a whileJeremy Norfolk

“I don't demand exclusivity in my relationships, there's no such thing as "cheating" on me” Anon

“It would be heart breaking. I would have to determine the reasons why they did it and what they want from me because of it. I say fairly because I would not immediately forgive themJ, London

I would need an honest discussion, I'm afraid, and to understand why my partner cheated. I would then forgive immediately and completely. Without this discussion, it would take me a lot longer, as I would have to figure it all out by myself, but in the end I would forgive. It is myself I find most difficult to forgive” Anon

“My ex-boyfriend got someone else pregnant and I had no problem forgiving him. If things were right between us he wouldn't have strayedAnon

“There could be lots of reasons, different circumstances. It's not a black and white situation at all” Anon

“I believe, correctly or incorrectly, that at least 50% of people have cheated on someone in the past. However people have varying ideas of what cheating is. For some cheating could be considering with being someone else. For others it's a kiss, for others, more. I believe that if someone has cheated on me, it's me who is responsible for forgiving them. I am the one who can decide if I am going to be hurt by it. My upset comes from within me, how I feel about myself and my situation. I believe that to move on with or without that person, forgiveness is necessary for peace of mindHarley Takahashi, Ramsgate

Humans are programmed to stray; you have to accept the biological imperatives” Dee D, Yorkshire

“There are generally circumstances that lead to such things that can be blamed on both parties. I wouldn't condone it, but if it’s understandable, and not done out of malice, then you should forgive and try and move forwardAnon

Participants who said they would be ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ forgiving to their partners who cheated

    • Most said they would not be forgiving as the most important part of any relationship is trust, which would be broken as a result of the partners’ actions.

      “The biggest parts of a relationship are commitment and trustAnon “My trust in someone I have come to depend and rely on would have been broken. I would not do it to them and expect that I am given the same respect. It would be very hurtful” Anon “I think that for someone to be unfaithful to their partner, they must have doubts about their relationship. Personally I do not want to be in a relationship with a person who has any doubts about being with me, so I would probably break up with someone if they cheated on me” Betsy, Sheffield“I feel that any betrayal of trust is a very serious matter. I think I would be able to move on fairly easily and forgive eventually but find it hard to forgive and reconcile” Alexander B, North Yorkshire“I feel that cheating destroys trust, friendship, love and loyalty in a relationship, it also means there has been a breakdown of communication. I think these are the things that a relationship is based on and I think it would be too hard for me to forgive and rebuildRebecca o, BirminghamIt would depend upon the circumstances specifically, as there are some circumstances where a spouse is driven to cheat on their partner (such as being in abusive, emotionless or dead relationships, etc.) though assuming one is in a normal and healthy relationship, cheating is the ultimate betrayal of confidence and trust that should be axiomatic in a relationshipDavid York, Manchester“Fundamentally, cheating is symptomatic of a relationship with no trust. Without trust, there can be no relationship and I think that anyone who cheats once will cheat again. I might be able to forgive, but the relationship would be over” Chris G, Bristol“I wouldn't do it to them, so I couldn't accept the betrayal. It would be the end of any relationship, no question” Anon “There is never a reasonable excuse, in my opinion” Cara B, Cornwall“It would not only show a lack of respect for myself but also for the whole relationship - in which case what would be the point of carrying on?!” Gemma B, ColchesterI don't 'do' forgiving easily. The betrayal of the closest relationship of trust possible - that between two humans - strikes at the very heart of one's life. It kills off trust, sometimes completely and permanently. It has a knock-on effect of distrusting others throughout one's life. It causes immense damage and pain. I wouldn't forgive. I'd work very hard on subtle and effective revenge, instead” Nyree, GuildfordOnce the trust has gone, it cannot be regained. So the relationship would have to be ended. If my partner cheats on me, they are history. I don't wish to forgive betrayal of trust - I just remove those people from my lifeARC SouthWest

    Participants who said they would be forgiving to their colleagues for taking credit for their work

    “I would confront the colleague and ask them why. Upon discovering the reason I would respond appropriately: setting up protocols to ensure that it would not take place again. There would probably be reasons that I could sympathize with” Chris, Oxford

    “Because holding a grudge would get me nothingMichael Stuart, Dundee

    “Because I'm a disciple of Jesus, and He has taught me how to forgiveLoris DG, London

    “It doesn’t matter in the slightest. The work gets done, someone is happy. I couldn’t care less” J, London

    “What does it matter? If you know you have done the work you get the personal satisfaction that brings” Peter Guernsey

    It is a moment in time and its work related. In the grand scheme of things it isn’t important. In a hundred years from now no one will care so why should I?” Anon

    Cheating belittles one so I wouldn't feel it was my problem. If someone had to cheat to impress or to get on at work they could eventually find themselves out of their depth” Anon

    Participants who said they would not be forgiving to their colleagues who have taken credit for their work

    “They are trying to benefit unfairly from others actions. I do not like to show off and claim my own work is of any great importance, but I would definitely be fuming if another tried to claim my work as theirs” Sean A, Essex

    “It is highly unprofessional and I just cannot stand liars, it just wouldn't be fair as I would want to be recognised for my good work” Olivia, Bournemouth

    It is dishonesty and basic theft of intellectual property. Why forgive unless they stop it and genuinely regret their behaviourRob, Northumberland

    “It would speak volumes about them as a person - essentially dishonest and willing to screw anyone else over to get ahead. I have no time at all for people like that, so would cut them out of my life as much as I couldAnon

    “It has happened to me and I very much resent someone else taking credit for my hard work. However, a good boss should know how much effort has gone into a project or daily work and how much commitment you always show” Sandy, Newport Pagnell

    Participants who said they would be forgiving to their friends who betrayed them

    “Because good friendships are worth more Ceri, Manchester

    Because that's what friends do Michael Stuart, Dundee

    “Friendship has to have empathy” Anon

    “It’s a moment in time and there are more important people to value. Why should I bother about what they do, I can move onAnon

    Participants who said they would not be forgiving to their friends who betrayed them

    “If someone betrays you they are clearly not really a friend and therefore should no longer be regarded as such” Peter Guernsey

    “Friends are supposed to be on your side so if one does not support you and betrays you, you obviously feel very let down and ask where they a real friend after allSteve E, Feltham

    “Depends on the level of betrayal, but things are often exaggerated, misinterpreted, and taken out of context, so the intent to betray may not have been there. But if they did intend it, for their own gain, then they're probably not a good friend” Anon

    “You have to be able to trust your friends or else there is not much basis for the friendshipAnne, Ardrossan

    “This is a betrayal of trust which is very serious to me. It has happened to me in the past so I am wary of these things and place trust very carefully. So if that were broken then I would find it hard to forgive Alexander B, North Yorkshire

    “You can always make more friends. A devious friend is not necessarily worth maintaining the relationship for” Mrs C, Gateshead

    “If you are someone’s friend then you should be loyal to themAnon

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