At Brave People Solutions, much of our work involves helping organisations sort out their communication, conflict and workplace culture challenges. Recently, a number of our projects have particularly focused on resolving differences, misunderstandings and conflict.
This work has led me to further explore the nature of forgiveness and how to forgive particularly when there is a strong feeling of being wronged in some way. I know it is helpful for me to forgive in difficult situations but I too struggle with this. I decided to find our more.
I found a talk by a Buddhist monk, Gelong Thubten with an approach that was interesting and practical.
He says we can be trained in how to forgive and that we can approach it from two perspectives:
- Intelligence – using our thoughts in a productive way, or
- Wisdom – looking at our minds to build acceptance.
To embrace forgiveness through intelligence we need to think about the situation deeply. We can think about challenges and conflict as an opportunity for personal development, helping us grow. We can make progress by looking at the issue from the other person’s point of view and trying to understand them.
One of the barriers to forgiveness is thinking that the other person has hurt us deliberately. A way to manage this is to be more honest about our own weaknesses and see that sometimes we too have reactivity to situations and this reactivity comes out of us (like it does them) when our emotional pain takes over. If we can remove the sense of ‘deliberate’ from an issue and see that the other person’s behaviour is coming from confusion and emotional pain then this can soften how we look at it. We can work on seeing the situation from a perspective of, they couldn’t help it or they did the best with what they’ve got. We all sometimes make mistakes and lose control. This work to forgive is like weight lifting – the more weight on us and the harder we work, the fitter at empathy, understanding and forgiveness we can become.
Forgiveness through mindfulness and wisdom is about being aware of the mind and emotions instead of being at war with them or fighting against them. Mindfulness in this case is the capacity to look at the mind. We need to leave it alone and let it breathe and to let our emotions and our thoughts be free to come and go like clouds in the sky. We can use practices like meditation to help us. If our mind wanders when we are trying to be still and meditate we can just bring our awareness back by for example focusing on the breath. This adjustment to a wandering mind is just a moment of awareness and not one of failure. It is what the mind does. In practicing mindfulness we are doing our best to minimise judgement and gain acceptance of ourselves and of others.
When we don’t forgive we hold onto the pain of the past and it can be hard to move forward and find resolution. And it is useful to remember that forgiveness does not preclude setting new boundaries around your relationships with others.
Is there a situation you need to let go of with forgiveness? Using intelligence and wisdom could help you get there.