Teaching Forgiveness

With Mother’s Day just around the corner for those of us in the US, I’m thinking about an interesting topic that moms are pretty familiar with: forgiveness. It’s one of the many life lessons parents are supposed to teach us or help us learn, but not always an easy one to teach or to live. One of my earlier memories is one of needing forgiveness for having done something wrong, it really didn’t feel good to need forgiveness or to be caught doing something wrong.

It can be hard to teach forgiveness because it’s not always fun to forgive, nor is it always easy, especially if we’ve been hurt before or it just doesn’t seem to add up for us in our heads on why we should be forgiving them. It’s even hard to forgive when we know the other person doesn’t know what they did or didn’t do wrong intentionally, because we’re still hurt. It can take a lot of courage to take the time to really understand all of the situation, not just how hurt we are, and choose to forgive.

Teaching forgiveness, grace and understanding are all things that parents should to teach kids, and are lessons that we should use throughout our lives. We have to decide to forgive our coworker for standing us up at the big meeting, our neighbor for the damage caused to our property during a party, our kids for the car accident, the town for a lack of notice when they decided to tear up the street and turn off the water, or our significant other for forgetting our anniversary, and countless other little things that happen during our lives that hurt us.

What about you? Do you need forgiveness in your life or do you need to forgive someone? Life’s too short to let the hurts build up and cripple us. I encourage you to take steps this week towards forgiving someone, even if it’s just that first step of understanding what and why they did what they did.

The Work of Forgiving

Today I thought we’d talk about a topic that’s important for any kind of relationship, but especially for family and romantic relationships, and also often challenging.  It’s a topic that can cause many people serious heart palpations because they’ve got stuff in their proverbial closets that they’ve hidden away and never want to be discovered of grudges long held or hurts they’ve received over the years.   Which is ironic because forgiveness is really meant to be a freedom and gift.  I’m sure that a deathbed regret many people have is that they held onto grudges for too long and didn’t release them and it hindered their living a full and satisfying life.  I don’t know about you, but that is a regret I don’t want to have on my deathbed. And if you see forgiving someone even if they won’t forgive you as an issue, don’t.  While forgiveness is something that can restore a relationship when both sides participate, forgiveness can also free you personally from things you’ve held onto.

Personally, I know that I have stuff in my life that I need to forgive myself for.  After all, we’re usually our harshest critics.  We usually demand much more from ourselves than others do, and with that high standard comes lots of opportunities to fall.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a really good thing that we hold ourselves to a standard; it means that we still have hope as people.  It also gives us a chance to really do something with our lives and have big opportunities for success.  Yes with those big opportunities for success do come with big opportunities to fail, but failure and success are both important parts of life, not things that should be avoided.

When we fail, often we’re the first person we need to forgive.  We can’t begin the healing process with anyone we’ve hurt without first having taken a look at ourselves and our responsibility and begun to forgive ourselves for our role in what happened.  Living as damaged people increases the likelihood that we’ll hurt others because we sometimes strike out because we feel hurt and lost.

It’s not easy to forgive if we feel someone deserves whatever hurt they experience, ourselves included.  But beating each other and ourselves up, especially if serious harm wasn’t our goal, isn’t the way to live or contribute to life.  With this year’s spring celebrations upon us, take time to let go of some of the baggage holding you up and forgive yourself so you’re free to take on what the spring brings.

“Forgiving is love’s toughest work, and love’s biggest risk.  If you twist it into something it was never meant to be, it can make you a doormat or an insufferable manipulator.  Forgiving seems almost unnatural.  Our sense of fairness tells us people should pay for the wrong they do.  But forgiving is love’s power to break nature’s rule.”  Lewis B. Smedes

Forgiveness for the Holidays

We’re a little under two weeks away from the celebration of Christmas and we’re a few days from Hanukkah.  This month is so full of celebrations and gifting, something I’m so thankful for because it’s a good reminder that we’re not alone in this world and how important it is show our appreciation and love to those in our lives.  If you’ve been thinking about whether or not to fight the crowds and get one last gift for someone or to skip it, I’d encourage you to go for it.  Don’t let Scrooge win this year.

