Jun 27, 2009

The Hidden Value in Forgiveness

It's never a fun thing to get screwed by someone you trust in business.

I've had several business ventures fail, and several partnerships go sour.

I've learned that when things don't go as planned, typically there's a human-natured tendency to want to blame for the failure.

Inevitably, when the blame-game begins, and we begin pointing fingers, allocating energy and resources to the perpetrator, we loose the part of us that knows deep down that none of this material stuff really matters anyway.

Easier said than done, I know.

I've been intentionally, blatantly screwed over by several people in business deals that were never meant to go right. I suppose when there's malicious intent, there's justifiable reason for standing ground and fighting back.

But it's been my experience that I loose a lot of time, energy, and money when I fight back. I'm not saying don't fight. I'm saying that in most cases, it's futile.

Lately, I've had the opportunity to work with someone I respect and admire a lot - another business broker in our office named Richard R. He's had his share of injustices, just like most of us who've been around long enough to know that getting burned is just part of the game of playing in the kitchen. He's allowed his previous business partner to walk away with a good portion of the company he helped found, and he's done so graciously and without any malicious feelings. He's lost a lot of money. No doubt he has an arrow in his quiver he could easily use called justice. But he's chosen to rise above it. It takes a big man with big ideas and a bigger picture of reality to rise above the substantial losses he's faced. He's moved on to better things.

I recently talked with another friend named Marc, a police officer by trade, whose serving with me in a church leadership position. He's seen his fair share of cruelty, and the results of the all-too-common bitterness and revenge that come as a result.

He's seen some horrific scenes of those who've suffered terrible losses from criminal acts, only to see those criminals escape for many years before being caught and brought to justice. Some folks let go, choosing not to testify against their perpetrator, saying things like "that was so long ago, why bring it up now?" or "It's in the past, we've moved on."

But he's also seen the opposite reaction - the more-common tendency for the victims to hold on to the bitterness for many years, even if the perpetrator has paid or is paying for the crime they've committed or made every attempt to pay the emotional debt they've incurred.

According to Marc, some people let the smallest offences consume their peace for a lifetime. And ironically, others who've suffered major losses, such as the death or murder of a loved one, somehow learn to forgive.

I have to remind myself constantly to let things go. To forgive, and to move on. Not to allow for substandard quality, nor to allow for intentional breaking of one's word - I believe we should be true to our agreements. And there are times when we must make a stand and fight. But in most cases, the fighting is futile, draining, and leaves both sides worse off yet more entrenched in their positions.

Forgiveness and mercy, which are closely related to humility, yields the fruits of power and character.