Last week we broached the sticky subject of betrayal within family businesses. We covered how the overlapping circles, interconnected responsibilities, and sometimes unclear expectations that come with working alongside family can make family businesses a landmine of potential betrayal, both intention and accidental. But while the best medicine for betrayal is avoiding it in the first place, today we’ll discuss how to overcome betrayal once it’s already happened, which means jumping into the process of forgiveness and Family Forgiveness Rituals™.
What is a Family Forgiveness Ritual™?
However, a Family Forgiveness Ritual™ is much more than just a simple framework. A Family Forgiveness Ritual™ is also a way to bring in a family’s spiritual values, religious background, and family heritage into the conflict resolution process. Performing a Family Forgiveness Ritual™ involves “creating a ceremony that draws on the family’s fundamental values of love, generosity, and sense of abundance” (Tom Hubler). A Family Forgiveness Ritual™ involves five key steps and (it’s important to note) always functions as a part of an overall family business consultation, not as a standalone option divested from other family business discussions. The five basic steps are as follows:
- Background and Context: The family business consultant will start by sharing their views on the nature of forgiveness, allowing for a shared framework of what forgiveness means in the context of the Family Forgiveness Ritual™. We’ll start to have a more in-depth discussion of the nature of forgiveness and its purposes next month. This first step is also when a family’s clergy-person or spiritual advisor can share the family’s religious or spiritual background.
- Sharing Forgiveness Needs: The second step of the Family Forgiveness Ritual involves each individual family member sharing what they’d like to be forgiven for. This may be one of the most personal and emotional moments of the process, and often involves more information than the family had previously known!
- Absolution Ritual: This part of the ritual involves a process or event that works to symbolically “wash away” the pain and hurt of each family member. While this may not sound very specific, that’s because the absolution ritual tends to vary significantly depending on the family, their religious or spiritual values, and the clergy-person involved.
- Eucharistic Celebration: Similar to the Absolution Ritual, this celebratory act looks entirely different and unique to each family. So far this has only been performed with Christian families, so this step can be modified, replaced, or even left out entirely depending on each unique family’s unique religious and spiritual values and beliefs.
- Potluck Meal: Lastly, every Family Forgiveness Ritual™ ends up with the symbolic celebratory feast that brings everyone together. While the preference is for a potluck as it involves the direct inclusion and contribution of each individual, in cases where a potluck is logistically impossible, a family restaurant outing or other family meal can be done instead.
If this sounds like a lot of information, don’t worry: it is. The Family Forgiveness Ritual™ is the centerpiece of the forgiveness process and therefore it stands as our introduction, but it’s far from the only element. Next time we’ll explore more on the nature of forgiveness and how the Family Forgiveness Ritual™ fits into the larger process, which will hopefully serve as important context into how and why the ritual works. For more on forgiveness in family businesses, look into The Soul of the Family Business by Tom Hubler. Through personal anecdotes, real-world case studies, useful tools and frameworks, and more, Hubler offers an in-depth look at how the forgiveness process works with working families. For all of this, pick up The Soul of the Family Business, available in hardcover form on Amazon.com, directly through Itasca Books, or at a bookstore near you. And of course, you can always contact Hubler for Business Families today to set up a free orientation meeting with Thomas Hubler, the expert on family business planning.