Leadership and Forgiveness, Part 2

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 2 of this two-part guest blog, Andy explores how the principle of forgiveness is already affecting you and your leadership. (You can read Part 1 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.

The principle of forgiveness has been ingrained in our spiritual life, but as an everyday tool, it seems to have been discarded by leaders as a sign of weakness.

Man Asking Forgiveness of Woman - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/AndreasKermann, Image #5416841

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/AndreasKermann

Employers rarely seek forgiveness from their employees. Parents don’t seek forgiveness from their children. Politicians never seek it from their constituents; nor do athletes from their teams, coaches from their athletes, or teachers from their students.

We could go on and on, but the evidence is clear. The game of LIFE has a “reset button,” but it is not being used!

Occasionally, leaders approach me with an eye for a solution to a tragic rift. The “event” has often been discussed by committees, worked on by consultants, and has cost unimaginable sums of time and money. Sometimes the disaster refuses to die, and it goes on claiming victims who were not even around when the incident took place. Companies close, families break apart, and churches split.

Amazingly, all these events seem to have a single thing in common: if a leader was the person who caused all the trouble (pulled the switch, made the move, etc.), he or she tried to clean up the disaster and make everything “nice” without knowing the difference between a mistake and a choice. The gap between the two is monumental. Knowing the difference can save you a ton of heartache, trouble, and money.

A mistake is when you turn left instead of right and get lost in the woods, subsequently stumbling off a cliff and breaking an arm. But when your mother has warned you against going into forest and you do so anyway thinking that no one will ever know, any injury is the result of a conscious choice.

When a leader makes a mistake, a carefully worded, heartfelt apology is usually all that is needed to right the ship. We rationalize, “there but for the grace of God, go I,” and we grant our own grace to the person, take a deep breath, and start over with the knowledge that “they won’t make that mistake again.”

But when there’s trouble because of a choice, the only thing that can ever hope to repair the damage is a specific request for forgiveness.

Some leaders try to push a version of this into the charred landscape: “I am so sorry. I have apologized to my family and now I apologize to you. I can’t tell you how sorry I am.” As weeks and months pass, some become almost belligerent in their attempts to make things right. “How many times must I say that I am sorry?” they plead.

Yet these apologies never set things right. The leaders made bad choices, and the people floating in the wreckage left behind have the unsettled suspicion that, “You aren’t sorry. You’re just sorry that you got caught.”

Whether or not this dissatisfaction is acknowledged or even consciously understood, it remains a gaping wound that is often never healed. Parents who make wrong choices in front of their followers (children) and chalk them up as mistakes, throwing them away with casual apologies, know that those offenses can pile up in the life of a child and overflow into astonishing rebellion and disrespect.

Can you remember an instance in your life when someone lost the reins of leadership because of a choice he or she made? An inappropriate comment, an unwise association, even a bad attitude on display can fester into unintended and crippling consequences if the “reset button” is not pushed in time. Setting things right—actually asking for forgiveness—can be uncomfortable in the moment, but the effects of this simple action will astound you.

Nothing beats this:

“I am so sorry. I am ashamed. Will you forgive me?”

These humble words, when spoken honestly, can heal virtually any wound. I have watched in awe as leaders reclaimed their authority with the quiet impact of this single principle. By harnessing the strength offered by the principle of forgiveness, corporations have regained their stature and families have been made whole again.

As you spread this simple message, I urge you to enjoy being the bearer of good news.

Question: Who do you know that might benefit from having their reset button pushed?
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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  • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

    I recently read Andy’s “The Noticer” and absolutely loved it. I am excited to read this upcoming book because I know how asking for forgiveness has helped me to fight against pride as a husband and leader.

  • Linze Anderson

    Forgiveness…It seems like such a simple word to say but sometimes it can be the hardest thing one can ever do! I would love to win this book and learn the true meaning of the word. To Forgive and To Let Go of the Feelings that I have towards others. Is something that I really could use right about now. To lift this burden and finally heal those wounds would be such a blessing.

  • Nancy

    My dad taught me at an early age the power of asking forgiveness. It was not what I expected from my parent as a teenager. I hadn't experienced it from an adult before. In working with 600 teens every day, I talk about my dad with them when they say things like, "I don't apologize" or "I can't apologize." It's more difficult to apply my childhood lesson with adults in my life. After disappoints recently and words said, I did go to my supervisor and ask for forgiveness. It came much more slowly than it should have.

    I read many leadership books, but I've never read one that addresses leadership and forgiveness. I would be very excited to read it and share it with colleagues.

