The Liberating Power of Forgiveness
I firmly believe that most people do not understand what forgiveness is, how its maximum liberating power is used as a tool, and how it becomes more effective when used proactively instead of reactively, as is most often the case when one seeks forgiveness as an act of contrition through apology.
“Don’t let people take up space in your head without paying rent.” This is exactly the power that forgiveness provides, as it emboldens and legitimately empowers us to evict those relationships from our conscious minds for whatever act of commission or omission may have been committed. Forgiveness is the positive pole of having been wronged, while its destructive polar opposite is revenge.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I don’t know the moron to whom this statement deserves attribution, but they are dead, flat-out wrong. Break bones, no. Destroy lives, scar psyches, cause wars and lawsuits and divorces and feuds and riots…absolutely, every day throughout recorded history. Many times, and more often than we think, words are misused and misunderstood, resulting in pain for another person.
Beyond words, there are also actions, or a lack of action, that are equally, if not more, destructive in relationships. Hate, injustice, murder, adultery, deceit — you make up your own list — make us feel hurt, betrayed, dismayed or outraged. The key to letting go of these feelings, regardless of the source, is complete forgiveness, whether or not our forgiveness is sought by the offending party.
Courage to Acknowledge Forgiveness
Now this is where I deviate from most conventional wisdom, in that I believe it is important to advise the other person that you are forgiving them, and for which specific action or inaction. Again, this goes back to the basic fundamental truth in open, honest and direct communication. Most people choose to stew in silence when wronged, and then, after some point in time, forgive the person who wronged them. In a lot of cases, people even choose never to forgive, but instead devise grand schemes of revenge that control their thoughts and actions moving forward.
I believe in directly confronting the individual who has wronged you, telling them not only the reason for the forgiveness, but the personal value forgiveness has in liberating you from the pain or negativity of the situation. In so doing, one of three positive outcomes result.
The first — and the one I have found is most common — is that the other person is genuinely unaware an offense has occurred, and will not only accept responsibility for their action and offer an apology, but also seek to perform an act of contrition to balance the scales of the relationship; or…
The other party chooses to disagree with your perception of the situation and puts forth their own beliefs and understanding, and you then have the option to weigh and judge the situation from the other person’s point of view. And, believe it or not, as human beings, we may have actually misunderstood, misinterpreted, or misspoken ourselves and now have the ability to acknowledge this, seek forgiveness, and take steps to reaffirm our relationship and move forward; or…
Lastly, the other party for whatever reason may maintain a completely different point of view, and their actions (or inactions) continue to remain out of alignment with your core values, beliefs and principles. At this point, you can disengage in the relationship through forgiveness, forever relieving yourself of the burden of the wrong.
Again, the power of this pillar lies in the action of giving and granting forgiveness even before it is requested. Many people, even knowing they are wrong, lack the character and ability to admit their shortcomings and seek forgiveness, even at the expense of sacrificing a relationship they cherish. By proactively granting forgiveness, we address this situation head-on — and yes, it does take a level of courage — rather than hiding our hurts behind the façade of silence and plastic smiles. How many relationships — personal, professional or other — could have been saved, rehabilitated and made even stronger through the power of forgiveness? Sadly, we will never know. But we can take personal responsibility to ensure that none of our relationships will fall victim to the cowardice of silent disengagement.
Wisdom: Just about any problem in the world can be solved through ten minutes of plain talk.
The Force Multiplier of Forgetting
Forgiving is but half the equation. The true force multiplier is forgetting. Much like energy follows focus, what we focus on expands. If we continually focus on the event to which we gave forgiveness, we run the risk of never venturing into a similar relationship for fear we will be wounded or betrayed in the same manner, or worse. The ability to forget allows us to move forward with the benefit and knowledge of the experience to avoid making the same mistake again, allowing us to seek relationships with the missing, while avoiding those that are toxic.
There is another key benefit to forgetting, and that is, believe it or not, that people and organizations do actually change over time through experience (successes and failures), knowledge (heightened awareness to shortcomings and destructive behaviors) and growth, allowing us the chance to re-engage at some point with someone or with an organization that has, in fact, turned over a new leaf, and whom we would choose to serve as a result.
Not forgetting is like continuing to wear a cast on a broken limb even after it is healed, to remind us of the pain we experienced when we fell out of the tree, preventing us from climbing anything ever again. A great way to be on guard and check yourself for an “unforgetting” attitude is if you hear yourself saying, “I’ll never make that mistake again.”
It is almost impossible to forget completely. After all, without knowledge of our mistakes, we are certainly doomed to repeat them. The focus here on forgetting is to intentionally stop dwelling on the pain of the past so that we are free to experience the joy of the future. Take the lesson from the experience, then let go through the powerful act of forgiveness, which empowers us with the freedom to completely forget, should we so choose. Bottom line: Stop and check not only your forgiveness level, but your forgetting meter, as well.
The other power of forgetting, or not dwelling on the past, is that it frees the finite resource of time to be invested in thoughts, dreams and actions that propel you into the future. You can pursue your limitless success without being sucked into the past of grudges, recrimination and destructive acts of revenge. The sweetest revenge is to lead a happy, rewarding and successful life, as defined by you. Revenge is one of the greatest wastes of time and energy, effectively forcing you to continue to be controlled by a past event that can never be undone. Move on. Let it go. You’ll be happy and thankful you did.
Wisdom: Forgiveness unloads and returns the heavy rocks that others put in our pack.
This is an excerpt from the first book “BREAKAWAY – The Secret of Limitless Selling Success: Heroic Service“.