Ahhh forgiveness. We’ve all wrestled with this concept and we are sure to wrestle with it many more times in our lives. Sometimes forgiveness is easier – someone did something deceitful that inconvenienced you but there wasn’t much impact – and sometimes it is very, very hard – someone did something that hurt you so deeply that it changed your life. Either way – it still creates a boatload of emotions that you have to fight through. If we understand a few true principles of forgiveness, it can change the way we handle it and that in itself can have BIG repercussions in our life.
I chose to forgive someone who frankly didn’t deserve AND it didn’t happen right away.
A few years ago I stepped aboard a failing online startup. It was ugly – the developer partner was sleeping in the office, stacks of bills, almost no income. When I came on board there were two founding partners but one of the partners wasn’t involved and completely out of the picture. Myself and the main founding partner decided we were going to give it one last hard push to try and salvage the business. I had no idea how much it would require of me and if I had I probably wouldn’t have even started. We worked our butts off – non stop we poured in hours, sweat, blood and tears.
After a couple years the business still wasn’t making that much income. In being on the team, I took a massive pay cut from what I could earn in the job market. I built the business on the back of my family and it really took a lot out of us. We lived off very, very little and it was a struggle to keep it going. Living like this was so exhausting and we had a new baby right in the middle of it. There were times where my wife had to calm a crying baby at home because we were out of formula, didn’t have a working car (broke down) and I didn’t have any way to get it to her quickly. Just miserable.
3 years into the business we got an offer to sell and it was beyond anything we could have imaged. Finally, my family could potentially breathe a sigh of relief. Finally, there was light at the end of the tunnel. Finally, there was tangible hope. Finally…. enter partner number 3.
This individual walked in on all our hard work, our long hours, our deferred income and threatened to throw the deal if he didn’t get what he wanted- what he demanded. And part of that was to be compensated beyond me even though he hadn’t done anything. He was willing to take all we had done and throw it away. Selfish. He hadn’t had to comfort his wife when there was zero dollars and things you needed, he didn’t have to borrow money from family just to get dinner, he didn’t know what it felt like to fight the heavy weight of daily depression and uncertainty knowing that you were taking small steps towards something you believed in but couldn’t see. He didn’t know jack.
I can’t explain the feelings I felt because I’ve never felt them before in my life. I felt defeated, angry, betrayed, enraged, hurt, depressed, pissed and many, many more. I swallowed all this and we let him walk away with his demands and a fat check. We had to sell – I couldn’t go on grinding it out at that level and neither could my family.
2 years later I was able forgive him. Before then I couldn’t think about it because it would open up a dark place that threatened to poison and swallow me up in bitterness. Here are the three things I learned:
Forgiveness frees us
When I forgave this person, something unexpected happened. I felt unattached from the situation and all the bitterness. When I really forgave him from deep inside, all the emotions that normally stirred no longer existed. By forgiving him I let myself off the hook and was able to walk away. I gave myself permission to not let it bother me anymore.
Forgiveness isn’t trust
One fallacy of forgiveness is that it resets everything and everyone starts where they left off. Nope. Trust is something that is built overtime and takes time and effort. Even though I forgave this person I don’t trust them and that is ok. It would be poor judgement to trust someone who doesn’t deserve it.
Forgiveness matures our character
I thought for a while that I would never be able to forgive this person for taking advantage of the situation. What they did just felt so wrong. When I finally worked through it all and was able to genuinely forgive them, my complete outlook of them changed. Before I had seen him as a complete jerk who had no regard for anyone other than himself (and a handful of other choice words). After I chose to forgive him, I saw an insecure, sad scared person who had no real hope in their life. My new perspective allowed me to have compassion for him – something I never, ever thought in a million years would happen. I feel sorry for the guy. In addition, I feel like working through this and moving to forgive was the hardest thing to do but it strengthened my character. I feel like I’m able to forgive more readily because of all this.
This experience has changed my life. Letting go and moving forward has allowed me to move into bigger, better things that I could have never grabbed holding on to the past. Forgiveness isn’t for them, it’s for us.