Leadership and Forgiveness, Part 1

This is a guest post by Andy Andrews, one of my dearest friends. He is also the author of the bestselling book, The Traveler’s Gift, and recently published The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances.

If you’re in leadership, the decision to forgive or seek forgiveness can seem like an afterthought, something necessary to smooth over awkward or rough patches so you can get back to business. This, says Andy Andrews, is a fatal underestimation. In Part 1 of this two-part guest blog, Andy explores how the principle of forgiveness is already affecting you and your leadership. (You can read Part 2 here.)

If you want to connect with Andy, you can read his blog or follow him on Twitter. He is one of the most inspiring people I know.

Several years have now gone by since the publication of The Traveler’s Gift. Because of the seven principles revealed in that story, I have increasingly found myself in quiet corners, talking intimately with some of society’s best-known leaders. Yet when they draw me aside, I do not pretend to have the answers some of them seek. (I am woefully ignorant about the details of business and politics!)Man Looking at Himself in the Mirror - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/domin_domin, Image #6642817

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/domin_domin

I know that my value to these men and women is that of a Noticer. In these odd moments, I am to provide perspective, often pointing out something important that’s right in front of them.

I have become convinced that there is one leadership principle upon which companies and families and fortunes balance, but it is totally misunderstood by today’s corporate and political leaders. This principle is powerful enough that it has redirected many of our lives in an eternal way, yet it is so ignored in our daily living that its absence has torn apart companies, families, nations, and civilizations!

You’ve heard of it before. It is called forgiveness.

Please understand that this blog entry is not about our own forgiveness, the kind that comes freely from God when we ask for it. That is a spiritual concept. I am calling attention to what we have in our control when we are lying awake at night thinking about a specific person and what he or she said or did and how we responded, and what we will say if we see them tomorrow!

You see, forgiveness is a decision—it is not an emotion. When we were commanded to forgive “seventy times seven” (see Matthew 18:22), it was not under the assumption that some moron might do something 490 times! Jesus knew that we, as human beings, tend to “take it back” and get angry all over again about the same thing, wasting time and energy and affecting other relationships in the process.

But forgiveness is not just a decision; it’s a principle. That means that it works every time. In our minds and hearts, we must consistently make the decision to forgive an offense until our emotions align with the decision we have made.

Try it. It works—especially when the target of your anger and resentment is yourself.

I don’t know about you, but for me . . . ? Considering all the people who have impacted my life in a negative way throughout the years, no one has ever disappointed me as much as I have disappointed me. And I couldn’t even lie about it; I know everything I’ve done! How is it possible to avoid the damage we inflict upon ourselves?

I am convinced that we cannot become the parents and spouses and leaders we aspire to be when we hold a grudge, however slight, against ourselves.

It is tough to do battle with an enemy that has a fort in your head! This also affects how we relate to other people. Without a forgiving spirit, our actions and facial expressions are often dominated by stress and resentment of which we are unaware. These hidden factors often create more uncertainty in our lives because we don’t understand why people are not responding to our leadership!

If God has forgiven you (and if you asked, He has) then it is time for you to forgive you. Lay down the whip with which you have been beating yourself about the head and shoulders. It is time to begin again.

So take a breath. Push the reset button. Forgive yourself first, and then you’ll have the poise and presence you need to seek forgiveness from others and transform your relationships, your business, and every aspect of your life. Tomorrow’s blog deals with that very thing.

Question: Do you need to forgive yourself?
As part of the promotion for Andy’s new book, I gave away 100 autographed copies to those who commented below. This is why people asked for the book in the comments below.
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  • GregMacMillan


    The reason I would love to receive a copy of “The Heart Mender” is for my wife. She is going through a difficult time right now in with her family situation that is requiring her to cut them out of her life.

