Forgive and Forget is the way I have always heard it. But is that the best approach when you are trying to build trust in a workplace relationship, or anywhere for that matter?
The previous example of forgiveness, taken from the tragic Nickel Mines shooting, could never be put in the “forgive and forget” category. We need to remember events like this so we can work on preventing similar occurrences in the future. So to with workplace situations where something is said or done that destroys trust and breaks relationships. Forgiveness is essential to rebuild trust - but so is remembering.
I came to this conclusion years ago after reading a short, powerful book entitled Don’t Forgive Too Soon - Extending the Two Hands that Heal by Dennis, Sheila and Matthew Linn. It was the first time I began to understand the journey aspect of forgiveness. I think it has great application to workplace trust.
The basic concept in the two hands of forgiveness goes like this:
The first hand says to the oppressor, “you can’t do this to me anymore”. Visualize holding out your arm, almost pushing the other person away. With this hand you are standing up for yourself and beginning the healing process. This is where the remembering comes in. You have decided to move on, to begin the journey but letting the other person know how you feel and that you value yourself enough to make sure you are not hurt the same way again.
And now the second hand. This is the hand that invites the other person into relationship again. This is the hand that says “you are better than this”. Again, this is part of the journey since you have to believe that there is good in everyone. Without this belief you will never be able to truly forgive.
Using both of these hands together you begin your journey. You have stood up for yourself but not built a wall around yourself. There is room now to rebuild the relationship.
It has been said that holding a grudge, never forgiving, hurts us more than the person who perpetrated the initial act. In fact, I have seen many instances of the perpetrator not even being aware that they said or did something to someone that was hurtful. As Catherine Ponder put it:
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel”.
And in this state there is no chance of rebuilding a relationship. In an earlier post I referenced a statement on forgiveness from Martin Luther King:
"Trust doesn’t have to be immediate, but the wrong act is no longer a barrier to a relationship. The offender endures his season of shame and is better for it. The offended are free from mean emotions like vengeance and are uplifted when they offer kindness. The social fabric is repaired. Community solidarity is strengthened by the reunion."
I believe this is what we are looking for. King's statement could easily be seen as offering the two hands that heal.