The Heartland Forgiveness Scale (HFS) is an 18-item, self-report questionnaire that measures a person’s dispositional forgiveness (i.e., the general tendency to be forgiving), rather than forgiveness of a particular event or person. The HFS consists of the Total HFS and three six-item subscales (Forgiveness of Self, Forgiveness of Others, and Forgiveness of Situations).

The Model and Definition of Forgiveness

The Heartland Forgiveness Scale is based on the following definition and model of forgiveness. Forgiveness is defined as:
the framing of a perceived transgression such that one’s responses to the transgressor, transgression, and sequelae of the transgression are transformed from negative to neutral or positive. The source of a transgression, and therefore the object of forgiveness, may be oneself, another person or persons, or a situation that one views as being beyond anyone’s control (e.g., an illness, “fate,” or a natural disaster). (Thompson et al., 2005, p. 318).

The process of forgiveness, transforms a person’s responses to the transgressor, transgression, and the negative consequences (i.e., the sequelae) of the transgression. Responses are a person’s transgression- and transgressor-related thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The concept of responses has two components, valence and strength. Valence refers to whether the thoughts, feelings, or behaviors are negative, neutral, or positive. Strength refers to the intensity and intrusiveness of the thoughts, feelings, or behaviors, and it can vary as a result of factors such as the perceived harm caused by the transgression.

A person who forgives may transform his or her negative responses by

  • changing the valence from negative to either neutral or positive, or
  • changing both the valence and strength of the responses.

In order to forgive, the valence of a person’s responses must change, at least to neutral. Some argue that in order to forgive, a person must develop compassion and empathy for the transgressor. In the model of forgiveness upon which the HFS is based, it is not necessary to develop positive responses such as compassion and empathy. Neutral responses are considered sufficient for forgiveness.

It is not necessary for a person to change the strength of his or her responses in order to forgive. Nonetheless, weakening one’s responses may foster forgiveness because it decreases the intrusiveness or intensity of negative transgression-related thoughts or feelings. Thus, weakening of responses may be involved when people report that “time” has helped them to forgive.

The inclusion of “situations” as a potential source of transgressions (and target of forgiveness) appears to be unique to this conceptualization of forgiveness, and to the Heartland Forgiveness Scale. Situations that violate people’s positive assumptions and lead to negative responses to those situations are responded to as transgressions. For example, a catastrophic illness might violate a person’s assumptions of invulnerability or meaningfulness (e.g., “I’m healthy” and “bad things don’t happen to good people for no reason”), and lead to negative thoughts, feelings, or behaviors about the illness and related sequelae (e.g., feelings of anger or sadness and the thoughts “this has ruined my life; I don’t deserve this”).

Psychometric Properties of the HFS

The Heartland Forgiveness Scale (HFS):

  • Measures a person’s dispositional forgiveness of self, others, and situations beyond anyone’s control (e.g., a natural disaster or illness).
  • Is a self-report questionnaire.
  • Can be completed with paper and pencil or on the computer.
  • Has 18 items.
  • Consists of the Total HFS and 3 subscales:
    • Total HFS (18 items)
    • Forgiveness of Self (6 items)
    • Forgiveness of Others (6 items)
    • Forgiveness of Situations (6 items)
  • Has demonstrated desirable psychometric properties.
    • Convergent validity
    • Satisfactory internal consistency reliability
    • Strong test-retest reliability
    • A clear and consistent factor structure that supports the assertion that the HFS assesses forgiveness of self, others, and situations, and also the overarching construct of the disposition to grant forgiveness

How to Cite the HFS

The Heartland Forgiveness Scale (HFS) was first developed in 1998, and the current version was finalized in 1999. In 2003, the HFS was published in Positive Psychological Assessment: A Handbook of Models and Measures in a chapter by Laura Y. Thompson and C. R. Snyder. In 2005, Thompson et al. published an article in the Journal of Personality. The 2005 article included the HFS and a series of six studies regarding the psychometric properties of the HFS. Either source can be cited for the HFS. The article contains the psychometric data.

Thompson, L. Y., & Synder, C. R. (2003). Measuring forgiveness. In Shane J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Positive psychological assessment: A handbook of models and measures (pp. 301-312). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

In this chapter, we explore the differences and similarities among seven self-report measures of the granting of forgiveness and the conceptualizations of forgiveness on which those measures are based. Although all of these measures assess a person’s propensity to grant forgiveness, there are substantial differences among the measures and among the conceptualizations of forgiveness that these measures were designed to assess. The authors’ Heartland Forgiveness scale is appended.

