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Creating Successful Leaders

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” -Mark Twain

A recipe for bitterness, cynicism and discontent is the inability to forgive.

We must forgive. It is crucial for leading a fulfilling life. And while most of us are able to forgive others, we often have the most trouble with forgiving ourselves. This week, I want to touch on both, and talk about how and why forgiveness in all its forms is a necessary element for powerful living.

We often confuse forgiveness with pretending the offending person didn’t hurt us, or think that it means we must shove away our pain and anger into a small corner of our psyche. However, neither of these describe true forgiveness. Psychologist Clarann Goldring states that forgiveness is “letting go of the need to fix the wrong and/or get even with the person.”

You see, forgiveness is for us. You could look at it as a healthy selfishness. Goldring points out that your personal baggage “doesn’t hurt the person you’re mad at in the least. The heavy burden falls on you, often for years.” Is this a good way to live?

Again, we shouldn’t condone the actions of the person that wronged us. But notice the word “wronged” is in the past tense. It already happened, and nothing can change that. So you can choose to move on, or you can continue to let past actions poison your present life.

Yet many of us struggle far more with forgiving ourselves. Like forgiving others, the first step is accepting the reality that wrongs were committed, in this case by you. But from there, forgiving oneself is a way of getting on with life, free from burden. An article in Psychology Today on the matter states that forgiving oneself “accompanies a resolution to change one’s behavior and act differently in the future.” In other words, when we forgive ourselves, we feel more motivated to get the things done that we want to do, free from the mistakes we’ve made in the past.

For instance, we tend to procrastinate less when not bogged down in feelings of guilt and regret. Procrastination acts as a downward spiral of guilt, shame and self-fulfilling prophesy. But when we forgive ourselves for avoiding an important task early on, we reduce the emotional stress associated with procrastination, which makes us “less likely to avoid the stimulus associated with the feelings in the first place.”

It’s easy to avoid the act of forgiving. We often feel justified when we hold onto wrongdoings of the past. “I was wronged! I’m right to be angry!” we stubbornly shout. And perhaps this is true. Yet what does it change to stay angry? All it does is perpetuate the negativity that occurred in the past. The greatest part of forgiveness is the empowerment it equips you with. You may have been wronged, or you may have wronged someone else, yet you also have the power to release yourself from the “already happened.” Don’t get stuck in the past. You have too many great things to build in the “right now” that are going to demand your full focus.



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