Lena’s former boss was a tyrant who bullied his direct reports and rarely expressed any appreciation for their contributions. Although she left that job years ago, Lena still feels anger whenever she thinks of how he treated her. Is this something that she should address, or is Lena just responding as any normal person might?
Forgiveness is not something we talk about much in the workplace. We may practice forgiveness of others, and we certainly hope that we are forgiven when we make mistakes. Yet teams and organizations rarely discuss the power of forgiveness.
Forgiveness has often been misconstrued as condoning negative behaviors or just turning the other cheek. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You can forgive a person and at the same time set limits for future behaviors. Forgiveness doesn’t depend upon the other person apologizing or even acknowledging the behavior. You don’t even have to speak to the person to let go of the resentment and forgive. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself. Lewis B. Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
How can forgiveness at work benefit you?
Forgiveness makes you healthier. According to the Mayo Clinic, forgiveness sets the stage for healthier relationships, greater spiritual and psychological well-being, less stress and hostility, lower blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and chronic pain and lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse.
Forgiveness increases available energy. Nursing a grudge takes emotional and physical energy away from more productive endeavors. According to the Forgiveness Foundation, forgiveness transforms your mind. People report renewed energy and focus when they let go of bitterness and resentment.
Forgiveness unleashes joy. Because forgiveness reduces stress, people find more joy in everyday life when they are able to forgive others. When we forgive others, all of our other relationships are stronger and deeper, and we are able to weather small upsets with greater resilience.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. When you forgive, you do not forget what happened. You release the pain, anger and bitterness, and you also remember the lessons learned and don’t allow the offending behaviors to reoccur.
If the reasons above aren’t enough, consider the slightly “low road” perspective of Oscar Wilde: “Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.” Whatever your motivation might be, take actions to create a culture of forgiveness at work. As with any culture change, start with you. Experience the joy of forgiveness and share it with others today.
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