An action that seems contrary to what we want to do holds the key to genuinely empowering us. By Alan Hosking
Anybody who has lived a few decades will testify to the fact that they’ve had “stuff” done to them by other parties – stuff that wasn’t called for, not very fair, or not at all nice. It’s unfortunately a sad fact of life that sooner or later you and I will be caused hurt or offence by someone else.
The hurt could be caused by a close relative, friend or stranger. It could be a minor hurt or offence like just having something unpleasant said to us, or it could be something very serious and deeply wounding. Indeed, some people carry emotional and other scars through their whole lives because of what has been done to them while they were growing up or even after they have become adults.
If the hurt is never dealt with, we run the risk of becoming emotionally crippled and this in turn affects our performance at work and in our personal lives. Imagine a manager who is nursing deep wounds that have never been tended. All the investment their employer makes in them by way of leadership development and other skills development is a bit like throwing good money after bad because such a person is just not in the right head space to be able to challenge their own thinking, and make objective decisions about matters that might be affected by their wounds.
One of the ways of dealing with our emotional wounds is to forgive the people who have caused those wounds. This is a very sensitive subject for someone who has been badly wronged or abused. Their first response might be to say, “But I didn’t deserve to have that done to me.”
And they are right. No-one deserves to be hurt, abused, neglected or worse. But without forgiveness, healing is very unlikely. That’s because, while forgiveness seems to go against the grain of every fibre in our bodies, it is the one thing that can help us move forward with power.
When I was younger, I used to think that if I forgave someone for something they had done to me, I was letting them off the hook, that they were getting away with something they did not deserve to get away with. As I grew older, I came to understand that, while I refused to forgive someone for a hurt or injury they had caused me, whether I wanted to admit it to myself or not, they had a hold, a power, over me. But when I got to a place where I could forgive them, and did, I walked free. The lesson I learnt was that forgiving someone did not set them free but set me free.
Sadly too few people have come to understand that this is an eternal principle that applies to all human beings. Do an audit of the people you have possibly refused to forgive for wrongs done to you. Was it your mother, your father, a sibling, a relative? Was it a partner or spouse? Was it a friend or was it a work colleague?
You know who that person is and you know what they did to you. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. You did not deserve it. You cannot change them. But you can change yourself, regardless of how they are thinking and behaving.
Make a decision to forgive them, then get to a quiet place, sit down and think about what they did, then say out aloud, “I did not deserve this to be done to me, but I now choose to forgive … for what they did.”
After you have done this, you may be tempted to go into the justification cycle again, but fight against that. Every time you’re tempted to do so, say, “No, I have forgiven them for what they did.”
Then watch what happens over time. You will find that you start walking free – free to become and be the person you were born to be and do the things you were born to do. Your career, relationships and personal life will start to blossom and prosper as you live with a light in your spirit and a new song in your heart.
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, and a Leadership Renewal Coach.