The Ability to Forgive is a Mark of Great Leadership


Great leaders recognize that one of the best things that people can do for their own benefit and peace of mind is to forgive themselves and others. By forgiving people that hold you back, that have hurt you in some way, and forgiving yourself for the people whom you have hurt, you free yourself from the toxic thoughts and feelings that steal your energy, enthusiasm and confidence. In essence, it steals your leadership.

Many people have difficulty forgiving others (or themselves) because they believe that, by forgiving, they are condoning a particular act or behavior. The forgiveness I am talking about involves letting go of judgment and blame and moving forward. The concepts of “wrong” or “right” fade as we recognize that whatever we are forgiving is holding us back in some way.

At first glance, forgiving someone else sometimes seems like an impossible task. After all, when you believe that the other person did something wrong, didn’t show you respect, hurt you, or did something that seemed to go against something you value, your first reaction (if you’re like most people in the world!), is to be hurt, upset, angry, and resentful. You blame them, and perhaps crave revenge.

Think of a situation in your life, current or past, where someone did something for which you haven’t forgiven them. How does it make you feel? Sit with those feelings for a moment, and then read on.

Most likely, you didn’t feel love, peace, and calm. That’s because holding onto anger and resentment hurts you much more than it can possibly hurt the other person. If you lash out at the offender, it may “feel good” temporarily, but the toxic energy stays, eating away at you, hurting you physically, and keeping you from having or doing the things you really want.

LeadershipOne of my favorite forgiveness quotes is “holding onto anger is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” By not forgiving, you are hurting only yourself. If your energy is spent in blame and anger, it can’t be spent in constructive ways.

How can you release those feelings of blame and anger?

  1. Recognize that you can take responsibility for what you are feeling and thinking and acknowledge that you can make a different choice – for you.
  2. Realize that in order for you to win, someone else doesn’t have to lose. Acknowledge that the other person was, most likely, doing the best that they could do under the specific circumstances that he or she was in.
  3. Finally, realize the opportunity in whatever happened. Change your perspective. Think of forgiving in a different way, and thank the other person for giving you an experience that helped you grow.

You have within you the ability to be a great leader but blame, anger and resentment will keep it buried so deep no one will see it. Release these negative emotions, by forgiving, and you’ll have the energy and the focus to accomplish your greatest goals.