Forgive and Forget? Not Quite Yet!
After Robert brought the woman up on stage, he asked her to pick somebody she needed to forgive. Eventually, the woman chose her father. Robert then lined up pieces of paper across the stage with numbers and percentages on them, starting at 10% on one side, increasing to 100% on the other. He asked the woman to what percentage she had forgiven her father, and she chose a piece of paper to represent where she was at.
The pair proceeded to discuss what it would take for the woman to get closer to 100. Robert asked her what she could let go of, and if she was capable of doing so right there, in that moment. As they discussed the issues, she was eventually able to inch her way closer to 100. Robert then asked the woman who she was attending Coach Camp with, and she responded that she was there with her mother. Robert asked the mother to join them on stage, and explained that sometimes we aren’t able to forgive due to a sense of loyalty to somebody else. The mother confirmed that she wasn’t expecting her daughter to hold onto any anger. I wasn’t sure why at the time, but something about this whole interaction really resonated with me.
I reflected on the exchange well into the evening. Soon enough, I realized that I had a personal connection to the story the woman told, and that there was a very important message to be gained.
Sometimes we are so affected by the opinions of others that we don’t allow ourselves to forgive from fear of creating more pain, or being judged.
For example, I am the youngest of four, and if you hurt anyone in my family (or my chosen family), it’s serious business. I still won’t bank at a place that messed with my parent’s years ago and I have friends who manage some of their branches, so I probably could have gotten some good deals over the years. I can totally see why people choose not to forgive, out of a sense of loyalty. My parents have since gone back to that bank, but I still won’t. I’m happy with the bank I do use, so this choice doesn’t really affect my life. But having this realization did allow me to assess whether there were any other areas in my life where I was holding onto grudges.
Later that evening, it dawned on me that there was actually a second lesson as well:
Sometimes observing and using our anger actually serves us.
The young woman’s anger was pushing her forward in life. In her case, it was working, so going further in her forgiveness at that moment wasn’t what was best for her. She would forgive fully when the time was right.
Again, a story from my own life rose to the surface. When I was in high school and college, my mother would often say to me, “I don’t know where you get your drive.” I was incredibly goal oriented and I regularly achieved the things I set out to do. At the time, I didn’t really know where it came from either. It was through coaching that I eventually figured it out. My Grandmother and I had a tough relationship. When I was young she thought I was spoiled and she made it her mission to fix it. As a result, she said some really mean things to me. Maybe the most hurtful of all was when she said, “If your mother died, you’d be useless and probably die too.” Ouch. What twelve-year-old needs to hear that?! I’m 42 now, have done some work around that comment, and can now understand what my grandmother was doing. It may have been the wrong way to go about it, but she was trying to help me. At the time it definitely didn’t help, but here’s what it did do: it gave me the drive to prove her wrong. I was going to show her that I could take care of myself, and I did. I reached every goal I set my sights on, and that drive still thrives within me today (though it no longer comes from a place of needing to prove myself).
Not every present comes in a pretty package. Holding those feelings about my grandmother got me to some great places in my life; amazing jobs, vacations and even my coaching career. The feelings of unworthiness don’t serve me anymore, so the time came for me to let them go. But had I let them go sooner than I needed to, I may have sacrificed some of my drive.
Life is a balancing act. And the only way to tell when you’re leaning too far to one side is to become a master at understanding your own needs. Don’t let other people’s opinions dictate your actions entirely. Simply use the spark they’re offering to light your fire, and keep moving forward, letting go of what you no longer need along the way.