Wade’s Forgiveness Scale was de­veloped to measure the degree to which re­spondent’s have forgiven a specific person who has hurt them (offender). The Forgive­ ness Scale measures cognitions, affects, and behaviors regarding the offender. Forgive­ ness is conceptualized as a multidimen­sional construct and is measured with sev­eral different subscales.


Wade (1989) criticized previ­ous attempts to measure forgiveness be­ cause (a) they did not measure important as­pects of forgiveness, (b) their items were often ambiguous, and (c) they were rarely based on clear definitions of forgiveness. Wade developed her scale to remedy some of these deficiencies. Based on a content analysis of her interviews with 20 pastors, professors, and psychologists, Wade devel­oped fourteen dimensions of forgiveness and nine dimensions of unforgiveness. Based on these 23 dimensions, Wade gener­ated a pool of 600 items to measure forgive­ ness and unforgiveness.

From this item pool, Wade (1989) pro­duced an 83-item scale with nine intercorre­lated subscales. The subscales are: Revenge, Freedom from Obsession, Affirmation, Victimization, Positive (vs. Negative) Feelings, Avoidance, Toward God, Conciliation, and Holding a Grudge. The items are responded to on a 5-point scale ( I = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, and 5 = strongly agree). Items for each subscale can be summed to derive nine distinct measures of forgiveness. Scores range from as low as 4 to 20 for the Freedom from Obsession and Holding a Grudge Scales (which both con­tain four items) and as high as 26 to 104 for the Feelings subscale (26 items). Higher scores on the Revenge, Victimization, Avoidance, Freedom from Obsession, Affirmation, Positive (vs. Negative) Feelings, Toward God, and Conciliation subscales in­dicate greater forgiveness. Subscales are de­ signed to measure specific components of how people respond following serious inter­ personal hurts (e.g., desire for revenge, avoidance, feelings, conciliation, etc.) and would be of interest to researchers inter­ested in these components.

Practical Considerations:

This paper-and­ pencil measures requires no special skill to administer. The measure is scored by sum­ming the items for each respective subscale to derive nine subscale scores. The one ex­ception, the Feelings subscale, requires that items measuring negative feelings (e.g., be­ trayed, anger, and hatred) be reversed (a score of I is reversed to 5, a score of 2 is reversed to 4, and so on) before they are summed with the items measuring positive feelings.


Normative data on Wade’s scale has yet to be collected. The scale was developed using a sample of 282 college students, half of whom endorsed the items with a person whom they had not for­ given in mind. Means and standard devia­tions for their samples of church members, college students who desired to participate in a workshop to help them learn to forgive, and spouses, respectively. These might serve as tentative norms for their respective samples.


Wade (1989), McCullough and Worthington (1995), and Woodman (1991) have estimated the internal consistency reli­ability of Wade’s scales with Cronbach’s co­ efficient alpha. (See table 1). All of the items correlated with their parent subscale at a minimum of r = .50 (Wade, 1989). No studies to date have investigated the stabil­ity of scores over time.


A form of the “known groups” method was used to establish concurrent va­lidity in Wade’s (1989) study. The items were completed by 282 college students.

Half of these students were instructed to complete the instrument with an offender that they had forgiven in mind, and half were instructed to complete the instrument with an offender that they had not forgiven in mind. Wade found 11 correlated factors that appeared to measure forgiveness. Nine of these factors were retained as subscales; two were abandoned because they failed to differentiate between the group of partici­pants that reported having forgiven their of­ fenders and those who reported not having forgiven.

All of the subscales except for the To­ ward God subscale show moderate correla­tions with the four subscales of Spanier’s (1976) Dyadic Adjustment Scale in a sam­ple of married persons (Woodman, 1989). The subscales are modestly correlated with Christian religious maturity as measured by Massey’s (1989) Religious Status Inventory (Dreelin, 1992), and narcissistic traits, as measured by the Narcissistic Personality In­ventory (Davidson & Jurkovic, 1992).

Additional support for the instrument’s validity comes from data suggesting that Wade’s scales may be useful in measuring the efficacy of interventions designed to promote forgiveness. McCullough and Wor­thington (1995) used by Wade’s scales to measure the effectiveness of two different one-hour psychoeducational workshops at encouraging college students to forgive per­ sons who had offended them. They found that participation in the two workshops pro­duced changes in the direction of forgive­ ness on the Revenge, Affirmation, Feelings, and Conciliation subscales of Wade’s instru­ment.

