Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Challenge to Forgive

Several years ago, I had a boss who I felt did not have my best interest at hand. My distrust of him came about after the first conversation we had about me joining his department. He had taken a trip to Europe and had just arrived home. He called to tell me that he was glad that I was going to be in his department and that he brought me and the rest of the staff a bottle of wine from Paris. It was kind jester. I was excited. He never brought the subject up again. I never saw the wine.

My boss had his secretary to keep tabs on me. One day, as I was leaving the office, she asked me where I was going. I told her that I was going across town to meet a prospective client. I had not been in my car 10 minutes, when I my cell phone rang. It was the secretary.

“Where are you? What are you doing,” she said suspiciously.

“I’m headed to the meeting I told you about,” I said.

I drove across town for my meeting. However, as soon as I pulled into the prospective client’s parking lot, my cell phone rang again.

“Where are you? What are you doing,” she said with a hint of I-don’t-believe-you in her voice.

“I just arrived at the meeting that I told you about,” I said trying not to sound bothered.

Some five minutes later, my meeting had begun when my cell phone rang. I tried to ignore it but the prospective client nodded his approval for me to answer it, so I did.

“Where are you? What are you doing,” she said.

“I’m in that meeting I told you about,” I said trying not to look exasperated.

My meeting continued and ten minutes later my phone rang again. I was not going to answered it but the client said it was ok.

“Where are you? What are you doing,” she said.

“I’m in a meeting,” I said.

This time when I hung up the phone, the client said, “Is it that bad?”

“Yes. It is,” I said feeling as low as a worker could under those circumstances.  

All of this and other issues within the office caused me to mistrust my boss, greatly. I did not think it was fair the way I was being mistreated. 

However, my perspective on forgiveness changed one day when I went to a conference and heard a speaker from Rwanda talk about the genocide in his native country.

The gentleman asked the audience to imagine waking up the next morning and your whole family was gone. In fact, he said to imagine if your whole neighborhood was gone—no friends, no relatives, no grocery stores, not even the milkman. That is what happened to him. He was only person left alive. The gentleman said he could have lived  a life filled with rage and anger but he chose not to. He then looked out at the audience and pointed at himself and then back to the audience and said, “If I can forgive, so can you." It was another one of the freeze-framed moments. His message was so strong. It really made me think.

Although I made a conscious effort to contemplate the importance of forgiveness after that speech, the actual application of the act did not take place right away. It wasn't until several years later that I decided to apologize to my former boss. I knew that we were going to be participating on a committee together, so I made up my mind that I was going to apologize to him.

When I arrived for the committee meeting, he was already there. During one of the breaks, I asked him if we could talk. He said yes.

"I would like to apologize to you. For several years I have held a lot of hostility towards you. It is not right. I am sorry. I hope you will forgive me," I said with relief.

"Well, I knew that something was wrong. I could tell that you were upset with me about something." He said somewhat nervously.

We had a nice talk. He forgave me. We shook hands, and went back to the meeting.

It felt like the whole world had been lifted off of my shoulders. Since that encounter, every time I see him, I greet him with a smile and we talk.

However, something really interesting happened to our relationship that really shocked me not long ago. I’ll tell you about it soon…

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