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Forgiveness Sets You Free

by Beth on June 9th, 2010

Forgiveness is a key strategy for increasing happiness.  It helps you transform the impact of a hurtful event so that you are not overwhelmed by negative emotions.  People who are able to forgive spend less time dwelling on the harm that was done to them, which frees them from the negativity associated with those memories.  Positive emotions are no longer crowded out and they are able to move forward.

Yet for many people forgiveness is the most difficult positivity-enhancing strategy to carry out.  One reason for this is that they equate forgiveness with excusing the behavior that caused them harm.  Forgiveness does not mean condoning what was done.  It means letting go of resentment.  You can forgive a person without excusing the act.

When forgiving someone you can start by acknowledging your feelings of bitterness or betrayal, then make a conscious decision to let go of the anger and live in the present.  Having empathy makes it easier to forgive.  Forgiveness involves trying to understand why the person did what they did.  For more specific guidance on learning to forgive check out Dr. Eileen Borris-Dunchunstang’s book Finding Forgiveness.  In it she describes a 7-step program for letting go of anger and bitterness.

Not only is forgiveness important for your own happiness, it also positively impacts work outcomes.  A culture of forgiveness at work where employees support each other and don’t look for fault when mistakes are made leads to higher levels of team performance.  Leaders can help to create this kind of culture by modeling forgiveness.  When something harmful occurs in the workplace they should acknowledge the harm that was done, but then focus on the future rather than dwell on the negative.

How good are you at forgiving?  Are you holding onto something negative from your past that prevents you from enjoying good things in the present?  As a leader, do you create a positive culture by modeling forgiveness?  Why not pick one thing today that you can start trying to let go of?

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.  Forgiveness brings you peace.  It might be hard to do, but it works!

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