Wade’s Forgiveness Scale

Please answer the items below by using the following scale:

  • Strongly disagree
  • Disagree
  • Neutral
  • Agree
  • Strongly agree

  1. Our relationship is more important than this offense. (AFFI)
  2. I like them. (AFF2)
  3. I’ll make them pay. (REV})
  4. I wish that something bad would happen to them. (REV2)
  5. There’s something wrong with them. (REV3)
  6. It (the offense) no longer has a hold on me. (FREI)
  7. I was victimized. (VICI)
  8. I don’t replay the offense in my mind, dwelling on it. (FRE2)
  9. I love them. (AFF3)
  10. I blame them. (VIC2)
  11. I recognize it was very painful for the offender. (AFF4)
  12. They wronged me. (VIC3)
  13. I have a responsibility for this relationship too. (AFF5)
  14. I have stopped blaming. (FRE3)
  15. I want them to get what they deserve. (REV4)
  16. I have a clearer ability to see their good points. (AFF6)
  17. They’re guilty. (VIC4)
  18. I’m going to get even. (REVS)
  19. It’s not fair. (VIC5)
  20. I can understand where they’re coming from. (AFF7)
  21. I think about the good they’ve done. (AFF8)
  22. I’m glad to be around them. (AFF9)
  23. They can’t do anything right. (REV6)
  24. I think about them without anger. (FRE4)
  25. They’re scum. (REV7)
  26. I want to see them hurt and miserable. (REVS)
  27. I continue to think about how much I hate them. (REV9)
  28. They’re bad. (REVlO)
  29. betrayed (FEEl-R)
  30. wronged (FEE2-R)
  31. peace (FEE3)
  32. joy (FEE4)
  33. hate is dropped (FEE5)
  34. anger (FEE6-R)
  35. hurt rushes away, is accepted or assuaged (FEE7)
  36. hurt/pain (FEE8-R)
  37. victimized (FEE9-R)
  38. holding a grudge (FEElO-R)
  39. hatred (FEEl 1-R)
  40. rage (FEE12-R)
  41. release (FEE13)
  42. respect (FEE14)
  43. care (FEE15)
  44. violated (FEE16-R)
  45. good feeling (FEE17)
  46. resentment (FEE18-R)
  47. vengeance is dropped, no pleasure in it (FEE19)
  48. cooperation (FEE20)
  49. anger is released, gone (FEE21)
  50. compassion (FEE22)
  51. resentment is gone, or less (FEE23)
  52. relief (FEE24)
  53. acceptance (FEE25)
  54. comfortable with them (FEE26)
  55. I’m not letting go of the offense. (GRUl)
  56. I told God I forgave them. (TOWl)
  57. I asked God for forgiveness for them. (TOW2)
  58. I wished them well. (CONl)
  59. I keep as much distance between us as possible. (AVOl)
  60. I’m holding on to the hurt and anger. (GRU2)
  61. I looked for the source of the problem and tried to correct it. (CON2)
  62. I took steps toward reconciliation: Wrote them, called them, expressed love, showed concern, etc. (CON3)
  63. I gave my feelings to God. (TOW3)
  64. I gave them back a new start, a renewed relationship. (CON4)
  65. I asked God to help me forgive them, to love them. (TOW4)
  66. I accept my part of the situation. (CON5)
  67. I see no good in them. (AVO2)
  68. I live as if they don’t exist, aren’t around. (AVO3)
  69. I prayed for them, asking God to bless them. (TOW5)
  70. I don’t trust them. (AVO4)
  71. I find it difficult to act warmly toward them. (AOV5)
  72. I avoid them. (AVO6)
  73. I accept their humanness, flaws, failures. (CON6)
  74. I cut off the relationship with them. (AVO7)
  75. I’m suspicious of them. (GRU3)
  76. I accept them. (CON7)
  77. I made an effort to be more friendly and concerned. (CONS)
  78. I did my best to put aside the mistrust. (CON9)
  79. I was willing to forget the past and concentrate on the present. (CONlO)
  80. I tried to make amends. (CONll)
  81. I harbor a grudge against them. (GRU4)
  82. I don’t blame them. (CONl2)
  83. I withdraw from them. (AV08)

REV = Revenge

FRE Freedom from obsession AFF Affirmation

VIC Victimization

FEE Feelings AVO = Avoidance TOW= Toward God CON = Conciliation

GRU = Holding a grudge

R Item must be reverse scored

Note: Do not include codes in parentheses in administration of this scale. Reprinted with permission of author.


Wade, S. H. (1989). The development of a scale to measure forgiveness. Unpublished doctoral dis­sertation, Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, Pasadena, CA.

Subsequent Research:

McCullough, M. E., & Worthington, E. L., Jr. (1995). Promoting forgiveness: A comparison of two brief psychoeducational interventions with a waiting-list control. Counseling and Values, 40, 55-68.

Woodman, T. (1991). The role of forgiveness in marital adjustment. Unpublished doctoral disserta­tion, Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, Pasadena, CA.


Massey, D. E. (1989). The construction and ini­tial factor analysis of the Religious Status Inventory. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, Pasadena, CA.

Spanier, G. B. (1976). Measuring dyadic adjust­ment: New scales for assessing the quality of mar­riage and similar dyads. Journal of Marriage and Family, 38, 15-28.