The Paradoxical Relation of the Expression of Offense to Forgiving: A Survey of Therapists’ Conceptualizations


forgiveness, Indignation and Forgiveness Scale, IFS, therapy


Forgiveness is a powerful relationship repair experience, perhaps essential to healing following offense. Therapy intervention and research attention to forgiveness has increased over the past two decades. Conversely, anger and indignation, while endemic to interpersonal offense, is overlooked or negated in relationship repair models; further, the experience or expression of offense is often viewed as antagonistic rather than catalytic to forgiving. Few scholars have conceptualized the facilitative role that the experience and expression of offense may play in forgiving and healing, both for the individual and relationship. Disparate conceptualizations of anger and/or indignation may impede therapeutic progress. This study presents a review of social science literature on forgiveness as well as the results of a statistical analysis of the Indignation and Forgiveness Scale (IFS) administered to a group of relational therapists (N = 98). Therapists expressed a strong belief in the compatibility of anger or indignation and forgiveness. The IFS displayed multidimensionality, with items loading onto four subscales. Greater professional involvement leads to more favorable views of anger or indignation in couple therapy following infidelity. A dearth of theoretical and practical literature on these topics, combined with the potential significance of anger/indignation work to forgiving and healing, recommend research and model development on the role of constructive indignation in forgiveness.

Original Publication Citation

Butler, M. H.*, Hall, L. G.*, & Yorgason, J. B. (2013). The paradoxical relation of the expression of offense to forgiving: A survey of therapists’ conceptualizations. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 41(5), 415-436.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



The American Journal of Family Therapy




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor