Forgiveness: Who Needs It?

Sometimes in business and in life, we are faced with the option of forgiving someone who has hurt us. You have probably heard that it’s important to forgive, and that forgiveness is not so much for the person who committed the act, as for the person forgiving. I’ve debated as to whether I agree with this… the part about forgiveness being necessary. For example, as the victim of a heinous crime, would you forgive the person who murdered your loved one? I don’t think everyone is capable of that. Would you be healthier if you could? In an ideal world, maybe. But I also think anger is there for a reason, to fuel us to stay away from certain situations, people, etc. Here are five points to remember regarding forgiveness:

1)Forgiveness is very helpful, much of the time. Scientific studies published on places like the Mayo Clinic website have even shown the health benefits of forgiveness– lower blood pressure, less substance abuse, less stress.

2)But I think there is a science to forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean always allowing someone back into our lives to trample on us in the same way. After all, that wouldn’t be healthy, would it? I think enough distance is necessary so that we determine how to set boundaries that protect us from getting in the same mess again. Then, we have the chance to heal, and possibly choose whether to allow this person into our lives again, on our terms.

3)Empathy is key to forgiveness. If we can understand how someone might have been motivated to hurt us, even if we don’t agree with the rationale, we can at least separate ourselves from it being about us.

4)Sometimes, I think forgiveness entails NOT letting that person back into our lives, but simply letting go of the hold he or she had on us. When you are clear about what you can and can’t allow in your life, you can let go of the guilt associated with choosing to “defriend” someone… or you can choose how to cultivate the relationship again in healthy ways. You have options, and you can adjust as you go.

5)There can be power in vocalizing your position to your “perpetrator” (if you are safe, and have no expectations of reciprocation). I once felt very wronged by someone, and years later, I was able to write a note stating that I did not condone what was done, but that I was sorry for my contribution to it, and that I had let it go. I wasn’t letting this person off the hook, but I was letting him out of my mind, so that I could be free to live the best life I could, free from the drama or past. At that moment, I was able to engage with live in a new way (and no, it didn’t happen all in one moment… it was a process… but you get the idea).

Whatever your position, if you find yourself stewing about something that happened, I hope that you can find a way to minimize the negativity. If it’s in the workplace, it’s just as important to be able to think with a clear mind and engage with a clear heart. Sometimes this means letting go, and other times it means finding a way out.  Don’t let yourself talk about the same negative things so often or with such duration that they blind out the good in your life, or paralyze you.

 What are you holding onto today, in the form of a grudge? Who can you forgive, or ask for forgiveness from?

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