Mind & Body

Find Out How Forgiving You Are With the Transgression Motivations Questionnaire

"Everyone makes mistakes." "Forgive and forget." "Do you really want to die on this hill?" Everyone has heard these old chestnuts and probably said them at some point. But can you put those words into practice? Do you tend to hold onto anger or forgive easily?

The Reasons We Forgive

Some offenses, and some people, are more forgivable than others. In fact, in a 1998 study, researchers tried to pin down the factors that make forgiveness more or less likely. They split these factors into three categories: offense-related ones, like whether the person in the wrong had apologized; relationship-related ones, like how close the people involved were before The Incident; and social-cognitive ones, like how much the wronged person "ruminated" on the offense.

They found roughly what they expected: transgressions with minimal impact, apologies, close and satisfying starting relationships, and wronged people who tended to ruminate and empathize with the person who hurt them — all of these made forgiveness more likely.

Another factor powers forgiveness, too: self-interest. Forgiveness is intuitively great for the forgiven person, but it's great for the forgiver, too. Holocaust survivor Eva Kor, who publicly forgave Nazis, said she viewed forgiveness as an act of "self-liberation." Psychological research backs this interpretation: Forgiveness can both alleviate stress and reduce the risk of mental illness.

That said, there's power in anger, too, especially collective anger. Rebecca Traister, who wrote the new book "Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger," argues that anger might not truly be bad for your health. People say "it's going to corrode or poison you," she told the New York Times, but she believes that really, "the bottling it up or swallowing it down or thinking that there's no outlet for it — that's the thing that corrodes."

In other words, forgiveness is one way to reduce the stress of anger, but it's not the only way.

The Quiz

So ... are you a naturally forgiving person? Take the Transgression Motivations Questionnaire and find out. You'll need to create a username and password to access the questionnaire; once you're in, you'll also need to think of a specific person who's "seriously" hurt you recently. Complete the quiz with them in mind.

The quiz consists of 12 statements, like "I am trying to keep as much distance between us as possible" and "I wish that something bad would happen to him/her." You'll respond to each one with a Likert scale, which ranges from "Strongly Disagree" to "Strongly Agree."

You're scored on two dimensions: your "avoidance motivation" and your "revenge motivation." The avoidance score ranges from 7 to 35, and the revenge one from 5 to 25. (There are more questions about avoidance than revenge.)

If you score more than 22, you're in the most avoidant 10 percent of respondents; if you score more than 13, you're in the most vengeful 10 percent of respondents.

Clearly, this quiz simplifies forgiveness. Its underlying assumption is that you're equally forgiving of everyone. It's not interested in the factors in forgiveness that 1998 study found significant, like how the person you're thinking of impacted your life, and whether they've apologized. Still, the results of this quiz are a starting point: a loose gauge of how inclined towards forgiveness you are.

Get stories like this one in your inbox or your headphones: sign up for our daily email and subscribe to the Curiosity Daily podcast.

Individuals aren't the only ones that wrestle with the concept of forgiveness; entire countries can, too. In "No Future Without Forgiveness," Desmond Tutu writes from his experience as the Archbishop of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, tasked with healing a country wounded from oppression and despotism. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Mae Rice October 12, 2018

Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.