Thompson, L. Y., Snyder, C. R., Hoffman, L., Michael, S. T., Rasmussen, H. N., Billings, L. S., Heinze, L., Neufeld, J. E., Shorey, H. S., Roberts, J. C, & Roberts, D. E. (2005). Dispositional forgiveness of self, others, and situations. Journal of Personality, 73, 313-359.

Six studies regarding forgiveness are presented. The Heartland Forgiveness Scale (HFS), a self-report measure of dispositional forgiveness (with subscales to assess forgiveness of self, others, and situations) was developed and demonstrated good psychometric properties. Forgiveness correlated positively with cognitive flexibility, positive affect, and distraction; it correlated negatively with rumination, vengeance, and hostility. Forgiveness predicted four components of psychological well-being (anger, anxiety, depression, and satisfaction with life); forgiveness of situations accounted for unique variance in these components of psychological well-being. Forgiveness and hostility demonstrated equivalent, inverse associations with relationship duration, and forgiveness accounted for unique variance in relationship satisfaction, even when controlling for trust. Forgiveness level correlated positively with decreased negativity in statements written about transgressions in the present versus the past tense.

Download The HFS
If you want to use the HFS for research or clinical purposes, and you will not profit directly from use of the HFS, you may use the HFS. Click the button to download a PDF file that contains:

  1. The HFS
  2. The scoring instructions for the HFS
  3. Guidelines for interpreting HFS scores
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The Heartland Forgiveness Scale (HFS) was developed as a part of the Heartland Forgiveness Project, a program of research to develop a model, definition, and measure of forgiveness (i.e., the HFS). From 1998 to 2002, the Heartland Forgiveness Project was supported by a grant from A Campaign for Forgiveness Research (Grant #5034). The funds for the grant were provided by the John Templeton Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, and other donors.

A Campaign for Forgiveness Research awarded numerous grants to spur the scientific study of forgiveness. Under the leadership of Everett L. Worthington, Jr., Ph.D., Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ruby Bridges Hall, and Robert Coles, M.D., the John Templeton Foundation and other donors eventually contributed over 7 million dollars to this campaign.



Laura Yamhure Thompson received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Kansas in 2003. She completed a pre-doctoral fellowship at McLean Hospital and the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry, and a postdoctoral fellowship at Cambridge Health Alliance and the Harvard Medical School Department of Psychiatry. She was awarded a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship for her research regarding forgiveness as a moderator of the relationship between stress and psoriasis severity. She and her mentor, C. R. Snyder, collaborated on the Heartland Forgiveness Project, a program of research to develop a model, definition, and measure of forgiveness (i.e., the Heartland Forgiveness Scale). She is currently a licensed psychologist in the states of Hawaii and Arizona.

Email: Laura Yamhure Thompson, Ph.D.


C. R. Snyder (1944-2006) was Wright Distinguished Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, and he was editor of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology for 12 years. Well known for his work at the interface of clinical, social, personality, and health psychology, his theories pertained to how people react to personal feedback, the human need for uniqueness, the drive to excuse transgressions, and the hope motive. One of the foremost researchers studying positive psychology, he developed the field of hope into a self-sustaining field of study. His prominence as a researcher in the area of positive psychology was indispensable in the creation and funding of the Heartland Forgiveness Project. Dr. Snyder was a mentor to Laura Yamhure Thompson and countless others in the field of psychology. He is dearly missed.


Lesa Hoffman received her Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Kansas in 2003. She was the quantitative specialist for the Heartland Forgiveness Project and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at The Pennsylvania State University before joining the Department of Psychology at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln as an Assistant Professor in 2006 (and as Associate Professor in 2011). Dr. Hoffman became the Scientific Director of the Research Design and Analysis (RDA) Unit and Associate Professor of Quantitative Methods in the Schiefelbusch Institute for Life Span Studies at the University of Kansas in August 2014. Her program of research seeks to empirically examine and to thoughtfully disseminate how developments in quantitative psychology can best be utilized to advance empirical work in psychology, human development, and other social sciences. Recent projects have focused on the measurement of visual attention in older adults, the methodological barriers to examining longitudinal changes in cognition, and innovative applications of multilevel modeling for within-person experimental designs. She teaches graduate courses and intensive workshops in advanced quantitative methods, such as latent trait measurement models, multilevel modeling, and longitudinal data analysis. Visit Lesa’s home page for more information about her research, teaching, and recent textbook on Longitudinal Analysis: