Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Forgiveness - a response to Derek Sivers

Today's entry is a response to an article/blog post by Derek Sivers, an entrepreneur in the music industry and multiple-times Ted Talks presenter. If you would like, read his post before you continue.


I'm curious to hear others' responses to this, so comments are encouraged today.

As I read the first few paragraphs, I liked what this guy had to say.  Especially from an organizational management perspective, I agree that it's important to encourage those who work for you by edifying their successes and absorbing their failures.

I've heard a concept called "The 2-Way Mirror" that suggests that the best leaders look out on their company as if through a 2-way mirror.  When all is bright in the company, you acknowledge the successes of the department and respond as if this is the only thing you see.  When the other side of the mirror is dark, you see only your own reflection and respond by acknowledging your own faults that contributed to the company's failures.  (I believe this idea is credited to Jim Collins in his book "Good to Great")

So as far as this goes, I agree with Derek.  However, he lost me about half way through.  Here's what did it:

"This is way better than forgiving. When you forgive, you’re still playing the victim, and they’re still wrong, but you’re charitably pardoning their horrible deeds"

I actually understand where he's coming from, but he makes a pretty big assumption here and carries it to an extreme.  The part I agree with usually plays out in this way: a couple of people fight, or a mistake is made, and rather than saying "I'm sorry," the first response is "I forgive you."   Derek is right, this isn't nice.  It's judgmental, presumptuous, and plain rude.

But this isn't the spirit of forgiveness.  Christians are taught to forgive others multiple times in the teachings of Jesus, but even the apostles didn't get it right sometimes (see Matthew 18:21).  The definitions of "forgive" as it is used in scripture translates to anything from giving pardon to "changing the subject."

This my favorite definition, because "changing the subject" seems the most loving.  I consider myself hypothetically causing pain to a friend.  I come to them in apology, truly sorry for what I did.  Their response: "I forgive you.  Want to go get pizza?"  Forgiveness by changing the subject.

Notice there was no brushing it away, saying "it's ok," or "no problem," because someone really was hurt, and that's not ok.  But on the other side, there was no dwelling on the problem and causing more hurt to both sides.  The response is simple and meaningful. The person who was hurt has admitted that yes, he was hurt, but more importantly he has shown that he doesn't want to get revenge on his friend.  That his friend deserves second chances.  This is the true spirit of forgiveness.

Going back to Derek's thoughts, his post continues to suggest using the "it's my fault" response for every problem in life.  This is extreme that I can't get behind.  Partly because there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to life, but mostly because not everything in life is going to be your fault.  Sure, you contribute to every situation, but eating 2 cupcakes and 1 12oz sirloin last year isn't the reason you had a heart attack.  Hitting your breaks hard when a kid chased a ball into the street may have contributed to your getting rear-ended, but more likely it was the guy behind you who was checking his phone when that happened.

I think this warrants a "tell it like it is" mentality.  Sometimes problems are your fault, sometimes they're not.  Sometimes you have to ask forgiveness, and sometimes you have to give it, and sometimes you have to admit your 10% fault and keep your mouth shut about the other 90%.

For the readers: Do you think forgiveness is a necessary part of life?  Should you admit your fault in everything that goes wrong?  Post in the comments!

Always moving forward,


P.S.: I don't have any reason to launch a personal attack against Derek.  I appreciate his perspective, and I think it has great merit, but I don't get behind every word that was said.  I believe in healthy discussions even when they end in disagreement.  If this post came off as an attack, I encourage you to re-read with this perspective in mind.  If it still sounds like an attack the second time... well, I'm sorry.  To you and to Derek.  Will you please forgive me?

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