The Business of Forgiveness

Did you really have a bad day or did you have a bad 10-20 minutes where you allowed your thoughts to run undisciplined in your mind… and then milked it for the rest of the day? Disappointment is the gap that exists between expectation and reality. Whether the cause was intentional or not, we get it – it still hurts. Disappointments are inevitable; but discouragement is a choice.

We have all felt hurt or betrayed by a colleague, friend or family member at some point. Whether your hurt was yesterday, last year or a decade ago, are you still carrying it around with you? You can never be free of bitterness as long as you continue to think unforgiving thoughts. How can you be happy in this moment if you continue to choose to be angry and resentful? Thoughts of bitterness cannot create joy. No matter how justified you feel you are, no matter what “they” did, if you insist on holding on to the past, then you will never be free. Forgiving yourself and others releases you from the prison of the past.

Here’s the thing: individuals and organisations are much more successful and “healthy” when people are not holding on to past hurts. One of the attributes of conscious leaders is their ability to alchemise feelings such as anger, disappointment, and blame into something positive. By practicing forgiveness, you can fuel trust and respect, thereby increasing your team’s performance.

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”
― Oscar Wilde

The Science of Forgiveness

In his book, Forgive for Good, Dr. Frederic Luskin describes his personal and academic journey into forgiveness. When his research began in 1998, there were very few studies in the field of forgiveness and limited knowledge of the tools and techniques that would be effective. Luskin went on to found the Forgiveness Project. Through his hands-on research, he has helped thousands of people learn how to forgive. The stories in this book run the gamut from people who lost children to violence or were cheated on by a spouse, to those that were passed over for a long-coveted promotion, were neglected as a child, lied to, or stolen from. The thing they all had in common is that the pain they experienced from these events was something they thought they would never be able to move past… but they did. Luskin found that forgiveness is a process. This process can be equally applied to all levels of pain – whether it’s the result of someone being rude to us on the road, a life cut short, or a partner cheating.

In January of 2000 five women from Northern Ireland who had suffered catastrophic losses were invited to Stanford University to participate in the first Stanford-Northern Ireland HOPE Project.  The three Protestant and two Catholic women spent a week learning to forgive the person who had murdered someone close to them.  Four of the women had lost sons to violence. The Degree of Hurt Measure asked the women to rate on a scale of 1-10, the amount of hurt they felt over the loss of their sons. When they arrived (Baseline) they rated their hurt on average as 8.6. When they left for Northern Ireland (Post-test) their rating was 3.6 and six months later in Northern Ireland (Follow-up) their score had stabilised at 3.4. Overall, findings suggested that learning to forgive improves psychological and physiological wellness and offers protection against future upsets. Forgiveness training also leads individuals to become emotionally stronger, experience greater confidence, and be increasingly optimistic.

“Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart one who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.”
― Marvin J. Ashton

The Economy of Forgiveness

Eighty-nine financial service advisors, nine vice presidents, and six administrative assistants volunteered to be in one of seven cohorts in pilot projects, designed by Dr. Luskin, to measure the effect of forgiveness training on sales and quality of life. Results were astounding – forgiveness directly affected the bottom line.

  • The project showed gross dealer concession (sales) increased for the first group of advisors by an average of 18%,
  • For the second group of advisors an average increase of 24%,
  • For the third group an average of 24%,
  • For the fourth group of advisors an average of 46%,
  • For the fifth group an average of 25%,
  • For the sixth group an average increase of 14%,
  • And for the seventh group 30%. 
  • The average participant showed an increase in productivity of 24%, which was contrasted with a 10% increase in sales earned by the other advisors in each market group. 
  • In addition, the stress levels of the 87 participants who completed the training decreased by 23% over the length of the project,
  • Their reported positive emotional states increased 20% over the duration of the project.
  • Quality of life, anger, and physical vitality measures also demonstrated statistically significant beginning to end positive change.