Let’s talk about one of the best gifts you can give yourself or anyone this year, or at any time: the gift of forgiveness.  Forgiveness isn’t something trivial that we throw around like we do the word love, in fact we’re pretty stingy with it, mostly because we’ve been hurt so many times, often by the same person, and it feels like it might be a waste of time to forgive them or anyone.  So don’t feel bad if you’ve struggled to forgive before.

But what I’ve learned over the years is that it never pays to hold a grudge.  Often it just becomes a distraction or sticking point that you can’t get over.  You think about it over and over again, stopping you from moving forward and onward with your life.  They may be moving forward in their life, whether you’ve forgiven them or not (and may not care if you have or haven’t forgiven them), while you’re still in the past withholding forgiveness.

Which means that usually the first person that needs forgiving is you.  We’re harder on ourselves than on anyone else and we’re our biggest critic too.  If you really want to be free to be all you can be this coming year, it starts with learning to forgive yourself, because without the forgiveness moving on to bigger and better things won’t be easy, if it’s even possible.

So go ahead and work on forgiving yourself or someone else this holiday season; it won’t be an easy gift but it will be the best one you’ve ever given.

Freedom of Forgiveness

This week with Easter ahead and Passover in progress I wanted to reflect on a topic that both of those are connected with: forgiveness.  Everyone needs forgiveness at some point in time in their life.  We may not feel that some people are worthy of forgiveness, and some people may not care if they are forgiven or not because they don’t think they did anything that needs to be forgiven.  Forgiveness can free us from what the other person did even if they’re not interested in being forgiven, and forgiveness can free the person who did something wrong to move on with their life.  Sometimes we also need to forgive ourselves so that we can let go of what we did, learn the lesson and move on.  Forgiveness is an experience of learning from others and ourselves so as part of my thoughts today I thought I would share a few quotes on forgiveness.

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”  Mahatma Gandhi

“Sincere forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time-just like it does for you and me.”  Sara Paddison

“There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.”  Bryant H. McGill

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”  Martin Luther King Jr

As you continue in this week I encourage you, especially if you’re taking part in any of this week’s spiritual journeys, to take some time to consider if forgiveness is something that needs to happen in your life with yourself or with regards to someone else.  It’s not always easy to let go of something that may have been a central part of your life for a time, but there’s very little to be gained by hanging onto weight like that which usually comes along with things that need forgiving.  Life is for living, not looking over your shoulder, so I encourage you to work on forgiveness this week.  If you’re in a process of working on forgiveness, I’d love to hear what you’re learning, too.

A Timely Holiday

This week I’ve gotten a whole bunch of emails from people and companies with different sentiments about the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays. They’ve all contained some sage advice, and I’ve been sharing what I’ve been reading through my blogs and newsletters as well as with friends and family.  The word that I wanted to share today is timely.  I do believe in a right time for everything, even if we don’t think it’s the right time.  So often we’re wanting things to happen on our time but that’s simply not how it works.  Time isn’t something we can control.  Sure we can do everything possible to expedite things, but sometimes there’s no way to push things through quicker.

I don’t know why some things take years to develop or why some things happen way before we think we’re ready for them or everything seems to happen at once.  I don’t think that’s life playing a joke on us, I think that’s just the way it works and part of how we learn and experience the life journey.  Sometimes it helps if you take a step back, other times it helps to push through and not keep looking back so much.  Sometimes you just have to be patient and let it do what it’s going to do.

This weekend as you gather with family and friends, consider the timing.  Is this the right holiday for some forgiveness?  Is this the holiday you should be taking extra time off?  Is this the holiday you should be giving extra? Is this the holiday that you need to step up for family and friends?  Is this the holiday that you do something for yourself?  Whatever comes your way this holiday I encourage you to reflect on what’s life trying to tell you and what opportunities life is bringing you.  And if life’s bringing you lots of blessings and joy make sure you share it!

