forgiveness quintessential leader

Of all the things that we humans are called upon to do, it is my opinion that real, genuine, authentic forgiveness is one of the most difficult. Humans, by nature, get a certain perverse enjoyment out of nursing grudges against others, holding on to wrongs done to them, and feeding what they believe is eternal and justifiable anger toward other people.

It doesn’t make any sense logically, objectively, or rationally because, in the end, unforgiveness causes a lot of self-inflicted pain that can sometimes last for the rest of a person’s life.

Because here’s the irony of being unforgiving.

No one suffers but the person who can’t or won’t forgive. The people who wronged the unforgiving go on with their lives, unaware of, perhaps, or, more likely, uncaring about the effect their behaviors.

For the unforgiving, the people who wronged them have absolute power and control over their lives: every waking moment is handed over to them, holding the unforgiving hostage, sometimes for a lifetime.

Being unforgiving is a form of quitting and giving up on life, because being unforgiving prevents progress, change, forward motion, and success.

It’s impossible, however, for the unforgiving to see that they are stuck and that the box they’ve voluntarily put themselves in shrinks by the day until it eventually suffocates them, extinguishing any light and any life.

The other irony about the unforgiving is that while they can’t or won’t forgive the wrongs that others have done to them, the unforgiving demand and insist that others let the wrongs, mistakes, and missteps they do slide with no repercussions. In other words, the unforgiving expect much, much more of other people than they are ever willing or able to give themselves.

In the model that Jesus Christ gave in Matthew 6 regarding areas of life we should pray about daily, one of those areas is forgiveness. He clearly states that we can’t expect forgiveness if we’re not willing to forgive. Twelve chapters later, He vividly illustrates what this looks like.

And although there are times in life where quintessential leaders struggle and wrestle with and through the process of forgiveness, there are three important differences between quintessential leaders and the unforgiving with regard to forgiveness.

motivation to forgive quintessential leaderThe first difference is motivation. While the unforgiving don’t want to or can’t forgive (in other words, forgiving is not an option), quintessential leaders do want to forgive the people who have wronged them. They recognize that this is their responsibility and something for which they have personal accountability.

taking action to forgive quintessential leaderThe second difference is proactively doing the work required to forgive.  Quintessential leaders are actively engaged in making that process – and it is a process, especially when the hurt and the wrongs are very personal, very wrong, and very injurious – a reality.

The third difference is mindset and character. Being unforgiving mindset and character to forgive quintessential leaderis not the norm for quintessential leaders. In most cases, forgiveness is an almost-immediate process that is both acknowledged and accomplished. 

It’s important to remember, however, what forgiveness is not, because this is where it seems that people get hung up sometimes in the desire to forgive and the process of forgiving.

Forgiveness does not erase the wrong done. Wrong is wrong and that doesn’t change. However, forgiveness erases the reactions of hurt, anger, and the desire to get revenge that are our natural responses to wrongdoing. Essentially, forgiveness puts the responsibility on the wrongdoer to acknowledge the wrong and to change it.

Forgiveness does not give license to wrongdoing. It’s not a carte blanche check to the wrongdoer saying that they can continue wronging people with no consequences.

And this dovetails into the third thing that forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. We are responsible for forgiving those who wrong us, but we are not required to continue in any kind of relationship with them when their behavior doesn’t change.

We are free to walk away and never look back if there is no acknowledgment of wrongdoing and no commitment to correct that from the person we’ve forgiven. In fact, that’s the most prudent thing (and the kindest thing we can do for ourselves emotionally) we can do in cases where there is no recognition of wrongdoing and no desire or commitment to correct that.

Now that we know what forgiveness is not, then the next thing we need to know is forgiveness is, what it looks like, what the tangible components in the process are.

The first component is not to dismiss, excuse, or minimize a wrong that has been done to us. Instead, we need to completely acknowledge and admit that we were wronged and recognize and admit what all of our emotions and reactions to that wrong are.

The next component is to put ourselves in the shoes of the person who wronged us. The easiest way to do this is to think about all the times when we’ve wronged someone or God and they or He have forgiven us. This puts us in the same boat as the person who wronged us and shows us what our responsibility toward them is because of what we received (sometimes never knowing it).

The third component is that we commit to the process of forgiveness by communicating our resolution to forgive the person who wronged us to someone we trust. That action of telling someone else that we are going to forgive someone produces accountability and we know that the person we’ve told will hold us accountable for doing what we’ve committed ourselves to doing.

The last component is that once we’ve forgiven someone who has wronged us, we never forget that we’ve forgiven them for that wrong. I think this may be the hardest part of the process of forgiveness.

Emotions can be a funny thing, cropping up years and years after the original wrong and our forgiveness, often triggered by a similar situation with a different person.

Because of the sense of familiarity between a past event and the current event, the mind will automatically dredge up the all the old wrongs that seem similar – because the new wrong by a different person produces the same emotions and reactions – and, if we don’t remind ourselves that we forgave those and hold on to that reminder, the next thing we know, we’re reliving the hurt, the pain, the anger of all the old stuff all over again as if just happened to us now.

It can be done, but it’s a hard, hard thing to back out of that place if we allow ourselves to go there. It only harms us and sets us back to, in a sense, unforgive what we’ve forgiven.

Quintessential leaders grasp these components of the process of forgiveness. Like everyone else who breathes for a living, we don’t always execute them perfectly all the time, but that’s our intent and that’s what we strive to do.

And when we realize we’re not getting it right, we immediately work to fix it instead of allowing ourselves to linger in getting it wrong, increasing the chance that we’ll get stuck and mired down in what we don’t want to do and what is not who we are. 

So the final question that we’re left with – you and me – about forgiveness is how are we doing?

  1. […] Grudges are things that we believe have been done to us by other people to harm us and hurt us. The attitude and mindset of grudges is that we hold these real or perceived wrongs against those people for as long as we live and we refuse to forgive them.  […]


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