  • zerkangel@juno.com

    Forgiveness is a hard thing to do, especially if it's someone other than family. With family, it's easier. These are people that you love and hold dear to your heart. I've gone through the heartache of forgiveness with a family member. It's tough. I know that it is different with leaders, but we should also be forgiving with them. They are human and make mistakes. I make mistakes everyday. I'm not perfect and there is not one of us on this earth that is perfect. Forgiveness is something we should all think about a little more. I sure want the forgiveness of those I hurt and disappoint. Don't you?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MichaelLett MichaelLett

    An autographed copy of the book would mean a lot to me. I am soon to be a new father (actually Thursday, June 8th, 2010 at 8AM). The baby is breech so my wife has to have a scheduled c-section so we know the exact moment. As I think about becoming a father and forgiveness, I can see how the two are so integrally linked as Forgiveness and Love were two great gifts that our Heavenly Father gave to us. He forgave of us of our sins and accepted us no matter what we had done and gave us everlasting life in union with Him.
    I know that I will have times in the coming years when I will need to forgive my son for what he has done, and will likely need to ask him for forgiveness as well. An autographed copy of the book would be a great item to hand down to him in later years, relate the story of forgiveness and how I received the book. Andy’s books have always meant the world to me since a friend introduced me to the Traveler’s Gift. Since then I have gotten it into the hands of over 400 people in one form or another and I still refer back to that book when I need inspiration. The Heart Mender will soon join that list with me.

  • http://www.twitter.com/chrishennessey Chris H.

    Forgiveness is something that is “easy” to learn but definitely hard to put into practice. Forgiveness is an essential part of a spiritual life. I would love a copy of The Heart Mender! Thanks

  • http://www.takechargeinc.com/ Mary Ellen

    This is a great topic and post, Andy. I agree, some leaders could use a lesson on how to be simply human. We all make mistakes, sometimes we make the wrong choices and therefore need to say your sorry, pick up the pieces and move forward. Some leaders today worry about ego and power too much, wouldn't saying "will you forgive me?" transfer some of their power?? No. But that is how they see it. A solution? Practice Mindful leadership- that is bringing yourself into the present, becoming aware of the situations and being able to leader others in a compassionate, yet passionate, tough but understanding way. Although not a new phenomenon, but being open and honest with one another can and will go a long way. http://www.themindfulleadershipblog.com

  • Michelle Taylor

    My husband would benefit from this book as he is trying to re-build his life after losing a job. He worked for his brother and their relationship deteriorated to the point that he was let go. Forgiveness is needed on both sides and the family is torn because of the rift. My husband has never been able to gain footing again and we are losing our house and our lives will never be the same.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/FayeB rfbryant

    Andy, It's partly your fault I'm published. Thank you.
    This book, so timely. I have a very good friend who is in the position of needing the mending. I would love to place this in his hands. He's said the words and is trying to live where he needs. I believe this would help him, encourage him and help him grow to where God wants him.

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

    Unfortunately I have learned the hard way that "i'm sorry" won't justly mend a broken heart. The mending must take place not only in the one who's heart was broken, but as equally important in the heart of the "heartbreaker." That heart needs healing too. The antidote, which takes great amounts of courage to muster, is four simple words "will you forgive me?" These words are almost as hard to say as "will you marry me?", but courage is due when we have effected those we love and impact daily. Stand up, the reward is great. There is freedom in forgiveness.

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

    I would like a copy of Andy Andrews’s book because I consider myself a lifelong learner. Every day, I'm amazed and struck by what one can learn out there if they will just open their eyes and listen – listen to the Holy Spirit, listen to what's going on around them, and listen to people you know, or feel, you should be listening to. It's this latter part that has drawn me in.

    I have already learned a lot from what I will call the "Thomas Nelson Circle." Between you, your company and your books (Fearless was really impactful to me; now working through my first Bible; The Maxwell Leadership Bible), I am learning, and growing more and more every day. I've read and watched the material on Andy's new book and I'm excited to see what life has in store for me from it.

    Thanks, Michael, for the opportunity!

  • Jack

    Exceptional post. What Andy is saying is so true; yet, often times we think to highly of ourselves and don’t think the humility is necessary. I can’t wait to read the Andy’s book. Thank you for the post and thanks to Andy for addressing such relevant material.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/tejasfan His Girl

    Seems that God allows some people in our life that we have to find ourselves forgiving on a daily basis.These people can be family, employers, coworkers, neighbors or even Pastors. Once forgiven they turn around and cause another reason we must step back and forgive. I confess I really struggle with this at times. Then there are moments where I think I have forgiven but I keep bringing up what happened. So wishing I were more like God in that area. Let's not forget to mention self forgiveness. I seem to say I am sorry way more then I should I think that stems from being so hard on my self and not forgiving myself so I feel that others may be struggling with it as well.

