Most people will tell you that forgiveness is the key to a successful marriage. A therapist will tell you that giving yourself a break is the key to maintaining a positive self-esteem. For those of you who have children, forgiveness is a frequent action that occurs when they approach with one of your treasured items in hand- in lots (and lots) of pieces.
Forgiveness is not just about releasing the other person from a life of guilt. The act of forgiving is equally important to the person letting go. Instead of carrying around the weight of the grudge, you get to forget it and move on.
I’ve heard people say, “Bitterness is like swallowing poison and hoping the other guy dies”. It’s unlikely to pan out the way you’ve imagined, and ends up hurting you more than you think.
Zig Ziglar made the acronym “GIGO” (garbage in, garbage out) famous when discussing this topic. Your thoughts and emotions have to be positive to attain a positive outcome, and that’s hard to do when you’re weighed down by bitterness and resentment.
Even though forgiving people can seem terribly challenging, there’s always someone who’s story will put ours into perspective. Take the life story of Corrie ten Boom:
Cornelia “Corrie” ten Boom (Amsterdam, April 15, 1892 – Orange, California, April 15, 1983) was a Dutch Christian, who with her father and other family members helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. Her family was arrested due to an informant in 1944, and her father died 10 days later at the prison where they were first held. A sister, brother and nephew were released, but Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were sent to a concentration camp, where Betsie was killed due to the actions of an extremely cruel guard.
After the war, Corrie ten Boom returned to the Netherlands to set up rehabilitation centres. The refuge houses consisted of concentration camp survivors and sheltered the jobless Dutch who previously collaborated with Germans during the occupation. She returned to Germany in 1946, and traveled the world as a public speaker, appearing in over sixty countries, during which time she wrote eight books about her experiences. She worked diligently to aide Holocaust survivors.
Ten Boom told the story of her family and their work during World War II in her most famous book, The Hiding Place (1971), which was made into a film in 1975 by World Wide Pictures (Billy Graham’s production company).
Her teaching focused on the Christian Gospel, with an emphasis on forgiveness. In her book Tramp for the Lord (1974), she tells the story of an encounter while she was teaching in Germany in 1947.
While she was teaching the value of forgiveness, she was approached by the former Ravensbrück camp guard who had been directly involved in her sister’s death. She was reluctant to forgive him as all of the emotions about her sister were brought immediately to mind, but as he approached she prayed that she would be able to.
She wrote, “For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”
She also wrote (in the same passage) that in her post-war experience with other victims of Nazi brutality, it was those who were able to forgive who were best able to rebuild their lives.
Monday Morning Perspective
“Forgotten is forgiven.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Forgiveness is the economy of the heart… forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.” –Hannah More
People are inclined to believe that forgiveness is only applicable to our personal relationships- but what about our professional relationships? What about our boss, our coworkers, or our subordinates?
Have you ever found yourself dwelling on a mistake made by someone else? The chances are, they are too. Have you ever reamed someone over a mistake and wondered why they have never quite been the same around you?
People need to be forgiven for their mistakes- sometimes directly- to overcome the mental block it places in their path to success.
As leaders, it is our job to plow through roadblocks and obstacles that impede our people’s paths to success- especially the ones we’ve inadvertently built.
People are the foundation of great organizations. The bitterness and resentment that accompany failures (large and small), are just debris on the path to development. If you’re going to be a bulldozer, make sure you’re clearing the debris, not the building materials.
I challenge you to examine where forgiveness might be needed in your own life. After all, if Corrie can do it, so can we!
Have a wonderful week!
© Crystal Dyer 2012. All rights reserved.