I ended my most recent Blog with us lost in what I called a stuck or conflict story. Let’s do a quick review and find our way back to that place. You are in a situation where your expectations have been violated or have gone unmet by an individual or a group. This has not happened just once but has developed into a pattern of behavior that has become unacceptable for you. It is problematic in that you have begun to question the extent to which you can trust the person, the group, or the situation.
So, where does this leave you? First of all, this situation is resulting in a lot of stress in your life. You find yourself thinking a lot about it and sharing these thoughts with other colleagues and your family. You are not sleeping well and are finding that you simply want to avoid the person, the group, and/or the situation. There is just one small problem.
- You must continue to work with this person or group or,
- this is family and you don’t really want to sever ties with family.
- This person is a neighbor, and it does not appear as either of you is interested in moving.
- Finally, you are committed to the situation and/or the issue and you don’t want to walk away. In fact, as you think about it, the cost of walking away is high.
So, what are your choices?
- You can keep your interactions to a minimum. You can choose to engage only when necessary and be very cautious as to what you say and how you say it.
- Upside: May help you feel safer.
- Downside: Seriously inhibits your effectiveness and level of satisfaction with the work you are doing. You retain the anger and frustration but try to mask it.
- You can recruit others in the system to support you against those with whom you are in conflict. A colleague of mine refers to this as “recruiting third party warriors” to your point of view.
- Upside: You feel justified in your conflict story and less alone in the fight.
- Downside: By recruiting others into your story, you run the risk of your individual conflict story becoming the story for the entire group or organization. (This is a common pattern in organizational and community conflict)
- You can seek intervention from a third-party resource. You can file a grievance if you believe it, is a contractual issue. You can go to HR and ask for support, claim a hostile work environment. You can appeal to your supervisor to intervene and hold the other person(s) accountable to norms of appropriate organizational behavior.
- Upside: These may all be appropriate actions in specific situations and may serve to bring resolution to the conflict.
- Downside: May result in only a superficial resolution of the conflict. The emotional elements of the conflict may remain and continue. You may continue to experience yourself as a victim with unresolved, anger, resentment, and frustration about the situation. In addition, you have given control of the resolution to a third party or external resource.
I am sure you can think of other options. These are the ones that come quickly to mind for me based on my experience. What else might you do? This takes us back to where we left off the previous Blog and the title above. Forgiveness?
Now, I can anticipate and almost hear the pushback on this suggestion. “You have got to be kidding!!” “There is absolutely no way that I am going to make up with this person!!” So, let’s slow down and not jump to conclusions. What exactly is forgiveness? Why do I think it is so important?
I recently came across the work of Dr. Fred Luskin, PhD. He is the author of, Forgive for Good, and Forgive for Love. He is the director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, holds an appointment at the Stanford Center on Conflict and Negotiation as a senior fellow and is an associate professor at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. This might qualify him as an expert on the topic.
One way we can begin to clarify a concept is to identify what it is not. In his book, Forgive for Love, Luskin identifies what forgiveness is not. For example:
- Forgiveness is not condoning or excusing the other persons behavior
- Forgiveness does not ask you to give up painful feelings
- Forgiveness does not require reconciliation
- Forgiveness does not mean you cannot seek restitution for what is owed
- Forgiveness does not say the relationship must continue
- Forgiveness does not have to be an otherworldly or religious experience
So then, what does he say about what forgiveness is: These are just a few of his descriptors.
- Forgiveness is for you and not for the other person
- Forgiveness is acknowledging the hurt and taking back your power from being wounded
- Forgiveness is taking responsibility for how you feel now
- Forgiveness is about your healing and not about the others actions
- Forgiveness is about today and not yesterday
- Forgiveness is about making peace when you did not get what you wanted
- Forgiveness can improve your mental and physical health
- Forgiveness is a choice you make
Forgiveness is a choice you make
So, what do you think? Worth consideration? Okay great. So how Do you forgive?
To be continued . . .