Health and Forgiveness

This month we’ve been talking about the topic of health.  It’s a topic that affects us all and is important to us all regardless of where we live, what we do, what we look like, what we like, and whether we have a job/are in a relationship/have kids or not.  Health is not just about the physical, but about the mental, spiritual and social as well.  All contribute to how healthy we are as a whole person. Today I want to talk about an important health topic, forgiveness.  It’s not a comfortable topic, but I believe it’s an important one.

Let’s start with what forgiveness is, with wisdom from John Ortberg:  “Forgiving is not the same thing as excusing…Forgiving is not forgetting…Forgiving is not the same thing as reconciling…When I forgive you, I give up the right to hurt you back…When we forgive each other, we begin to see more clearly. We do not ignore the hurts, but we see beyond them…”

Forgiveness doesn’t happen all at once, and it’s not just about other people.  Often the biggest person we need to forgive is ourselves.  We do really good at screwing ourselves over.   We use excuses, stall tactics, smaller priorities, other people and laziness to avoid doing what we really need to do.  As a result the guilt just keeps growing keeping us stuck and making it harder to get unstuck which is super frustrating and detrimental to our health, often in many ways.  It’s not easy to accept that we’ve been treating ourselves poorly and that things need to change.  It doesn’t feel good to admit that we were wrong or that we’ve gone down the wrong path.  And sometimes while you may need to forgive someone else for something they’ve done you find that you need to forgive yourself as well because you played a role in the problem as well.

It’s not easy to accept we’re not perfect, know-it-all people, but we’re not.  You and I both have areas that we need to improve in.   If you’ve been struggling to make that improvement it may be because you’re unwilling or unable to forgive yourself or others for past hurts so that you can begin the process of letting the past go and moving into the future.  I encourage you to join me this week in finally accepting that things need to change and taking steps to make those changes happen, starting with forgiving yourself or someone you’ve been letting keep that power over you for too long.

Sincere Apologies

July 7 was a very important day.  You may not know why, but it was Global Forgiveness Day.  I don’t know about you, but I’m really thankful that we are able to forgive each other because I know I screw up on a regular basis.  Of course I wish I needed less forgiving, and I do try to do my best in all situations, but I’m not perfect and sometimes I make assumptions, presumptions, or guesses, blame someone for something they didn’t do, don’t understand what I was supposed to do or just plain screw up. And sometimes I need forgiving not because I did something wrong necessarily, but because I was having a bad day and decided to take it out on an unsuspecting someone else.

It seems like most of the forgiving we do isn’t done with the word “forgive.”  We say “I’m sorry” and respond with “It’s OK” or “It’s not OK” or “Try to do better next time.”  We don’t usually say “I forgive you.”  Is there really a difference?  Does it matter?  Is the apology and acknowledgement of the apology good enough?

I don’t think it really matters what we call it, as long as we’re sincere in our apology, willing to try to forgive and/or willing to do better next time.  Forgiveness only works as a concept if we’re willing to do better next time.  Otherwise what’s the point of forgiving someone or apologizindg even?  The concept of forgiveness means you’ve recognized that you’ve done wrong.  If you don’t really think you’ve done anything wrong, your lackluster apology won’t be appreciated, and may even damage your relationship with the other person or people.

Do you need to really forgive someone today?  Do you need to ask for forgiveness today? Don’t put it off any longer.  Make today the day that you choose forgiveness.

4 Keys to Exponential Growth

This past week I read a great article by Brian Dodd on some things that a church leader has done to exponentially grow his church. As I was reading the article I was again reminded of the similarities between church and business leaders.  Today I want to share 4 insights, things that as the leader you need to provide or show to really grow your business successfully and create a lasting business.

Do you really know what you’re talking about?  Do your employees really know what they’re talking about? Or is everyone just trying to make a buck and hoping everything is self explanatory?  If there are only a handful of you involved in day to day operations you should all be knowledgeable about just about every aspect of the business.  Maybe you don’t know all the details but you should all know enough to be able to answer the majority of questions that customers would have.

