Fetzer Survey on Love and Forgiveness in American Society
At a time when significant emphasis is placed on the issues that divide Americans, the Fetzer Institute's “Survey of Love and Forgiveness in American Society” reveals the commonalities that bind us together. The report uncovers the deeply held beliefs and attitudes individuals have about love, forgiveness, and their connection to the world beyond our borders. Published in October 2010, the Fetzer Institute commissioned the research in an effort to explore these complex topics that are central to its mission and to learn more about where love and forgiveness are present in American life.
The survey’s findings reveal insights about how people feel about their own lives, their communities, and the world. The data points to a shared interest in improving our human condition, not only at the personal level, but on the global level as well.
Americans express a near-universal desire for a more loving and unified world. For example, most (61 percent) claim that if they better understood the values of people in other countries, there would be less conflict in the world, which indicates a need for better understanding of foreign cultures and values and how those values align with our own. Additionally, nine in ten Americans agree that the world is too divided and apart, and 95 percent agree that we need more meaningful love in the world.
American adults also recognized a personal need for more meaningful love and forgiveness, with 68 percent agreeing (strongly or somewhat) that they need more meaningful love in their personal lives. Sixty-two percent agreed (strongly or somewhat) that they need more forgiveness in their personal lives.
The online survey, conducted with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 US adults ages 18 and older, asked respondents to share their perceptions and opinions on the state of these values in America and in their personal lives.
Key Survey Findings:
A Growing Desire for Love and Forgiveness
American adults recognize a need for more meaningful love and forgiveness. Sixty-eight percent of Americans agree (strongly or somewhat) that they need more meaningful love in their personal lives, and this number increases to 89 percent in their communities, 94 percent in America, and 95 percent in the world. Sixty-two percent of Americans agree (strongly or somewhat) that they need more forgiveness in their personal lives, and this number increases to 83 percent in their communities, 90 percent in America, and 90 percent in the world.
Americans Seek Greater Connection Globally
In the 2010 Fetzer Institute survey, Americans express a near-universal desire for a more loving and unified world. For example, most (61 percent ) claim that if they better understood the values of people in other countries, there would be less conflict in the world, indicating a need for better understanding of foreign cultures and values and how those values align with our own. Additionally, nine in ten Americans regret that the world is too divided and apart, and 95 percent agree that we need more meaningful love in the world.
An Increasingly Fearful and Violent World
According to the survey, the belief that the world is increasingly becoming more fearful and violent is prevalent in the United States. Ninety-one percent of Americans feel this way, and the majority of Americans also believe that both the United States and the world today are too divided and apart (87 percent and 90 percent respectively).
The Complexity of Forgiveness in America
Sixty-seven percent of Americans agree that the US population is composed of generally forgiving people, but 58 percent also agree that there are instances where people should never be forgiven. The unforgiveable instances are murder (41 percent), abuse or sexual crimes (26 percent) or any intentionally committed crime (22 percent), suggesting that most Americans focus on crimes against an individual as being unforgiveable. Additionally, 60 percent of Americans believe that forgiving someone would first depend on the offender apologizing and making changes.
Americans Live with Distrust and Long to Belong
While most Americans describe their personal communities as friendly, peaceful, respectful, and compassionate, 74 percent agree that most people would take advantage of others if they had the chance. In addition, 40 percent of Americans describe their communities as divided; 31 percent claim their communities are intolerant; and 27 percent state their communities are untrusting. The data also points to a clear majority who long to belong. Eighty-two percent of Americans believe that it's important to feel a part of a community in their personal lives and 58 percent of Americans want to be a part of something bigger than themselves but don’t know how to begin.
Americans Are Becoming More Spiritual
The survey indicates that the United States is becoming an increasingly spiritual country. Seventy-six percent of American adults consider themselves to be spiritual, and 60 percent of American adults say they are becoming more spiritual as compared to five years ago. Furthermore, nearly three-quarters of American adults believe spirituality can help solve misunderstandings between cultures. Still, there is a segment of the population that doesn’t know where to turn to address their spiritual needs. Around one-third of American adults spend a lot of time grappling with spirituality, and more than one in four have spiritual needs and don’t know where to turn for help.