Recently I presented a webinar on Forgiveness to a large company, in conjunction with the company’s employee personal and family outreach program. The online format provided a much more personal and insightful interaction on the subject than a physical workshop. In fact, I found the attendees to be more forthcoming about their personal situations since their engagement was anonymous. This virtual approach provided the attendees a vehicle to share their personal situations in a safe environment that resulted in fulfilling interactions and resolutions.
Professionally I support individuals and families who have suffered a loss personally or as a family (death, illness, divorce, financial, independence, family caregivers). These losses conjure up an enormous amount of emotions resulting in anxiety, uncertainty and blame. Over time, most individuals eventually find balance and realign their priorities; however, during the process they are not immune to interacting with others. During those interactions comments are made and opinions are formed – which result in hurt, misunderstanding and awkward dealings. Most of the time both parties are unaware of the ensuing pain or doubt.
What does this have to do with forgiveness? A lot. How can we forgive if we are not aware we have hurt someone? During my webinar, an attendee shared that her father had recently taken his own life, a situation that led to her alienation at work. She felt that her co-workers were judging her rather than showing empathy for her tragic loss. By breaking her silence on the webinar, she benefited from other attendees sharing their impartial, honest interpretation of the silence she experienced. They shared that her co-workers were probably at a loss for what to say rather than judging her circumstances. That introspection allowed this attendee to forgive her co-workers as she realized that their actions were not malicious.
Forgiveness can occur if both parties can understand the transgression and voluntarily change their feelings and attitude towards each other. Here are some basic steps:
- Recognize there is a reason to forgive and forget.
- Look in the mirror and acknowledge you are 50 percent of the equation. Whether you are asking for forgiveness because of personal behavior or you need someone to apologize to you.
- Realize that forgiveness has great health benefits resulting in less stress, healthier relationships and lower anxiety.
- Forgiving individuals are happier, calmer and more empathetic as they feel less guilt, fault or responsibility.
What holds us back from apologizing or forgiving?
- The need to be right, often the result of stubbornness.
- Unawareness that we have hurt someone.
- The process is difficult, emotional and time-consuming.
- The offense is real, resulting in a change of the relationship going forward.
- The belief that avoiding the situation will result in it going away.
It’s time to re-connect:
- Take charge by addressing the situation – stop replaying the circumstances in your head over and over again.
- It’ s never too late to reconnect – reach out.
- Share your thoughts however listen with your heart not just your ears.
- Agree to disagree, if necessary.
- Manage by facts not assumptions.
- Live in the future and not the past.
Individuals react to loss differently. Your way may not be the best way — or better stated, not everyone has the same bandwidth, coping skills or support systems. Be aware that when you are faced with an emotional situation, your tolerance and logic have been compromised; therefore, have faith that you are doing the best that you can under the circumstances and remember that people naturally operate without intentional malice. Evaluate your situation with optimism and manage by fact, mustering up genuine compassion for those who may unintentionally hurt you.
Rachel Kodanaz is an author, speaker and consultant who provides encouragement to those who are suffering a loss or setback. She is the author of Living with Loss, One Day at a Time, available at www.rachelkodanaz.com or www.amazon.com.