Stable And Consistent Leadership
High turnover can display several bad indications about your business.  So if you’re able to present leadership that remains with the business for years it is a sign of health within the business as well as a strong, positive statement about what type of company you are, what you sell and what the company stands for.

Love Your People
Do you really love what you do? Do your employees and other leaders really enjoy what they do?  Do you all really enjoy supporting your customers?  Customers, and even potential customers, have pretty good BS meters these days.  They are good at figuring out which companies really care about what they do and the people they support.  While indifference towards your customers isn’t necessarily a reason people won’t choose you, people will be more likely to refer you if they feel appreciated and supported, and maybe even loved, by you and your team.

I know this may sound like one that only applies to churches, but it’s not.  I have yet to meet a perfect company and there are stories in the news each week about companies, and leaders, who screw up.  I’ve also met people who aren’t great customers and yet sometimes they’re worth the effort.  Everyone screws up once in a while, and I haven’t met too many people or companies that don’t deserve a second chance.

Are these 4 qualities something you apply in your business?  What ones do you need to work most on?

Celebrating Easter

How many have you been to this year?  Come on, you know what I’m talking about! Easter egg hunts!  There are those that your kids do at home plus the dozens around the town and at different churches.   Recently I was driving past one and it had to be the craziest thing I’ve seen.  Rather than doing an actual hunt they were using a football field and had just strewn eggs everywhere.  So it was more like an Easter egg race than a hunt.  If nothing else it certainly was different from the usual for the kids.

But it got me thinking about the joy that Easter is all about.  If you can remember being a kid and anticipating the egg hunt, as well as things like Christmas morning, Halloween or your birthday parties or the day before a big vacation, it’s one of those big days that was super exciting every year.  I can remember being excited to see my Easter basket and play with the eggs for weeks after.  As adults we don’t always get as excited as the kids do.  We’ve got lots to deal with like the logistics of filling all those eggs.

But Easter maybe more than any other holiday is one that’s about joy.  It doesn’t have the pressures of Christmas or Valentine’s Day, but it is a chance for family to gather together and celebrate.  Whether you’re celebrating spring’s arrival or the religious reasons behind Easter, it’s a reminder to celebrate life. It’s a reminder that winter is ending and it’s time to start living again.  It’s time to open up the eggs that life gives us and find the treats and surprises inside.  It’s time to put a little spring in your step and work on forgiveness with family and friends.  Even if you have to do a little work to find them, life does have blessings for you.  Find something each day this weekend to celebrate, even if it’s something as small as a newly grown flower, or the joy of watching your kids race for the eggs.

Groundhog Day Redos

Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray? It’s the story of Phil Connors who repeats one day, Groundhog Day, over and over. It’s a fascinating movie to watch if you’re into change and improving on your life. The theory behind Groundhog Day the holiday is that a groundhog comes out of their burrow in early February to determine if there will be six more weeks of winter or not. With all the cameras and flash bulbs, not to mention a few aggressive groundhogs in NY and Wisconsin, and it’s not exactly scientific or with the way it’s done even Farmer’s Almanac accurate really anymore, but it’s still a fun concept and tradition.

Today I wanted to talk about the concept of the movie, not the actual holiday though. What would you give for the chance to do over one of the key days in your life? Depending on how serious of a bad day it was you may give a lot for that chance! While we may not have the ability to do over days like Bill Murray’s character did, we do have the ability to change the future. We can’t change the past or undo things we’ve done, but we can take different actions to encourage a different outcome the next time we’re in a similar situation.

The good news is that there are very few things that have happened in the past that we can’t do something about rectifying in the future. If we can’t fix it or redo it at all, there’s a good chance that we can practice a little forgiveness receiving or asking and at least have some peace with the situation.

The future isn’t set in place, only the past. I’m thankful that we’ve got a completely wide-open future ready for whatever we want to make of it. What will you make of yours?