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Spring -- A Time for Cleansing Emotions

Spring is finally here. The days are longer, warmer, and the trees are starting to bloom. We're open to inviting change into our lives!

Spring is a time to get rid off all that junk we’ve accumulated over the winter. Yes, physical junk such as heavy coats and boots, but also the emotional baggage we’ve picked up over the winter.

Spring is also a time to forgive. Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harbouring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It's a time to rediscover our strengths and our capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.

If we can forgive those who have hurt us, we will rise to higher levels well-being. Recent studies show that people who are taught to forgive become “less angry, more hopeful, less depressed, less anxious and less stressed,” which leads to greater physical well-being.

For example, a recent University of California, San Diego, study found that participants who thought about a hurtful event experienced lingering blood pressure spikes that—if repeated over time—could lead to heart attacks or strokes.

What is forgiveness?

Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed one, regardless of whether they actually deserve one's forgiveness.

Just as important as defining what forgiveness is, though, is understanding what forgiveness is not.  Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offences. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate one to reconcile with the person who harmed the individual or release that person from legal accountability. Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from destructive anger.

How to foster forgiveness at work

Unresolved stress from interpersonal conflict often dampens our cognitive and compassionate capacities, making it hard to find a way to forgive. Experts who study forgiveness in the workplace offer suggestions to foster forgiveness: 


- Model forgiveness, particularly if you’re a leader. Leaders’ behaviour often has the greatest impact on organizational culture. Leaders who model forgiveness on a regular basis are cueing similar behaviour in others.

- Express gratitude. Frequent and sincere expressions of appreciation have been found to produce dramatic effects on individuals and organizations. Gratitude can be expressed by encouraging employees to keep a gratitude journal to track three things they’re grateful for each night, writing a thank you card, or emailing someone each day to express appreciation for his or her contributions. Gratitude requires neither big budgets nor heavy time commitments.

For example, several years ago the CEO of LG in Japan set himself the challenge of writing five gratitude cards expressing his appreciation and thanks to five different people in his organization for the contributions they made, each day. More than six years later not only has he maintained this commitment but he credits it with having changed his whole organization because it made him look for things he wouldn’t normally see and to help people flourish who would have been previously ignored

- Take responsibility for mistakes. Apologize and attempt to make restitutions. If we don’t take responsibility for our mistakes, distrust grows and the fear of something happening again can be worse than the original incident.

- Rebuild trust by working on a common task. This creates new experiences and memories of cooperation.

- Don't tell others what to do.  Listen, rather than expound. Develop tolerance for contrary opinions. When someone offers us their viewpoint, we should try to respond with: “I’ve never considered that before—thank you. I’ll give it some thought.”

 - Let go of resentments. Resentments thrive because we are unwilling to end that altercation with an offer of kindness and forgiveness.

 - Depersonalize perceived negative comments, and respond with kindness. Send the higher, faster energies of peace, joy and forgiveness as responses to whatever comes our way.

 - Live in the present. Enjoy good things about the present moment, rather than being consumed with anger over the past or worry about the future.

- Don't judge. Try to understand where the person may be coming from. Rephrase critical internal thoughts to positive ones, or at least neutral thoughts. After all, we really don’t know the reasons for someone’s behaviour.

 - Participate in staff development programs to address conflict and foster forgiveness. Invest in programs that develop understanding and teach evidence-based tools for ongoing workplace forgiveness.