The signs of spring are everywhere. Flowers and trees are blooming and the days are longer, brighter and warmer. Our emotions are lifted by the extra light and warmth. We become open to change.
Spring is a time for renewal and rebirth. Most cultural traditions across the globe, celebrate spring or the rise of the vernal equinox as a time of new beginnings. March 21 in the Northern Hemisphere marks the first day of spring. The New Moon, April 5, 2019, in the Northern Hemisphere is a great time to set intentions -- set goals and begin new projects for the forthcoming cycle.
The egg motif of Easter, Passover, and other spring religious and cultural celebrations, can be viewed as an underlying pan-religious symbol of birth and continuity of life.
Spring festivals celebrated by people of varying faiths around the world are calls for new beginnings, a time for cleansing emotions, and thinking and acting positively. Positive psychology has demonstrated a clear relationship among optimistic thinking, and mental and physical health and longevity.
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, harboring 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 of 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 and mental 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 offenses. 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.
Fostering 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 work place offer suggestions to foster forgiveness.
- Recognize you create your own thoughts and have power to change them. Think and talk about what you want. Use positive statements about such things as being healthy and being in control.
- Be genuine. Discard preconceived notions of what others think, and recreate the person you are, and want to be! Don’t compare yourself with others. Judge your accomplishments against personal standards of self-improvements. Strive for excellence rather than perfection. Have realistic standards of excellence.
- Model forgiveness, particularly if you’re a leader. Leaders’ behavior often has the greatest impact on organizational culture. Leaders who model forgiveness on a regular basis are cueing similar behavior 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.
- Listen, rather than expound. Don't tell others what to do. Develop tolerance for contrary opinions. When someone offers their viewpoint, 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.
- Forgive. Forgiveness is pardoning without harboring resentment. Release old hurts. You don’t have to befriend the individual, but you must release negative emotions associated with that person. When you hold onto pain, you're allowing that person’s actions to continue to hurt you.
- 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.
- 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.