    She has practiced dispensing grace and forgiveness but they continue to refuse to be repentant and turn from their hurtful ways. We have a 3 & 1/2 year old daughter that this extended to and that became the straw that broke the camels back. She has suffered for over 25 years with their destruction and conditional love. She wants nothing more than a healthy unconditional loving relationship with them and they seem determined to remain self righteous and ignorant to their sin. I am trying to be supportive and help her though this, but I struggle with wanting to hate them for the pain they have caused my wife primarily, but they have hurt me as well and now my little girl.

    God’s grace it sufficient and all we need, however my wife loves to read and is a fairly new Christian who could use some sound counsel that this book may very well provide.

    Even if I am not selected for a free copy I am sure I will purchase a copy for her.

    I love your blog and leadership Michael, I am on the path God has set before me to lead within the Church today and I look forward to continuing to learn from the window into your world and experience. Thank you.

    In His Grasp,

  • Angel Lara

    being able to forgive someone it starts with see them with grace, when we fail or made a bad decision we know that God can forgives which he does, we embrace grace easily and fast but i believe to able to say that we embrace grace from a biblical prospective it’s being able to see the other person with Grace and i know it’s hard but i believe that if we ask for his Grace he will give to us to so we can able to forgive ourselves and others

  • http://writingcanvas.wordpress.com/ Loni

    By God’s grace and pricking my heart often, I’ve had to work through forgiveness often ~ through may rejections in my childhood (both adoptive & birth parents) to rejections of friends and expectations. Several years ago we lost a 16 year old son to a stupid “game” he was “playing” – the choking game – (http://matthewsstory.com) It’s been a process of learning to forgive him for hurting our family and forgiving those that may have led him to try this. I’ve seen God’s greatness in my life & His unconditional love & forgiveness. I want to be more like Him. I’d like to read your book to help with that.

  • http://twitter.com/journeypastor @journeypastor

    Michael, I would love a copy of the book has GREAT application for both church and business leadership- since I just jumped back into the world of BiVocational Pastor I think it would help me lead well in both areas.

  • @dbaltesjr

    I have experienced some serious relational “fender benders” in the last several years. I am intrigued by The Heart Mender! We are currently rereading and recommending The Traveler’s Gift.

  • http://www.healthpeak.com Deb

    Great stuff as usual Andy! I am one of your biggest fans! I actually saw you speak years ago and kept hearing about your book The Traveler's Gift. I finally purchased it and devoured it with my husband. We then got Mastering the Seven Decisions and are almost through working through that together. I love the book so much that I have a business training that I do for my team and other teams within my company on the 7 decisions. I have recommended your book to lots of people and even done Toastmaster speeches on the decisions. Needless to say, it has greatly impacted my life. I can recite "I Have a Decided Heart" from memory and often do. I even spoke about that decision and quoted it at a dear friend's funeral in January. Thank you for impacting me and so many lives! I would love your new book!!

  • Yherrmann

    I love Andy! I just lost a job due to a boss who would be sarcastic and snap at me when something was wrong (even if I did not make the mistake). Forgiveness is hard, but necessary for my healing. Praise God for the grace and blood of my Saviour.
    Andy seems to always touch my heart and the Lord shows me what needs to be attended to as I read and re-read his books. I am usually one of the first to get them, but this time the money is not there (until I secure a new job).

  • GracedOne

    Andy Andrews has been called to communicate a timeless, eternal message in a fresh new light to many generations. Quite frankly I had never even heard of Andy until I was able to soak up his message like a dry sponge last month at a conference in Santa Clara.

    Andy thank you for giving me permission to forgive myself for past issues which have followed me for decades.

  • http://amothersangst.blogspot.com Fran

    A few years ago I received life-changing advice from a Noticer. He observed my tendency to beat myself up. He told me to limit myself to no more than 20 minutes of self-criticism, then move on. When I catch myself in that state of unforgiveness I try to turn my internal voice into a chorus of praise, thanking God for the learning opportunity and the experience that is bound to help me in the future. I’m still working on this and would love a copy of Andy’s new book to see how forgiveness (of myself & others) affects my leadership.

