Forgiving to Free Your Soul
At the age of 20, Mason Wells had survived not only one but two notorious bombings: narrowly escaping injury at the Boston Marathon and suffering burns, shrapnel and blast wounds during the Brussels airport attack. After a long rehabilitation process, he was in recovery when he recorded a video making a statement to his attackers.
“What you did was evil,” Wells said. “You killed innocent people and you ended meaningful lives. I still carry scars from that day. But I have chosen to forgive you. I have learned that the decision to forgive is ours and ours alone.
“By forgiving you and getting past the events of that day, I’ve become a stronger person. It’s about letting go of yesterday and not letting the hardest moments of our lives define us.”
When it comes to forgiveness, his words hit the nail on the head. Forgiveness is not about the other person, it releases us from negativity, bitterness and anger.
Forgiving Ourselves as We Forgive Others
The tougher aspect? Forgiving ourselves. While we can accept an apology from others, an apology to ourselves seems less clear or undeserved even. However, this behavior can inhibit our lives, our work and our role as leaders.
Hearing the Benefits of Forgiveness from Celebrities
There are many examples of successful people who have benefited from forgiveness and allowed it to positively shape who they are and what they’ve done in life.
Producer, actor, entrepreneur Tyler Perry recounted abuse by his father in an interview with Oprah. He spoke of his healing process and gratitude of his life today. The message was also about forgiving his father, in an effort to unburden and free himself from the pain. In forgiving, he was able to let go of resentment and create a life according to his own values, not his father’s actions. This has set the stage for an extraordinarily successful career.
It is very important for us to realize that forgiveness is not equivalent to trust. While Perry forgave his father, he didn’t accept or ignore the injustice by forgiving. Like Perry, we simply release the injustice so that it doesn’t bog us down in bitterness and resentment. Forgiveness recognizes that punishment and vengeance are not our job, and sets the stage for potential reconciliation.
In a slightly different situation, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz talked about the rocky relationship he had with his father, but his acceptance—and forgiveness—came from understanding that his father struggled emotionally as a result of not being able to find work and support his family. By seeing these challenges from his father’s perspective and wanting to make a difference for others, Schultz said he tried “to build the kind of company my father never had a chance to work for.”
Leading by Example Through Forgiveness
Although there are many examples, these stories from successful people give us a guide to understanding just how powerful forgiveness can be in every aspect of our lives, including our mission at work. Reconciliation is always the goal and, when we achieve that, we get our workplaces in working order. This establishes the foundation upon which we can build deeper trust for even greater fulfillment and success.
Forgiveness is something we need to employ in our own lives, for ourselves and for the people we love. At work, leaders, remember those watching us will be the leaders of the future.
Worldwide Copyright TJ Associates, LLC DBA Blueprint Leadership Diane Kucala, March 2019