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Conflict in the Bible: Theories of Forgiveness

UP Communication Professor Dr. Elayne Shapiro Image by Dominique Pascua

UP Communication Professor Dr. Elayne Shapiro
Photo by Dominique Pascua

As a private and Catholic university, the school frequently has presentations that analyses the bible. This time, Communication Department Dr. Elayne Shapiro looked at conflict in the bible through a mediative perspective.

Her analysis was on the story of Joseph: the favorite son of Jacob who was sold off to slavery by his brothers because they were jealous of him, eventually became governor of Egypt where he ran into them again, imprisoned them out of revenge, and then went through a healing process and a path of forgiveness.

Throughout her discussion, she reviewed several mediation theories including the types of forgiveness, variables of forgiveness, reason to forgive, grudge theory, and motivations of forgiveness.

Four types of forgiveness:

1. Unforgiveness or mulling

2. Unilateral: Self-forgiveness and forgiveness for personal benefit

3. Bilateral: Both sides forgive each other

4. Reconciliation: Re-establishing a relationship between the person that wronged and whom was wronged.

Three variables that correlate with bilateral forgiveness:

1. Anger

2. Empathy

3. Perspective-taking

Two reasons to forgive:

1. Psychological:

There is a section of the brain called the cortisol that enables and prevents us to forgive others.

2. Physiological:

The physical toll it takes on a human body when it is stressed.

Grudge Theory: Why people hold grudges:

1. Desire to get rewards and is beneficial to ourselves

2. Belief that the grudge held will prevent future transgression

3. It gives power to the person holding the grudge because the victim continues to suffer as a means of revenge

4. There was a loss of pride

So, what motivates forgiveness?

1. Justice

2. Restitution

3. Social pressure

4. Religion

5. Social harmony

6. Universal ethical principles

In conclusion, Shapiro said that “conflict is as old as the bible” and that it teaches us that it is okay that we are not perfect human beings.

Shapiro recently published a book co-authored with UP Theologian Dr. Carol Dempsey entitled: Reading the Bible: Transforming Conflict.

~ Dom

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