  • http://twitter.com/andrealschultz @andrealschultz

    This sounds like a terrific book! God has been showing me over and over and over and over – I am not kidding! – how important forgiveness is to Him . He is also showing me that I need it as much as He wants it from me. As much as He has been showing me lately, I would still love to read Andy's perspective on the subject.

    Blessings –
    Andrea Schultz
    Ponderings by Andrea http://andrealschultz.blogspot.com

  • Lori (proud mom)

    I am a new fan of Andy Andrews. I loved his book The Noticer and would love to have a copy of The Heart Mender. My sweet daughter shared her copy of The Noticer with me and I would love to be able to share my copy of The Heart Mender with her. Thanks for your consideration. From a Proud Mom!

  • NJH

    Forgiveness: The act of forgiving. It is an action. It is "for giving", and I have found that as I "give", I get so much in return. My mom showed me the ultimate example of forgiveness a few years ago, as she lived through a really traumatic experience. During this time, we were not on the best of terms. After 40 years of being her daughter and she being a wonderful, supportive mom, I decided that I had the "right" to hold some things against her – without forgiveness. Until, one morning I received a call that her house was engulfed in flames. By the time that I arrived at her residence, the ball of fire was rolling into the sky, hissing for us to stay back. As I ran toward the fire, I realized that I didn't care about anything that I had been angry about , even as recent as the night before. All I wanted was to see my mom and tell her I loved her one more time.

  • NJH Part 2

    NJH Part 2 – Fortunately, we found her safe, being protected from the cold within a neighbor's truck. As I wrapped my arms around her (something that I hadn't done for almost 2 years), I was given the news that she had lost the second love of her life just moments before. During the days and weeks following, I stayed beside my mom. Selfishly, I think. I realized that I was given a second chance to "act" right and I didn't want to waste one moment! When earlier in our relationship, I thought that she was the one who should ask for forgiveness, I realized now that I needed forgiveness. Instead of pushing me away and asking why I now wanted to love her, she openly forgave me, with no reservation. It was as if nothing ever happened. I still can't comprehend that kind of love. I thought that I had learned my lesson during that experience, but again, I find myself in another situation "holding" forgiveness, instead of seeing it as "for giving."

  • NJH Part 3

    NJH Part 3 – My mom is the one who wanted to by The Heart Mender, so it was my gift to her for Mother's Day. I didn't know what the content of the text was about when I purchased it. After my mom finished it, she passed it to me and insisted that I read it. Again, I was forced to face my selfishness through this book. I am so thankful to Andy Andrews for weaving the idea of forgiveness into this wonderful story. Although, I have read the book once, I would like a copy to have as my own. To highlight, underline, make notes, and even memorize some of the text…to fill my mind with thoughts of forgiveness, in order to push out the thoughts of unforgiveness. I want to find a way to be free. The only one being jailed by my unforgiveness is ME. I am working on the process of freedom daily.

  • http://www.speaker.judithrobl.com Judith

    Forgiveness is a powerful thing. I speak to women's groups about forgiveness all the time. I first learned about forgiving when my mother's younger brother was murdered. Then seven years later, my son-in-law turned on his family murdering the three children and very nearly our daughter as well. Forgiveness is a hard road, but as you said, it is a decision, not an emotion.

    The part of the definition of forgiveness I hone in on is "to renounce anger and resentment against." If you say it out loud, you reinforce your decision in your own ears. More than that, you declare it to the enemy who would beat you about the head with anger and resentment if you gave him the least foothold.

    Powerful principal, powerful concept.

  • http://www.debkalmbach.com Deb Kalmbach

    Thanks, Michael, for always providing thought-provoking topics. Forgiveness–especially of myself, is so difficult. As a mom of two adult sons, I look back and would love to re-wind big sections of my life and my care of them. I've heard it said that "we do the best we can with what we have at the time", but sometimes that's not very consoling. I do find great comfort in knowing that Jesus redeems our worst mistakes and failings. What a Savior! Thanks for continuing to write your blog–and for the opportunity to be in the running for one of Andy's books. Blessings to you!

