Mix up a group of people from different backgrounds, with differing world views in the same workplace, and there is bound to be conflict. Conflict is inevitable. But, wherever there is conflict, there is the opportunity for growth and forgiveness.
Relationships are difficult, and work affiliations are not exempt from their challenges. In actuality, relationships either define us or divide us. When division occurs, forgiveness is necessary to move forward. Before delving into forgiveness, let’s discuss a few things that may contribute to contention.
Expectations, in and of themselves, are not a bad thing. They are what drive us in achieving our ambitions. These are prioritized by our internal value system. As children, our parents upheld behavioral expectations in hopes of guiding us to become kind human beings. The educational system is another example of expectations. We were expected to complete their standard requirements to fulfill degree completion. As we matured, we developed our standards of expectations, and carried them into our relationships, including our business interactions.
If we’re not careful, we can have unspoken ideals on how we feel the people in our lives should behave, respond, or react, in or to any given situation. While resentment may not immediately result in discord, if unresolved, the tension could amplify, until it erupts in conflict.
One of the quickest ways to annihilate a relationship is to unjustly point the finger of blame. No one can accurately judge, because we rarely know all the facts. Even if we did, it’s simply not our place.
When I was a child, my older brother had a “cool” friend with a CB radio. (Yes, some of us have been around that long.) I listened as they struck up a conversation with a trucker who had a very strange-sounding, raspy voice. He told us his handle was Nightcrawler. The older boys, started showing off, taunting him, “Nightcrawler, why do you talk like that?” The stranger on the other end proceeded to tell them he’d had throat cancer and had a tracheotomy. All of a sudden the laughing and jeering stopped. The boys grew uncomfortable and quickly signed off.
Now they knew the rest of the story; the why behind what they were hearing. Truth always shines the most revealing light. To this day, whenever I find myself in a situation where I’m making a judgment without knowing the whole truth, I refer to it as a ‘Nightcrawler situation”.
We’ve all nursed a grudge at one time or another. As much as we want to feel justified in our hostility, it makes us feel bad. Holding grudges can lead to mental and physical discomfort. Not only can it lead to tension headaches, and digestive issues, it leads to withdrawal, isolation, and aggressive behavior. This negative behavior affects more than the individual, it can lead to a breakdown within your organization.
Grudges work hand-in-hand with expectations, creating a powder keg of hostility. The tiniest spark could ignite an outburst, and create irreparable damage, destroying the fabric of your practice.
We all know that for our business to be most productive, we must think and work together as a team. What is the remedy to these toxic behaviors? Forgiveness!
Somewhere on our way up the corporate ladder, we left I’m sorries and I forgive yous, on one of the lower rungs. Some of our earliest life lessons about forgiveness were taught at home. If you fell, you got back up. When you hurt someone, you said ‘I’m sorry’, and when someone said I’m sorry to you, you responded with, ‘I forgive you’. The climb toward success does not mandate renouncing these principles, nor does it make you weak. In fact, they say the strongest people are those that forgive.
Let go of the notion that extending forgiveness condones the actions of the offender. Forgiveness doesn’t involve the wrongdoer at all. Forgiveness is a self-determined decision to let go of the offense, and walk away from anger and resentment.
As with all quality attributes, forgiveness takes practice. It requires perseverance and humility; character traits that are rarely celebrated in the business world. These traits can be in short supply when stress is high and attitudes are raging. Practice keeping forgiveness at the forefront, especially when the pressure is on.
Deciding to walk in forgiveness, is necessary to move forward in authenticity. Learn to appreciate your coworker’s individuality, and recognize their viewpoint is as valuable as yours. This is the light of the truth that will set you free from bitterness and resentment. Frequently remind yourself that no one is perfect. This will lead to increased appreciation and respect for your team. You will find this does more than dispel contention. As you extend grace, you will find you are more apt to receive it from others.
Judgment is ugly and immediately breeds distrust. It seeks out the worst in others. In the end, it makes you feel ugly about yourself. Release your right to revenge and judgment, and train yourself to find the good in others. The unexpected reward: you’ll be able to identify and embrace the good in yourself.
Empathizing with others reminds us there is always more to a situation than what meets the eye. Nightcrawler had no idea he taught us a valuable lesson about judgment. Truth brings clarity, and when you pursue truth, you find unity.
Leadership involves exhibiting and living the exemplary behavior you desire for your business. Modeling forgiveness in the workplace profoundly impacts your organizational culture. Forgiveness does not change the past, but it builds your future. Design a legacy of excellence by transforming your practice with forgiveness.
Her clinical and support team experiences are the inspiration for her writing and the motivation for coaching clients to success. She is a regular contributor to various publications within dentistry and beyond. In addition to feeding the homeless, starting a non-profit, and being involved in her church and other community organizations, she sings professionally and enjoys several creative outlets. She resides in Florida where she enjoys the company of her husband, three children, and four beautiful grandchildren.