Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as “to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt”.
Forgiveness is important for a number of reasons. Four that came to mind are:
- We’re not powerful enough to right the wrongs done to us;
- We may have mistaken the offense;
- We are not innocent;
- We’re at our best when we choose the uncommon reaction.
It’s our nature to want to right a wrong, especially one done to us. But the reality is we’re not powerful enough to make the world line up with our opinion of how it should work. We’re not powerful enough to right every wrong done to us. Some people are professional at being wronged, very good at being the victim. They’re constantly trying to get others to recognize how they were wronged. It’s a lot of work trying to manage all of that balance. The cycle of an eye-for-an-eye ends up creating universal blindness.
The second reason is we may have mistaken the offense. I have a friend who tends to assume other’s motives based on body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. I’m not that good. I can’t be right about what you might have meant by what you said or what you did. I might choose to hold a grudge against you and you really didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t intend to cut me off in traffic. Maybe you didn’t even see me. When I hold a grudge I carry something for the rest of my life. Who bears that burden?
The third reason to forgive is because I’ve wronged others. I’ve been forgiven. Forgiveness doesn’t remove consequences. It exists within the consequences; through them. The people who have forgiven me challenge me to be the kind of person who forgives others. I don’t want to seek forgiveness. I want to be a source of it.
The fourth reason to forgive is because it’s not natural. I’m a student of leadership. I enjoy writing and reading material on leadership. More than that I enjoy witnessing acts of leadership. Leaders initiate. Leaders make the first move. Leaders choose their response to circumstances. Forgiveness is a choice.
When we sacrifice our choice and follow our instincts, we’re just one of the crowd. Forgiveness isn’t natural. It requires courage. It is a conscious decision to choose an uncommon reaction. Forgiveness, like many of the character traits we promote here in Owasso, is a leadership trait. Leaders choose the path that’s not natural but the one that creates the greatest outcome. Whenever we freely respond to a wrong by demonstrating the character trait of forgiveness, we bring value and life to our community. We make our world better. We choose to lead when we could choose instead to go-with-the-flow. The natural response makes us a victim the rest of our lives; the unnatural response makes us a leader. Every time we demonstrate the leadership and courage to bring character to a situation we give something to someone else and we add life to ourselves, to others and even to our community. Imagine living in a city where no-one forgave. That would be an empty, selfish community.
The degree to which we can forgive is the degree of freedom we experience over our circumstances. We can’t control our circumstances but we can control our response to them. We always have a choice. Forgiveness shows we understand there is more at stake than simply me and my little world. Forgiveness makes me a contributor to a greater good. All of the character traits do that too. Forgiveness may just be one of the most difficult to demonstrate.
I’m confident we’ve each been both wronged and forgiven. The question is, will we forgive? Who comes to mind that you know that you need to forgive? Do you have the courage to do that, even if the other person doesn’t know or doesn’t do anything to merit that forgiveness? What choice will we make when the idea to forgive someone comes to mind? Think about it.