Last week I talked about leadership anger—how destructive it can be to individuals and organizations—and I promised a “remedy” for it in this post. Now, this is not a “one size fits all” remedy because anger can be more complicated than that. But I know from personal experience that in many cases it works, so I offer it to you and hope you will take it seriously.
Getting rid of anger is sometimes like packing for a trip: “What do I take? What do I leave behind? How many bags can I carry?”
If you have anger that is close to the surface and easily erupts at home, at work, wherever and whenever, it could mean you are carrying the baggage of unforgiveness with you. You carry it to the office; you carry it home; you carry it to church or the little league field. It is always close at hand. Someone hurt you—badly—and you haven’t been able to let it go, forgive them, so you can move on without dragging that heavy, exhausting bag around. So it doesn’t take much for the bag to open and spew out on others, even people you love.
There are a lot of reasons to get rid of this heavy bag. If you are a Christian, it is a spiritual imperative:
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 NASB
See your pastor if you are dragging unforgiveness around. If he or she can’t help, get a new pastor. Apart from the spiritual dimension, there are still many great and practical reasons to forgive those who have hurt you.
Stanford University has studied the impact of forgiveness on your health—both physical and emotional. According to Dr. Fred Luskin, director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, forgiveness “boosts the immune system, lowers high blood pressure, reduces anxiety and depression, and improves sleep patterns” (from Brain Power by Gelb and Howell).
In their book, HeartMath Solution, Doc Children and Howard Martin explain, “Forgiving releases you from the punishment of a self-made prison in which you’re both the inmate and the jailer” (cited in Brain Power by Gelb and Howell).
Few people had less reason to forgive than Nelson Mandela. He was tortured, slandered, imprisoned, and victimized by apartheid almost all of his life. Yet when leaving prison, he decided to forgive because he knew “if I didn’t, I would still be a prisoner.” He didn’t want to spend the rest of his life in a prison of his own making.
Anne Beiler, founder of the Auntie Annie’s pretzel empire and a victim of sexual abuse by her pastor, learned that she needed to “forgive because I can’t forget.”
In the “personal experience” mentioned earlier, the one I needed to forgive was myself. My wife once mentioned she had to “walk on egg shells” because she didn’t know when my anger at myself would be directed at her. A few weeks ago, a church staff member said he has to “walk on egg shells” around his current pastor. How sad. If you are a leader and your followers are “walking on egg shells,” you need help and a good starting place is forgiveness of others and maybe yourself.
Forgiveness is a gift to yourself; it is about you putting down those life-sapping, heavy bags and getting out of a self-made prison. I am not suggesting this is easy and you may well need help. (If you live near my hometown of Franklin, TN, contact The Refuge Center, they’ll be glad to help.) Decide today, for your sake and the sake of those you lead: “Whatever it takes, I am not going to drag unforgiveness around any longer. I’ll get help.” Pick up the phone right now—call for an appointment—you’ll be glad you did.
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© Copyright 2017 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company
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