Can’t Forgive? It Might be Holding You Back.
I went for a walk with my 14-year-old nephew yesterday and he was firing questions about starting a business at me. He is in love with computer programming and dreams of having a business that creates online games someday.
After talking logistics, online marketing, and finding your crowd for about a half hour he blurted out, “what can I do right now to get ready for having a business someday?”
“Improve the relationship you have with your mother,” I replied.
He looked at me quizzically and then gave it some thought. My nephew, diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder when he was 5, has a low threshold for frustration. Saying “no” to him can send him into a tizzy depending on what he is asking for. You can only imagine what it’s like to be his parent often having to say no to sugar treats, expensive electronics, late bedtimes, early wake up calls, etc. On good days the relationship between my sister and my nephew is turbulent.
My nephew has that impression that my sister is unfair, mean, and constantly picking on him. Because of this he is seldom at peace and is often distracted by what he can’t have rather than what he can have. The entrepreneur in me cringes at the wasted time.
This week, I want to continue talking about the fundamentals of achieving success by explaining how the relationships you have with others can sometimes hold you back – and what you can do about it. And, it’s not just the relationships you share with others that need your attention – the relationship you have with yourself – your perceived doubts, shortcomings and failures – is just as important.
The mark of a great leader is the ability to forgive, so let’s look at what forgiveness is and is not, and how to apply the concepts to your relationships. Get ready to release past grudges and negative attachments to reclaim your own power to build your future.
What Forgiveness Is
Forgiveness is a process of releasing the toxic energy that holds us back from feeling peaceful and confident. When we hold on to negativity, we diminish our capacity to move forward with life positively. Think about driving a car with the brakes applied – you’re not going to go anywhere fast!
Holding on to the toxic brew of shortcomings, disappointments, hurts, and pain slams on the brakes in our lives, halting us from meeting new opportunities for success and joy.
According to the infamous Oprah Winfrey, forgiveness is giving up hope that the past could be any different. Forgiveness is about release – letting go of past grudges, resentments, the need for revenge or getback, and the attachment to “what could have been” or “the way it should be”.
What Forgiveness Is NOT
When we’ve been hurt or feel upset over something, it’s easy to think of forgiveness as a copout or even, an acceptance of what happened. Instead, forgiveness frees you from the poisonous thoughts and feelings that sap your energy, enthusiasm, and confidence.
When we believe someone wronged us, didn’t show us respect, did something that went against our values, or otherwise hurt us, our first reaction is usually to blame the “offender”. We may even seek revenge.
What if you lash out at the other person, “getting them back” for what they did – how does that feel? Even though it might feel temporarily satisfying, the feeling fades over time, leaving you to sit with the lethal energy of unforgiveness. Or worse, you are left filled with regret that you acted in a way that is unlike you or the person you want to be.
Forgiveness is not about giving in. You don’t have to run up to the other person and give them a hug – you don’t even have to “like” them. Forgiveness allows you to reclaim the power you’ve been giving to a negative person or situation and apply it to your own life instead.
Reconciling Your Relationships
Reconciling your relationships is a key component of your growth. In order to move forward, it’s vital to end any feuds. Sometimes, this means ending a friendship once and for all.
You don’t have to tolerate bad behavior – it’s not just okay to speak up about what’s not working for you – it’s essential.
Sour relationships negatively impact every area of our lives, affecting health and wellbeing, our capacity to be our very best professionally, and even our self-perception. Deciding to end a relationship permanently can be a tough decision, but sometimes it’s the only way to create new beginnings and opportunities for growth.
As you work through the process of forgiveness, remember that you are not responsible for what someone else did or did not do. You can, however, take responsibility for what you’re feeling and how you react to a situation.
In order for you to “win”, the other person doesn’t have to lose. Whatever happened, try to shift your perspective. Instead of seeing yourself as the “victim”, look for the opportunities that the situation has presented you with.
These same principles apply to the relationship you have with yourself, too. When we harbor self doubt and refuse to forgive ourselves for a perceived wrong, how can we be respected leaders?
Whether you’re reconciling a relationship you share with another person or trying to repair the mental relationship you have with yourself, show compassion. Give yourself the time and space to heal, stop giving power to negativity, and allow yourself to be guided in the right direction.
Mentally give thanks for the growth opportunity you’ve been presented with, and release the circumstance to the past so you can boldly reclaim your power to shape your future.
If you’re interested in learning more about the impact forgiveness has on those in leadership roles, check out this Forbes article.