Recently a client of mine was struggling to forgive his administrative assistant for late, sloppy reports she submitted in his name. But, then we tested the reality of this story. After some discussion, he realized that he really had to forgive himself for not having the reports ready for her in time for her to type them accurately and do a good job.
Like this client, your own lack of forgiveness may be avoiding or delaying the inevitable. Without it, hurts fester and grow unchecked. As a result, you replay failures, resentments, bitterness, and mistrust in your life. Forgiveness is essential to peace, happiness, and success. With forgiveness, you acknowledge and mend hurts. You are able to break the destructive cycle of retaliation and build the positive cycle of success.
But, remember that forgiveness is a process. It will take time. Sometimes in our eagerness to patch up differences, we rush to reconciliation without stopping to think about what really has to be forgiven. But, you must take time and pause before reconciling so that forgiveness can take place. Without careful, deliberate consideration, you cannot have lasting reconciliation. Just like physical injuries, these other hurts need time to heal.
Forgiveness requires being open, vulnerable, and caring in spite of being mad, offended, or hurt. Recall your relationships as a child growing up. Can you remember people, groups, organizations, or situations that hurt you? Which of them did you offend? It may be that you need to forgive yourself. Whatever the offenses, identify them. Your goal is not to reopen old wounds but to release their hold on you. Once you recall those indiscretions, ask yourself if they still need healing and forgiveness.
Have you heard someone (maybe even yourself) say:
• “If she comes, we’re not going.”
• “If they’re there, count me out.”
• “You’re not going to invite her, are you?”
• “I’m not going to work on this project if I have to work with him.”
• “It will never be the same. It’s hopeless.”
• “You/he/she/they don’t deserve an apology.”
• “I don’t need you/her/him/them”
These are signs of an unforgiving attitude. These words are corrosive and prevent success in many areas of your life. On the contrary, maybe you have heard:
• “I’m sorry.”
• “Let’s make up.”
• “There’s still hope for us.”
• “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
• “Let’s be friends again.”
• “Let’s forgive and forget.”
• “Let’s start over.”
These forgiving words are restorative. They show hope and bring success to many areas of your life.
You may ask, “But why should I be the one who forgives and makes amends? What about so and so?” Because you are the one reading this, the responsibility rests with you to initiate the process of forgiveness and reconciliation. I encourage you to take the first step and resist the urge to seek revenge. Don’t give your opponents a dose of their own medicine. The following are qualities of a forgiving person:
• Sees the best in others
• Listens to both sides
• Respects and accepts others rather than criticizing and judging them
• Understands both sides
• Believes that there is hope in most or all situations
Do you have those traits? Or, do you have the following thoughts, beliefs, or actions of an unforgiving person:
• Initiates conflict (picks fights)
• Demands an apology before granting forgiveness
• Has running feuds with someone
• Gossips, thereby starting arguments between people
• Thinks some things are unforgivable
• Holds grudges
• Gets angry easily
• Avoids conflict
• Thinks admitting fault is for losers
• Provokes others
• Believes in an eye for an eye
If you are guilty of these thoughts, beliefs or actions, “tune in” next week because I will share some guidelines to forgiving.
Barbara Jordan is a counselor, counselor educator, author, trainer, and leadership coach. For more information go to www.AdvantEdgeSuccessCoaching.com.