“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die”- Marianne Williamson
Have you ever been upset with someone?
You simply cannot believe they did what they did?
You spent time thinking about what was done…and how unthinkable the atrocity they’ve committed is?
There is simply no way you can forgive them for this… they can’t expect forgiveness for this? You ponder…
You just can’t wait to give them a piece of your mind… what you do not realize is, you have given them your whole mind. You ponder, reflect, react…unforgiveness consumes. Is it really worth it?
There are many factors that shape who we are becoming and the outcomes we have, one powerful one is forgiveness. It is a powerful attribute that cannot be underestimated.
Personally, I realize that grudge leaves your mind pre-occupied with something trivial, leaving no room to focus on more substantial desires that may positively impact the future.
In a review article published in Explore, a Journal of Science and Healing by Worthington and colleagues in 2005, the researcher highlighted the importance of forgiveness, drawing a correlation between forgiveness and physical or mental health.
I remember growing up with 3 siblings, there was never a shortage of things to be upset about. Most of the situations that led to arguments were mere misconceptions. However, these led to prolonged disagreements all the same.
My mom would always encourage us to forgive quickly. Her favorite saying back then was “no matter how complex it is, ask yourself, if you were in the other person’s shoes would you appreciate if they extended forgiveness to you? That has been my mantra, “treat people exactly the way you want to be treated.”
Control What You Allow Your Mind To Focus On
You can’t stop offense from coming but you can prevent it from taking root in your heart
It is just the same way you can’t prevent a bird from flying over your head but you can stop it from making a nest in your hair.
I picture offense as someone walking up to you and handling you a cup of poison, it is up to you to decide if you will accept it and toss the poison away, not accept it at all or accept and drink it.
In the same way, words that are spoken to us could be annoying/disturbing. There may be tendencies for offence to rise from some conversations. How can you handle offense so that it does not derail your dreams?
One thing I practice sometimes that help me with this is being intentional on what I allow my mind to ponder on. When people say things to me sometimes that may be processed in my mind as offensive, I quickly dismiss it and do not allow it to take root at all.
I realize that it is no point spending time on situations I do not understand nor have control over. I know I have power to control the effect those words have over me by managing what my mind ponders on. The choice is completely ours but that’s not the only choice we can make, forgiving people is also a choice.
Forgiving Anyone Is A Choice
I remember the story of Sarah (not her real name) she is founded her company to tackle a problem that affected someone she cared deeply about. After working hard for over a year, and gaining some traction, she decided to look for funding to take things to a new level. After frustrating experiences trying to get meetings with investors, she decided to do things differently. She started looking for opportunities to learn how best to approach raising capital for her business.
One day she saw a post in one entrepreneurial newsletter she subscribed to. An investor was trying to raise funds for his favorite charity. To reach his charity fundraising goals he offered to review pitch decks and provide feedback for a fee of $250 dollars. Sarah jumped at the opportunity to attend a session with this investor and registered for it.
The session with the investor turned out to be completely different from what Sarah expected. She showed up for the meeting expecting to get a constructive feedback on her work, however, nothing prepared her for what she was to encounter.
Everything went as planned on the day Sarah decided to visit the investor for this session, she met another female founder at the lobby waiting to see the same person. The investor decided to see the two of them at the same time. She listened as the investor worked with the other founder. When he was done, he moved over to her to review her deck. She briefly worked him through her deck explaining what she was trying to do. The investor asked her to provide the big picture, describing where she was going with her work. Sarah who had attended several events for female founders where they are encouraged not to hold back and learn to speak boldly about their work, described in details the future she envisaged.
The first words the investor spoke after Sarah finished speaking was “Who do you think you are?”
The question caught Sarah off guard, yet she politely explained that they have divided their goals into 4 phases and the first phase has taken off well.
A paid office hour where Sarah was eager to receive a feedback ended up as a demoralizing experience. Her attempts to highlight the traction of over 40,000 users and how the product is resonating with users did not stop the investor intense conversation with her. However, it appeared to her that this investor was really upset about something. He was quite condescending in his tone and hash with his words.
She left the office wondering what made her sign up for this session, paying a whopping $250 for a 30 minute session. As she sat on the train that evening heading home, she had to admit to herself that she was hurt. She was deeply hurt and she knew she had to do something about it.
She decided to believe the best of the investor, she decided to believe he was just having a bad day and that carried over to his conversation that evening. She played around with the perspectives she is considering a bit until she found an angle that resonates with her. She said taking that perspective made it easy for her to let go of the hurt. She reasoned that this is someone she might never meet again but for her own emotional wellbeing she needed to take care of the hurt immediately.
A few weeks later, to build on the progress she was making she took out an ad in the investor’s newsletter for an event she was hosting. She was very intentional about dealing with that hurt and took steps in that direction. Different approaches will work for different people but the bottom-line is when offense comes as they sometime will, do everything within your power to tackle it. Choose the high road of forgiveness and love, not for them but for your own peace and success.
Sarah later learned on some female founder forum that the man had a reputation for being exceptionally hard on female founders, some even harbored resentment against him till today. However, she was able to easily move past the painful experience without holding any grudge or resentment towards the man because she chose to.
Her story captures the fact that offence comes and sometimes in unexpected places. The people who committed the offense sometime may not know that they had offended someone while the person offended may have their minds fully pre-occupied with the offense. Don’t let that be you…
There are opportunities for offence everywhere it is up to us to decide not to take offense.
The way I see offense is someone showing up at your door with a bowl full of scorpions, the choice to accept or refuse the bowl is yours. One thing I have learnt is that there are many times that people will do things that you do not understand. However, to shape your outcomes you need to keep your mind free from offense.
Taking the high road of love and forgiveness is a choice.
Not taking offense is a choice.
Allowing anger to grow and flourish is also a choice.
A choice we make by deciding on the words or actions we allow our minds to ponder on.
Pondering on grievances or words that came across in an offensive way will only lead to anger and frustration. However, choosing to deal with the situation immediately without giving place for strife to brew will bring peace to you.
Your frame of mind is important and should be jealously protected. It is important to be intentional about not to allowing offense to cloud your mind or your judgement.
You can create the future you desire but you have to be intentional about not allowing unforgiveness or strife to get in the way.
**Everett L. Worthington, Charlotte van Oyen Witvliet, Andrea J. Lerner, Michael Scherer,
Forgiveness in Health Research and Medical Practice, EXPLORE, Volume 1, Issue 3, 2005,
Pages 169-176, ISSN 1550-8307, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2005.02.012.
- Think about painful situations that you have held on to for many years
- Think and write down the future you are trying to create
- Is it worth it to sacrifice 2 above for 1?