“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” -Mahatma Gandhi
I heard a great quote from Dr. Dan Siegel that “forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past.” This really resonated with me. If I am honest with myself, I often think about the past and how I would have done things differently. Whether it’s wishing I had paid more attention in my college psychology classes to wishing I had started using night cream in my twenties or wishing I would have gone after that promotion opportunity five years ago, I am thinking about the past and how I could have done things differently. If I replaced this thinking about the past into thoughts and action for the future, I believe I would be a happier, calmer individual. In fact, the Mayo Clinic states, “forgiveness can lead to:
Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
Less anxiety, stress and hostility
Lower blood pressure
Fewer symptoms of depression
Stronger immune system
Improved heart health
So, what steps can we take as individuals to be more forgiving?
Focus on yourself first. You cannot change another individual so forgiveness needs to be about you and only you. What will forgiveness give you? Remember forgiveness is about letting go, not agreeing with. You never have to agree with the behavior or action by the other person. We can forgive our friend for talking about us to someone else but that doesn’t mean we believe that behavior should be repeated.
Stick to the facts. Reflect on the situation and try to focus only on the facts. By removing the emotional response, you may see that the other person’s intent was not to hurt you and that they may be unaware of how you received their message.
Put yourself in their shoes. Let’s be honest, we’ve all hurt someone else’s feelings. So, put yourself in their shoes and try to see it from their perspective. Doing so creates empathy and may allow you to release some of your emotion and move closer to forgiveness.
Talk about it. Once you have removed some of the emotional response, reach out to the person you want to forgive and discuss how the situation impacted you and what you’d like to do differently going forward. Make it very clear you value this relationship and are open and willing to hear what he/she has to say. You may find out they didn’t see the situation like you did at all!
As a leader, what is your role in promoting a culture of forgiveness in the organization? Remember that leading is to be the example. When someone makes a mistake in your organization, do you immediately think the person isn’t cut out for the work or, do you see mistakes as learning opportunities? Are you holding grudges against people at work? If so, are you bringing that anger or resentment into every working relationship potentially sabotaging your own success and that of the organization you serve. Are you finding it difficult to be present and giving your full attention to the needs of the day?
Forgiving others may be a key to your own professional accomplishments and progress and demonstrating that to your teams may be a key to your organization’s success. Let go of the grudges and bitterness so you and your organization can flourish. CEEK…a Better Way.