The Power of Forgiveness
Last week I wrote about apologizing from a place of strength, which can build relationships and a positive reputation as a strong yet humble leader. (Here’s a link if you missed it.)
This week we’re flipping the coin.
What happens when you’re the person on the receiving end of the apology?
Deeper than that, how do you embrace forgiveness if you should be on the receiving end of an apology that never comes?
Depending upon how deeply you’ve been wronged, there are a whole bunch of factors that come into play.
The most important thing to keep in mind is the end game: what do you want this relationship or situation to look like on the other end?
If you could wave a magic wand and design it to be exactly what you want or need, what would it look like?
This topic has a lot to do with your professional life and your personal life; examples in this blog cross that line several times.
Have that “end game” picture in mind, and then design your actions backward from there.
In coming up with your plan to use a less than ideal situation as a teaching, team building, and relationship enriching moment, here are some things to keep in mind or even use as guidelines to lead you in your actions and responses:
Forgiveness is about you, not the person who wronged you.
Example:When I went through my divorce, I was angry. I’d been wronged and was being wronged all over again. It was insulting and hurtful. There were things being done expressly for the purpose of hurting me.
I’m fairly open about my history: having lived with a physically and emotionally abusive husband. In hindsight, I thank goodness I’m rid of him. (Sometimes several times a day.) It wasn’t so easy to be grateful when I was in the thick of it.
At the time my therapist recommended a great book about forgiveness, Getting Rid of the Gorilla, which helped me to realize being angry at my ex-husband was hurting my health and bringing stress into my daughter’s home, but it wasn’t harming my ex-husband at all. (And I mean at all… actually, it was bringing him pleasure to witness me with negative emotions. You could actually see the “gloat” all over him.)
So I decided to forgive him.
I wrote him notes (that were never sent) forgiving him for punching me, for saying things to me that make me feel worthless, for lying to my family about everything he had done – telling them I’d made it up. (I hadn’t told them because I was hoping he would stop. Goodness. Lessons around every turn.)
That guy may not have ever uttered the words “I’m sorry” in the same paragraph during the span his life, so I don’t ever expect an apology for being beaten, emotionally cut-down, lied to and lied about.
Nevertheless, I still forgive him. I forgive him for what he did and I am happy to leave it in the past.
I don’t like him. I don’t put myself in a situation in which I have to be around him, but I forgive him.
Forgiveness and reconciliation can be friends, but they don’t have to be.
Remember that about forgiveness.
Forgiveness catapults you from a place of lack & negativity to a place of abundance & positivity.
At one point my husband faced unemployment; after nearly 19 years of faithful service at a company, he was dismissed without cause.His former co-workers were upset; he was a beloved manager. They deeply disliked the person who let him go and didn’t have much respect for that guy.
To give an example of the degree of narcissism the person who dismissed my husband exhibited, he is characterized by proudly boasting that he is a “Level 5 Leader.” If you don’t know what that means, it’s point #3. Just wait for it.
Needless to say, I was angry about this unfair termination. So was my husband. We were both hurt and it was made even worse by knowing the deplorable character of the person who did it.
This situation may be one of the hardest points of forgiveness I’ve ever had to give. But, I had to. Otherwise, our entire household would continue on a spiral of negativity regarding past events about which we could effect no change.
I still know that my husband’s former boss is a numbskull, but I don’t hold any ill will against him. I wish him well, hope he develops emotional intelligence and can actually become a Level 5 Leader someday.
Forgiving that dude was not easy, and it took some time. It took forgiving him multiple times until my subconscious got the message that we weren’t going to actively hope he developed hemorrhoids.
Forgiving him freed me and my husband from invisible prisons.
As soon as those prison gates were open, Bob started finding opportunities for work, and now our life together is better because he doesn’t have a boss who is demoralizing anymore, he is doing work he loves, and has the spring back in his step.
Humility is never the wrong answer.
When I was working with a non-profit organization several years ago helping them raise funds so they didn’t have to close, there were many volunteers alongside me.During many board meetings, these volunteers complimented my hard work, diligence, dedication, loyalty… honestly, it was enough to make a girl blush.
Every single time I was given credit I graciously thanked the person and bounced it right back, “None of my work would be possible without your help, guidance, and leadership. Thank you.”
My work was not perfect, but through humility, I was able to bond with many wonderful people who I now call friends. We were able to exceed our goals together because we were all in it together – there was no “star” in the spotlight. We all had the glory and responsibility.
That is only possible through humility.
Sometimes these people would fall through on their commitments and leave me “holding the bag” – I could have easily become angered and allowed this to put cracks in the foundation of our friendship, but through further exercising this talent of “active humility” I did not do that; I would be grateful for the work they did do, and then humbly accept the work I had ahead.
Those folks knew exactly what they’d done, and saw me pick up the ball and run with it anyway – never complaining – which made them love me even more, and in the end made their work with me even stronger, more dedicated, and diligent when looking at the bigger picture.
Level 5 Leader:
In the book “From Good to Great” a “Level 5 Leader” is the humble leader who gives credit away. (5 is the top in that leadership ranking.)
If you do receive an apology, no matter how deep the wrong, accept it with humility and grace.
Refusal to accept it is not hurting the other person at all; that person has done his or her duty in expressing remorse. Now it’s all about you.
You, your spirit, and your stress level will be healthier and more liberated if you do accept it. This goes back to the first point that forgiveness is about you and not about the person who wronged you.
Express gratitude for times you have been forgiven.
I encourage my clients to keep a gratitude journal.
Here’s a link to the one I use.
This journal doesn’t have to include long meaningful entries.
I’m talking about things as simple as “I’m thankful for my nice, warm bed” or “I’m grateful that my daughter is healthy.”
Continual expression of gratitude has extraordinarily positive results in all aspects of your life.
It is doubly healthy for you to recall times that you’ve been the recipient of forgiveness and actively recognize what a gift it was then and still is in your life. Recognize what was made possible because of that forgiveness.
This helps you to let go of that weight you’re carrying around.
It helps you to relate it to the forgiveness you can give to the person who has wronged you… and understand giving it to them is actually giving yourself a gift.
It’s like having a bowling ball tied to your foot… walking takes a lot more energy with10 pounds tugging at your ankle.
Active gratitude is the light that shines in the darkness of anger, resentment, and regret… and chases those dark feelings away.
Forgiving someone who has wronged you – even to the point of seriously damaging your personal or professional life – is never the wrong answer.
It always means you’re ready to face your next space of growth.
It never shows weakness.
It shows extreme strength and emotional intelligence.
It also opens up a lot of mental space for you to use for much more productive purposes.
Forgiving with humility is not easy and it’s something you have to do continually – like any other skill you want to keep sharp and at the ready.
I’ve been forgiven a lot in my life, and I’ve forgiven a lot.
This is something I’ve helped many clients successfully implement that has brought them more success, lower stress, and better relationships.
If you’d like to explore this, I’d love to talk with you. Here’s a link for a free session.