Forgiveness helps people to control their emotions so they can maintain good judgment. In this way, they do not waste precious energy trapped in anger and hurt over things they can do nothing about. Forgiveness acknowledges that we cannot change the past. When you feel as if you are stuck in some situation, it usually means that there is more forgiveness work to be done. When you don’t flow freely with life in the present moment, it usually means that you’re holding on to a past moment. It may be regret, sadness, hurt, fear, guilt, blame, anger, resentment, or sometimes even a desire for revenge. Each one of these states comes from a space of unforgiveness, a refusal to let go and come into the present moment. Only in the present moment can you uncover genius solutions and co-create your most brilliant future.

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
― Nelson Mandela

Power in the Present Moment

If you’re holding on to the past, you cannot be in the present. It’s only in this “now” moment that your thoughts and words are truly powerful. Energy is wasted when your current thoughts continue to create your future from the garbage of the past. When you blame another person, you give your own power away because you’re placing the responsibility for your feelings on someone else. People in your life may behave in ways that trigger uncomfortable responses in you. However, they didn’t get into your mind and create the buttons that have been pushed, and pushed. Taking responsibility for your own feelings and reactions is mastering your “ability to respond.” In other words, you learn to consciously choose rather than simply react.

“Maybe – you didn’t have so much control over your life as a kid. So, to avoid disappointment, you learned never to ask yourself what you truly wanted.”
― Emily Henry

5 Truths to Bring Perspective

Far too often we complicate our relationships and daily interactions with others. Here are a few simple reminders to keep your thinking straight today:

1. We are each responsible for all our experiences.

What we think about becomes the truth for us. We are each responsible for the best and the worst in our lives. We create the situations, and then we give our power away by blaming the other person for the frustration. No person, place, or thing has power over you. You are in charge of what you think and believe. No matter what the problem is, our experiences are just outer reflections of inner thoughts.

2. There is a purpose to everyone you meet.

Some people will test you, some will use you, some will teach you, and some will bring out the best in you. Learn to discern who is worthy of your time, energy, and effort, then proceed accordingly.

3. The point of power is always in the present moment.

All the events you have experienced in your life up until this moment have been created by the thoughts and beliefs you have held in the past. What is important in this now moment is what you are choosing to believe and say right now. These thoughts and words are creating your future. Your point of power is in the present moment and is forming the experience of tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and so on.

3. Forgiving others helps YOU.

Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.” It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever.” Forgiveness is the answer. It doesn’t mean you’re erasing the past, or forgetting what happened. It means you’re letting go of the resentment and pain, and instead choosing to learn from the incident and move forward in your life.

4. To release the past we must be willing to forgive.

We need to choose to release the past and forgive everyone – ourselves included. Even if you have no idea about how to do this, the very fact that you are willing to forgive begins the healing process. This affirmation sets us free: “I forgive you for not being the way I wanted you to be. I forgive you and I set you free.”

5. Repeated patterns show us our needs.

For every habit we have, for every experience we go through over and over, for every pattern we repeat, there is a need within us for it. The need corresponds to some belief we have. If there wasn’t a need, we wouldn’t have it, do it, or be it. There is something within us that needs the fat, the poor relationships, the failures, the cigarettes, the anger, the poverty, the abuse, or whatever is a problem for us. How many times have we said, “I won’t ever do that again!?” Then, before the day is up, we have the piece of chocolate, smoke the cigarettes, say spiteful things to the ones we love, and so on. Then we compound the whole problem by berating ourselves, “You have no willpower, no discipline. You’re so weak.” This only adds to the load of guilt we already carry.

“When you begin to see that your enemy is suffering, that is the beginning of insight.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

Forgiveness vs. Acceptance

We tend to make things harder than they have to be. We get it: forgiveness can be tough. People behave badly, but if we hold onto anger, it doesn’t help us. It doesn’t help the other person, either. Choose to forgive everything and everyone, because there is no reason not to forgive. Holding on to resentment or running away from it all is not a solution. Stop running! Face the issues, fix the problems, communicate, appreciate, forgive and LOVE the people in your life who deserve it. And of course, if you feel like someone is playing games with you, stand up for yourself and establish some boundaries.