  • Lucy

    Forgiveness is seen as a feminine trait, a weak one at that. To forgive is aligned to 'giving up' and not standing up for yourself. But it takes great strength to forgive. It was refreshing and an "aha" moment when I read that you need to continue forgiving until your emotions are aligned with your decisions.
    Quite often I struggle with the Godly principle of forgiveness and my own faults as an individual. I know that I will struggle too much to forgive someone and therefore have the internal "mind battle" before any action is taken. To which end there is none as I resolve that I am not capable of being so Godly. I am back where I started.
    Forgiveness takes courage, courage to commence down the path of forgiveness and stay on it. And self awareness and humility to start with yourself. The more I think of it, the more Godly the notion of forgiveness becomes and the more noble becomes the goal. I tell myself I can become that person.
    So in answer to your question, yes I certainly need to forgive myself.

  • cgund

    I have struggled with that verse in Matthew for a long time; at first not understanding it and then just simply not being able to do it. I can see how it could be applied to the different areas in our life(business , family, etc.). I just can't seem to be able to actually forgive because it is never asked for. We have to ask for forgiveness to receive it!

  • http://www.leadershiponpurpose.com Sandy

    I've read the Traveler's Gift and the Noticer and both of them were very helpful. The topic of forgiving myself is very timely. My husband and I have been in pastoral ministry for 25 years. The past 15 at a church where our kids grew up and we had deep friends and ties. This past February that came to a crashing halt. We have been hurt and the church has been hurt. This past week we had a 'reconciliation meeting' with the board. It didn't go well at all – the gulf is wider now. I've been pondering the things I said, the way the meeting went and would love to do the whole thing over. If only…has been hanging over me all week. I stopped going to church in February partly because I am struggling to see hearts transformed – mine included. Maybe I need to read this book!

  • http://www.clipshopshare.com John

    To forgive others seems easy to me. To forgive myself seems almost impossible. I know what I should do and should not yield to my flesh, but the desire for the sin always seems more than the desire to do right. Then the guilt sets in and the viscious cycle occurs again. Knowing that I keep doing what I shouldn't just seems to make it that much harder to then forgive myself and move forward. Perhaps when I am furthest from God is when I sense the desire of fleshly things is greatest. Oh, if life never got in the way…..New habits must start so that I can do what I need to do to stay close to God. Then, hopefully, the guilt and yearning for fleshly desires will fade away.

  • Edgar Brush

    As a Chick-fil-A operator I have the opportunity to influence a lot of peoples lives. I would like to have a copy of this book to teach my leaders who in turn will teach the 55 team members working with us. what a great subject to teach our people who have the opportunity to touch so many others.

  • http://twocentsworth.squarespace.com Penny Schultz

    Reading Andy's first two books have been beneficial to my husband and myself. The insights I found there surprised me in that I thought I was reading a short novel. I've come to look forward to Andy's books and to his tweet's day by day. This new book, I believe, could be helpful to someone I know who has been finding it difficult to forgive himself for an act that he did years ago. His heart has been broken over it, but he's struggled with forgiving himself. Based on what I read on the blog post, I suspect Andy may have some inspired words to help him to come to a complete healing of his broken heart and that means forgiveness.

  • http://twitter.com/DonnaLloyd @DonnaLloyd

    I would love a copy of this book for three reasons 1) I NEVER win anything. 2) I received a promotion at work and will soon be taking over as the department leader and I want to do it right. There will be several things at play in this situation since the previous leader was removed against her wishes. 3) I am hoping that this book will help with an issue I am having in my personal life concerning forgiving myself, which in turn will help me to be a better wife, mother, student, teacher and leader.

