The Doormat Effect

The Doormat Effect

McCullough, Worthington, and Rachal (1997) define forgiveness as a set of motivational changes whereby one becomes (a) decreasingly motivated to retaliate against an offending relationship partner (b) decreasingly motivated to maintain estrangement from the offender, and (c) increasingly motivated by conciliation and goodwill for the offender, despite hurtful actions.  Empathy (Wade & Worthington, 2003), the severity of the hurt (Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro, & Hannon, 2003), the closeness of the relationship (McCullough, Rachal, Sandage, Worthington, Brown, & Hight, 1998), the transgressor’s account (Morse & Metts, 2011), and the hurt party’s self-respect & self-concept (Morse & Metts, 2011) can influence a person’s willingness to forgive. Forgiveness is typically praised for its restorative and healing qualities, but recent research shows that that is not always the case. Luchies, Finkel, McNulty, and Kumashiro (2010) discuss one of the possible negative effects of forgiveness, which they term the Doormat Effect. According to the Doormat Effect, those who always forgive, especially when it runs counter to their “forgiveness instinct,” will quickly become “everybody’s doormat”. The doormat feelings, not adhering to one’s principles and not standing up for oneself, may erode one’s self-respect and self-clarity. If an individual continues to forgive against their own “forgiveness instinct” then their self-respect can go down.  Thus, the purpose of this study is to explore the mediating effects of the Doormat Effect on the influence of empathy, transgression severity, account type, relationship closeness on a person’s likelihood of forgiving a harm-doer.