Building Forgiveness Around the World with Everett Worthington (video)

By Templeton Staff
August 1, 2021
The benefits of forgiveness have been established by science, but mainly in the US. Increased distribution of the REACH Forgiveness workbook in diverse cultural and geographic contexts expands forgiveness research globally.

Dr. Everett Worthington Jr., psychologist, and Commonwealth Professor Emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU,) became interested in the study of forgiveness when he was counseling couples. He realized that the way forward for most couples could not begin without letting go of long-held grudges, and began a decades-long investigation into the science and application of forgiveness.

In this video, Worthington shares how his research and experiences led him to develop the REACH method, which has helped thousands of people reap the mental and physical benefits of forgiveness. He also highlights examples of people who have offered forgiveness to those who caused them grave harm, and he recounts how he applied the REACH method to his own profound trauma.

To begin, Worthington outlines how unforgiveness is a stress response that elevates cortisol levels in the body. Triggering the rise in cortisol on a regular basis can have profoundly negative effects on the gastrointestinal, reproductive, cardiovascular, and central nervous systems. He also shares how ruminating on pain that has been caused by others can have devastating consequences on mental health. Continual reminders of negative memories can lead to chronic anxiety, troubles dealing with anger, and depression. He then moves on to give an overview of the two types of forgiveness. Decisional forgiveness occurs when an individual makes a point to deny the temptation for revenge and instead treats the one that hurt them as a person of worth. Emotional forgiveness, which can take a long time, involves identifying negative sensations and replacing them with positive, constructive feelings.

Utilizing REACH, which is now in the form of a DIY 5-step workbook, Worthington has had success helping others that have been wronged overcome their state of unforgiveness. The technique takes its subjects through a course of decisional and emotional forgiveness exercises that spark the healing process. Now, as part of Templeton World Charity Foundation's Global Innovations for Character Development (GICD), increased distribution of the REACH Forgiveness workbook in diverse cultural and geographic contexts expands forgiveness research on a global scale.

This video is a 2021 Sharecare/Emmy Award Finalist.

Discover the podcast version of this interview.

Learn more about the TWCF-funded research project related to this episode.

Read the transcript from the full interview conducted by journalist Richard Sergay featuring: Dr. Everett Worthington, Commonwealth Professor Emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth University.


Templeton World Charity Foundation’s “Stories of Impact” videos by journalist and senior media executive Richard Sergay feature human stories and critical perspectives on breakthroughs about the universe’s big questions. The inspiring narratives and observations in these award-winning videos portray the individual and societal impacts of the projects that bring to life TWCF-supported research.

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