  • Lori Ann

    Forgiving myself is so difficult. Just this weekend, I have been mentally kicking my self over choices that I made that created distance in my immediate family. I have been praying for healing in the family but not for the ability to forgive myself.

    I believe God is a God of forgiveness and second chances.

    He has saved my life 3 times so I believe that my job isn't finished. Not forgiving myself is standing in the way of the things that God wants me to do since He left me here. I want to do the job He wants me to.

    Lori Ann

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/craigtowens Craig T. Owens

    I was pastoring a church where I got attacked for doing what I believed that God had called me to do. The attacks were vicious, unrelenting, and the most bald-faced lies I'd had ever heard.

    I spent a lot of time in prayer trying to hear from God on why He would allow me to go through something like this. I heard & felt nothing. Eventually I heard this very distant Voice, "Will you forgive them?" I knew I was "supposed to" forgive, but I didn't want to forgive. "Why should I forgive them? They should be asking for my forgiveness!" Still the Voice persisted, "Will you forgive them?" I relented. I forgave.

    I still questioned why I had to go through this. Recently other wounded people have started coming to me with the same hurts & questions. I'm doing my best to answer their questions out of my own personal experience. I am hopeful that Andy's book will help me finalize my healing, and (more importantly) help me minister to other hurting people.

  • Michelle

    This a comment in regards to my challenge to forgive myself in leadership:

    I feel like my entire school year has surrounded the theme of forgiveness. For the last 3 years I have served as a national leader in Campus Crusade for Christ’s high school ministry Student Venture. God has been nailing me all year to forgive as He has forgiven me. The journey started when my dad was diagnosed with terminal stage 4 lung cancer and some issues surfaced between my sisters and myself. He has been asking me to forgive them. From there He has shown me other layers of hurt that I have glossed over with the typical, "that's okay. No big deal" comment. Basically He has opened Pandora’s box on the whole theme and is asking me to receive His forgiveness of me, extend forgiveness toward others, and lead our staff in forgiving. I believe the Lord is taking me on this journey personally so I can in turn walk with many of our staff as they resolve conflict with one another and with our leadership team. I don’t even think I have touched on forgiving myself yet in this journey of the failures in ministry and in leading. That is one of the deepest layers in the forgiveness process, I believe. I deeply desire to grow in walking in repentance towards the Lord and towards others. That is the reason your latest post even caught my eye. I have been reading everything in the Bible and in the bookstore that I can get my hands on to guide me on the journey. Thanks for posting this article and for letting us know about the book.

  • Theresa

    I am blown away by your blogpost. A CEO of a corporation writing about the connection between leadership and forgiveness! My heart resonates with your insight, particularly after wrestling with this very topic in my parenting context. I am now writing a book about parenting (or rather, unparenting) adults-in-training as a result of a very difficult experience launching our emerging adult children. I could not have begun this writing if I had not worked through the forgiving of our children and myself.
    The inability to forgive oneself and others is the debris that clogs the pipe of creativity! To move forward, I must move into the forgiving mode.
    Thank you again.
    Coach Theresa Froehlich

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/theresaipfroehlich theresaipfroehlich

    I am blown away by your blogpost. I have certainly found your highlighted sentence to be true in my parenting context.
    "I am convinced that we cannot become the parents and spouses and leaders we aspire to be when we hold a grudge, however slight, against ourselves."
    After a rather difficult experience of launching our emerging young adult children, I struggled with the forgiveness factor. I am currently writing a book about Parenting (or Unparenting) Adults-in-training. I could not have begun the writing if I had not forgiven our children and myself.
    The inability to forgive is not only the poison of relationships, it is also the debris that clogs the creativity pipeline.
    Thank you for this post.
    Coach Theresa

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/gritandglory alece

    wow. this was so good. and by far, it's hardest to extend grace and forgiveness to myself… i needed this reminder tonight.

  • http://www.abundantlovechurch.org Mike Thorpe

    Excellent subject and article, could you post or message me info about obtaining the book mentioned? Thanks and God Bless!

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