When clients struggle with creating a new, healthy relationship with work, I have found that it’s the attachment to the past that keeps them from having the future they desire. The pain of the past, the disappointments of the past, the failures of the past, and the betrayals of the past, keep people bound to it. Additionally, resistance to our current circumstances also serves as an impediment to creating the future we yearn for. Forgiveness and Acceptance will help you free yourself from the past, allow you to create the “present” that you’ve always wanted and clear a path toward your future. Forgiveness makes the pain stop hurting and Acceptance helps us to accept “What Is” so we can move into the new.
Forgiving Ourselves & Forgiving Others
The step of Forgiveness will allow us to accomplish a very specific goal. It will make the pain stop.
Forgiveness is the quintessential healing balm. I think of it as emotional and spiritual Aloe Vera. You rub it on the problem, and it takes away the sting. It takes away the burn. Simply, it makes it stop hurting. That is precisely what we want to achieve from this step. We want to take the pain in your relationship with work and make it stop hurting.
But how do we do it? How do we forgive to such a depth that we free ourselves from pain?
We do it through the willingness to let go of it all. We need to be willing to let go of the pain, each and every drop of it. We need to be willing to let go of the anger, righteous as it may be, the resentment and the frustration. That’s right, you need to let go of the whole kit and caboodle. You hold the key to your freedom from the pain. Be willing to let the pain go and you will be on the road to having peace.
Willingness can be a bear. The most common reason I have found for why clients are unwilling to forgive is that they are waiting for an apology. Because this is so common, I want to take a few minutes to address it.
In my work with clients, I have found one of the hardest things for people to do is to let go of their need for an apology. Most of us don’t even know that we’re waiting for one. But we are, either consciously or unconsciously. If you find yourself unwilling to forgive, ask yourself what you would need in order to be willing to forgive. Commonly, we are unwilling to forgive because we’re waiting for something to happen. We’re waiting for someone to say “I saw what happened to you. It wasn’t fair.” We’re waiting for someone to say “I am so sorry that you’ve had to go through this. I am so sorry that you have been hurt.”
It is human nature to want our pain recognized. It is meaningful to us when we hear an acknowledgment of our hurt and see a demonstration of remorse for our injury. Again, whether we are consciously aware of it or not, somewhere within us is the belief that we deserve an apology and, more importantly, that we are owed an apology.
One of the toughest things for my clients to hear is when I say, “I can guarantee you that there will be no apology forthcoming.” Look, there is no denying you have been through hell. There is no denying that your relationship with work has made you miserable. And there’s no denying that there are probably people at work, policies at work, situations at work that have contributed to and/or caused the pain you have. But please hear me – don’t wait for an apology. Rarely, if ever, does one come. And that’s because what is damaging your relationship with work, all that we’ve talked about thus far, are endemic and systemic to the workplace. No one in the workplace sees the need to offer an apology because that which causes your pain is normal for the workplace.
But we tend to chain ourselves to our need for an apology. This need keeps us stuck, waiting for something that we believe we need but that will never come. It becomes a vicious loop that holds us prisoner. Rather than play this game that you cannot win, change the paradigm. Let go of the need for an apology and move into the willingness to forgive.
Okay, back to the process.
One of the benefits of the Forgiveness step is that we get to get it all out. Get out all of the pain, hurt, anger, and resentment. We have the opportunity to put it all out on the table: look at it, digest it and forgive it. Which is exactly what we are going to do in this step. But let’s answer a few questions first before we move on.
When you forgive yourself or another or a situation, how do you know when you are done? How do you know when you are finished forgiving? How do you know that you have been successful in the act of forgiving?
The answer to these questions is surprisingly simple. You will know that you have been successful in the act of forgiving when you are no longer experiencing feelings around the person, situation or circumstance. Let’s look at it this way. Think of a situation at work that you know you need to forgive. Notice what you are feeling when you think about the situation. Are you feeling anger about it? Are you feeling anxiety about it? Are you feeling hurt? Or sad? When you have been successful in the act of forgiving, you can think about this very situation and feel nothing around it because you are done with it. You are complete with it. You have forgiven.