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3 Steps to Forgiveness

by Beth on October 14th, 2010

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.” ~ Buddha

Forgiveness is associated with more happiness and hope, better health, increased self-esteem, and less anxiety and depression.  It is especially important at work because anger, disappointment, and resentment are all barriers to effective collaboration.  In positive work environments people are encouraged to forgive one another because forgiveness strengthens relationships and enhances team performance.  It also fosters innovation and risk taking.  People will only feel comfortable trying new things in a culture where mistakes are forgiven.

As important as forgiveness is, we all know it isn’t that easy to forgive someone who has hurt you.  Here are three steps that might help when you are trying to forgive:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings of bitterness or betrayal.  These are real feelings that can only be overcome if they are openly recognized.
  2. Try to understand why the person did what he or she did.  Having empathy makes it easier to forgive.  Considering the action or decision from the offender’s point of view could help you appreciate the influences that might have led them to act the way they did.
  3. Abandon your resentment.  This requires making a conscious choice to move forward and focus on a positive future rather than dwelling on the negative event from the past.

Yes, I know, it is easier said than done.  But why not give it a try?  There really is nothing to lose and so much to gain.  As a manager, you can foster a climate of forgiveness by helping employees who feel they have been wronged by a colleague follow these steps.  Everyone will benefit if you do.

If you’d like further guidance on learning to forgive, Dr. Eileen Borris-Dunchunstang describes a 7-step program for letting go of anger and bitterness in her book Finding Forgiveness.

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