Forgiveness is a tricky and confusing concept for many people. There is a difference between forgiveness and acceptance. Forgiving someone does not mean that you condone their behaviour. The act of forgiveness takes place in your own mind. It has nothing to do with the other person. The reality of true forgiveness lies in setting yourself free from the pain. It’s simply an act of releasing yourself from the negative energy that you’ve chosen to hold on to. Forgiveness does not mean you allow the painful behaviours or actions of another to continue in your life. Sometimes forgiveness means letting go: You forgive that person and then you release them. Taking a stand and setting healthy boundaries is often the most loving thing you can do – not only for yourself, but for the other person as well.

“Forgiveness means saying that you’re not going to let what happened

to you define you any longer.”

― Heidi Priebe

Conscious Leadership Strength

No matter what your reasons are for having bitter, unforgiving feelings, you can move beyond them. You have the power of choice. You can choose to stay stuck in resentment, or you can do yourself a favour by willingly forgiving what happened in the past; letting it go; and then moving on to create a joyous, fulfilling life. You have the freedom to make your life anything you want it to be because you have power of choice.

Forgiveness isn’t usually associated with the image of a strong business leader. In fact, it’s far more likely for a business leader to be glorified for an almost assassin-like cold-heartedness. We seem to believe in the toughness of leaders, in their ability to make hard decisions even when some people will suffer because of that decision. Our evolution as a world culture has brought us to a place where our businesses must be nimble, adaptable, and constantly innovative. And one thing you have to give to people striving to innovate is permission to fail.

“Simply touching a difficult memory with some slight willingness to heal begins to soften the holding and tension around it.”
― Stephen Levine

Innovation’s Best Kept Secret

A nimble organisation requires an environment where suggesting something new – even if it is not fully tested, even if it is just an idea – is not only “somewhat allowed,” but is actively praised and rewarded. You need a workforce that is empowered to bring forward their innovative urges, to explore what can be achieved with new approaches to old problems.

Every act of non-forgiveness has the clear potential to create fear in your remaining employees. Does this “motivate” them to do better, work harder, make sure they’re on their game? Or does it create a climate of fear, of only doing what you know will be approved, and never sticking your neck out to suggest different ideas? The truth is, it does both. This means that the non-forgiving boss is always partially creating an environment that suppresses innovation. While the boss who can accurately and wisely know when to forgive avoids scaring off innovative employees.

“Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.”
― John F. Kennedy

The Trust Economy

Today’s organisations cannot survive without people who yearn to take risks. Knowing that your leader understands the shakiness of new ideas, and will forgive unsuccessful but earnest attempts at innovation, means you become risk-confident, rather than risk-averse. In this way, forgiveness moves beyond being thought of as a “soft” human emotion to a powerful tool that the 21st century conscious leader can use to attract and guide innovative employees in the worldwide gig economy.

Conscious leadership requires a great deal of compassion. We must remember that our team members are human and that it takes time to adapt to change, which means that they may make some mistakes and perhaps even say or do things that upset us. This is why it’s important to know how to forgive past wrongdoings in an effort to create a brighter future for the entire organisation.

“Life is an adventure in forgiveness”
― Norman Cousins

3 Benefits of The Forgiveness Culture

One unique element that is often overlooked in the literature and in organisational settings is the importance of forgiveness in the workplace of today. Almost two decades ago, management scholars stated: “Humans working together have endless opportunities to offend or harm others, intentionally or unintentionally. An organisation is a melee of relationships alternating between firm and sound, unconnected, sordid, broken and angry, and changing. The quality of healing broken and changing relationships should profoundly influence how well an organisation functions, as well as the nature of work life within organisations.”

In order to have a more forgiving work environment, individual people need to become more forgiving. Most people don’t realise that forgiveness has a range of benefits within the workplace as well as in our lives more generally. Since Dr. Luskin’s pioneering work, dozens of studies have found positive connections between forgiveness and physical and mental health, job performance and productivity, and organisational issues.

Physical and Mental Health

Studies have shown that more forgiving people tend to have better physical health, decreased blood pressure, fewer physician visits, lower stress, better healing from pain and illness, increased personal happiness, reduced anxiety and depression, and increased compassion.

