In the flow of life, it is certain that individuals in a family business will anger, offend, or upset another family member. It frequently happens with people we love because we share such a special bond. The successful family businesses I encounter have learned how to forgive each other, how to create a new beginning in their relationships. Business (and household) families who don't practice forgiveness stay mired in past hurts and negativity. It damages everyone: transgressor, victim, and other family members.
It is your choice to forgive someone who wrongs you. You do it voluntarily. In fact, I suggest that a person cannot move forward until they forgive. And when you forgive, you relieve your own suffering and stress. Forgiveness leads to a healthier life, improves relationships and releases you from the negatives of the past.
Forgiveness provides a feeling of peace. As Khaled Hosseini writes in his book The Kite Runner, forgiveness occurs "not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night." When you forgive you take responsibility for how you feel, which allows you to give and receive more love from important people in your life; it re-energizes relationships.
To reach the peace that forgiveness provides you must begin with an open heart. You feel vulnerable and, at the same time, courageous. "The weak can never forgive," said Mahatma Gandhi, "Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." That's why it is important to recognize that you are doing this for yourself; you forgive as a way to heal and make your own life. You have compassion for yourself.
You also have compassion for the person who caused the hurt. You choose to forgive; the perpetrator cannot successfully demand it. This is another reason why forgiveness comes from strength, not weakness. You learn to forgive gracefully to reduce the burden on the person you forgive. The idea is similar to the philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous - to not harm others in any way.
A final, important aspect of forgiveness is that it is a polite acceptance of life's imperfections. It comes from gratitude rather than expectation. Through forgiveness, we learn to understand and appreciate the blessings we receive, broaden our world view, and live life with greater ease. As my teacher, Amit Sood, said "Since you didn't write the script, there is no reason to think you should be able to edit it."
We must learn to accept the many things in our lives we cannot control. This life-long endeavor requires regular, conscious practice. Living a life of forgiveness is a gift to yourself that resonates inside of you even as it radiates to others. As activist and author Maya Angelou stated it, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Practicing forgiveness in your family business is crucial. Getting past conflict between family members can sometimes mean the difference between passing the legacy down another generation or having to close down the business. Forgiveness is the feeling that ever expands and never reduces. It ennobles you and renounces anger on those who wronged you. It just might be the most powerful prescription for bettering your family business and our world.