Job Performance and Productivity

Research has discovered connections in various settings between forgiveness and productivity after downsizing, higher morale, and satisfaction, willingness to cooperate, and greater social capital, trust, and caring relationships. When team members are bitter or hold grudges and resentment, job performance has been shown to decrease.

Organisational Issues

Studies have also shown that unforgiving environments tend to perpetuate more disagreements, hurtful rumours, inaccurate performance appraisals, ethical and legal issues, unjust employment decisions, lack of support for initiatives, acts of retaliation, and toxic workplace behaviours, such as bullying, anger, and resentment.

“Forgiveness takes intelligence, discipline, imagination, and persistence, as well as a special psychological strength, something athletes call mental toughness and warriors call courage.”
― Edward M. Hallowell

5 Research-Based Forgiveness Recommendations

It appears that forgiveness has the same cognitive and emotional benefits in a variety of settings – including the workplace. Forgiveness is important for all relationships, and in all domains, environments, and communities. The bottom line is that unforgiving individuals and unforgiving organisational cultures typically lead to lower levels of performance. Organisations simply cannot thrive in the long term unless they promote a culture of forgiveness.

1. Forgiveness Programs 

Forgiveness must be discussed in seminars and workshops that are focused on values, character, workplace ethics, management, and leadership development. We know that less successful employees vent their frustration, often blaming circumstances for poor performance. Poorer performers also tend to gloss over their mistakes and setbacks, placing them in a context that reduces their pain. Choose to have those hard conversations in the training room, and demonstrate the behaviours that are acceptable in your organisation.

2. Journaling

Journaling has been hugely successful in conflict management, conflict resolution, and interpersonal communication interventions. People who express their thoughts and feelings through writing seem to be able to process situations more accurately and objectively because they slow down to articulate their feelings thoughtfully.

3. Communication Programs

When employees improve their interpersonal communication skills (listening, giving, and receiving feedback), they seek a deeper understanding of conflict, differences, and diversity. Self-awareness always comes first so, as employees increase their understanding of self and others, they are more likely to forgive.

4. Unconscious Bias Workshops

High-quality, well-designed unconscious bias workshops can provide a foundation for a greater understanding of how we have all kinds of biases that we are most likely not even aware of. This kind of self-knowledge can bring more curiosity to the workplace (rather than judgment), and it can empower employees to be more open and vulnerable in terms of their own and others’ actions.

5. Corporate Social Responsibility

When people broaden their worldview and think beyond themselves, they tend to be more kind, thoughtful, and forgiving. Organisations that focus on corporate social responsibility tend to encourage cultures of care, collaboration, and community engagement – which naturally invites patience and forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is the one gift you don’t give to others. Rather, it is the gift you give yourself,

so you can finally be free.”

― Shannon Alder

The Power of Ho’oponopono

The Ho’oponopono prayer is a method of forgiveness that clears the blockages in your thoughts and cell structures. It cleanses and releases us from thoughts, beliefs, and emotions that separate us from all that is. Ho’oponopono comes from ancient Hawaiian teachings called the “Huna”. The “Hu” translates to “knowledge” and “na” to “wisdom”. The overall teaching is that we create everything in our world, which means we have the power to heal it. When we get disconnected from our divinity, we believe in all the things that are not love, like fear, guilt, blame, judgement and shame. When this happens, we disrupt our own energy flow and begin to manifest unwanted things in our lives.

Ho’oponopono corrects this energy disruption and returns you back to wholeness, unity and harmony. Ho’o means “to make” and pono means “right”, so ho’oponopono translates into “to make rightly right.” True forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. Instead, by first acknowledging the wrongdoing, ho’oponopono allows all parties to sit with and hold space for these feelings. First, we acknowledge that the problem exists. Then, when we are ready, we make the conscious choice to move on. True forgiveness, moreover, requires both attention and intention. When done correctly, it is one of the most freeing sensations there is – like an invisible weight has been lifted.

The ho’oponopono prayer goes like this:

“I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”

That’s it. It’s incredibly touching, especially given how simple and universal these words are. With regular practice, this simple prayer helps develop self-love and self-worth at the times when we need it most. In this way, it’s both a lullaby to the self and an insightful way to approach forgiving other people. 

1. I am sorry

I have perceived suffering (in myself or others) and I am sorry for that. I deeply apologise for the role my consciousness has played in mine or another’s suffering. This is where you take 100% responsibility for suffering, either your own or someone else’s.

2. Please forgive me

Please forgive me for having created, consciously or unconsciously, chaos for you and/or myself. Please forgive me for forgetting our/my divinity, true nature, and connectedness. Please forgive me for holding judgement against you/against myself/the situation.

3. I love you

I love you. I love myself. I love my body. I love the awareness you have brought. I love the pain that has come to bring me back to love. I love life. I love myself and you unconditionally, despite our human weaknesses and faults.

4. Thank you

Thank you for my forgiveness. Thank you for the rebalancing that is on its way. Thank you for clearing this for me. I realise I am now freed energetically from the chains of my past. My being is filled with appreciation and gratitude for all that is. Repeat these phrases until you feel peace and love wash over you. You may want to repeat it daily on a certain subject if it’s really ingrained. Each time you perform this prayer, you are healing your energy and raising your vibration.

“The forgiving state of mind is a magnetic power for attracting good.”
― Catherine Ponder

The Answer to Almost Everything

Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, when we approach it from ways that we can learn. Forgiveness is the answer to almost everything. Forgiveness can help heal the pain of disappointment. Forgiveness drops the load and releases you into freedom.  Forgiveness models empathy and acceptance. Forgiveness is an affirming choice that allows you to reclaim your dignity. Forgiveness reaffirms that you have dominion over your state of mind. Forgiveness signals that there is hope for reconciliation. We are in the beginning of a [r]evolution that started in late 2019 and promises to continue until 2024. We can’t simply wish for a better world, we must do the work to build the foundation for peace, love, abundance, justice, and equity. We are being called to do the inner and outer work of dismantling old structures, destroying outdated beliefs, and demolishing the institutions and systems that no longer reflect our evolved understanding of the inherent value and beauty of all life.

Hand in hand with dismantling comes the work of restructuring and rebuilding.  It’s time to harness the power of our creativity, inspiration and vision to raise the collective frequency and build something brand new – a world that is a better representation of the heart of Who We Truly Are. In this way, we are rewriting the stories we tell about ourselves. This means we must peer into the places where we are limiting ourselves and what is possible by holding on to old stories, traumas, un-forgiveness, and erroneous beliefs. This darkness is only keeping us from fulfilling our personal and collective potential and purpose. 

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou

The Greatest Story Ever Told

It’s time to take great leaps of faith, to believe in ourselves and each other. We are learning to clear out the old progamming that has clouded our vision. We are releasing old beliefs and seeing the truth behind the stories and myths we have embraced our entire lives, as a part of our old identities and as aspects of our cultural mythology. We are remembering our personal value, and the memory of the preciousness of who we truly are is helping us see the value in those around us. We are not returning to the old ways. We are not who we used to be. 

Story-telling might not seem like much of an “activist” stand to take when it feels like the world is falling apart. Your power to tell stories is actually the most radical and active thing you can do to change the world. Your personal story matters and it is a vital component to changing the world we live in. On the surface, it might seem that we can change the current reality, but if we begin to tell a different story and join our empowered stories together with others, we start to weave a template for a different reality. We program our brains and minds to see new ways of creating. We focus our awareness and see the elegant solutions needed. We use the sensual nature of our creative essence and take the time to step out of the probable to manifest the improbable – miracles – that promise to shift the world we live in. You are worthy of a story that calls you forward. Here’s to you being the author of your own life.

“There is only one perpetrator of evil on the planet: human unconsciousness. That realization is true forgiveness. With forgiveness, your victim identity dissolves, and your true power emerges–the power of Presence. Instead of blaming the darkness, you bring in the light.”
― Eckhart Tolle

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