    One of my Pastor's once stood before my church and asked a deacon for forgiveness for an argument they had. He lead by example and that really stuck with me. As a parent and a leader in the lives of my children I do ask for forgiveness. I know I am not above doing wrong and the need to mend that relationship.

    Seems forgiveness can be the easiest or the hardest heart decision.

  • Julie

    This is an awesome post! Thank you for sharing! I am in dire need of help with securing my own reset button!

    My husband and I have been making some bad choices for our family, the biggest one being not remaining in church. We have allowed church leadership and failed relationships keep us from God’s house and our children are suffering as a result. Consequently, our home life is suffering as well.

    Thank you again!

  • Vickie

    Truthfully I read the post to learn how to get the free book. Lucky me, the blog spoke right to my heart! I pray that I can take the principle taught and apply it to my life. I am hoping and praying that I can mend the broken relationship with my son. BTW I absolutely loved seeing Andy Andrews @ WOF.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AlewebSocial Tara Alemany

    As a single parent raising 2 kids, I was impressed early on by the power of asking for forgiveness, sometimes for things that would seem obvious to an adult, but not to a child. The stress of single-parenting would occassionally lead me to respond curtly or with frustration to my childrens' demands for time and attention that were in short supply. Those would be the times when I would follow up later with an apology, an explanation of my response (their contributions and mine), and a clear statement as to what I did wrong in the situation. This would always be followed by a request for forgiveness. While they didn't always agree with my decisions, the circumstances could always be put behind us because they still felt valued.

    I would love a copy of this book because I believe that seeking forgiveness is key to addressing so many of the pains and hurts we carry around with us, whether we are leaders in our homes or in the business world. I have read others of Andy's books, and LOVE them. Thus, I would really enjoy getting a copy of this book to encourage and nurture me as I continue to lead in both my home and my business relationships.

  • Brandon Jones

    I love Andy's writings. The Noticer is my favorite among those that I have read, but I have not put my hands on a copy of some of the latest books, such as Butterfly Effect or Heart Mender, although I am anxious to read them both.____I would like a copy of Heart Mender for my wife. Her mother left when she was two

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

    I firmly believe the greatest gift we can give someone in life is a second chance. Andy Andrews and Michael Hyatt are two amazing men. I follow both on Twitter and I read their blogs regularly. (Andy needs to post more often.) I have read every Andy Andrews book, and I am looking forward to the Heart Mender. (I would like to compare how it evolved from Island of Saints.) Hoping I win a copy. One of my favorite quotes that goes along with Andy's theme is, "All Saints have a past, all sinners have a future." (I believe Oscar Wilde said this.) Best wishes to all. Also hoping Andy returns ask a guest on Hyatt's blog. Wonderful reading.

  • http://www.garykuyper.com Gary

    I could not agree more Saying sorry for a wrong or truly forgiving a wrong is something we do not do well. As a Husband, father, Leader and Friend I need to be challenged with Biblical model of forgiveness.

    I have found as a leader that asking for direction, forgiveness or just saying how can I do better builds a stronger trusting relationship.

    Then the living day to day to prove you really are repentant is the hard part, in todays society so many people are weary of those that say they are sorry.

    I look forward to this book, the Noticer was such a powerful story on perspective and the ability of individuals.

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

    I'm a pastor of a church of about 100 in Illinois. Last summer in an effort to creatively start some small groups, I started a summer reading club. I went to the local Family Christian Store and selected five books for the group to read. Each member could pick one book per month and once a month we would get together and discuss our selections. The biggest hit last summer was The Noticer by Andy Andrews. The group members were just drawn to Andy's story telling and the story of the Noticer. That is when I became a fan of Andy.
    This Summer, I began the group again and selected the Heart Mender as our June selection. Again we fell in love with Andy's writing.
    I would love to have a signed copy to add to my library and share with the group. I enjoy having signed books from my favorite authors and it would be a great discussion piece for the group.

  • http://twitter.com/buzzie1969 @buzzie1969

    I'd like to win a copy, thanks__marcus802001(at)yahoo(dot)com

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

    Thankfully, as Mark Sanborn says, we don't need titles to be leaders. I lead my children, my small group Bible study, my extended family & friends, and the people who follow my blog. I have needed to apologize to my children for being to harsh, my husband for being too arrogant, and my God for things I'm not comfortable writing here just yet. I would love to know more about authentic, effective leadership. Perhaps God will give me a larger platform someday (or maybe a smaller one). In either case, I would love to step forward in Christ's full freedom and forgiveness. Thank you for considering me for the book give-away today.

  • http://www.tinyurl.com/s-journey Sharman

    Asking for forgiveness, no matter who you are and who you are asking for forgiveness from, is simple. But it is not easy to do because of a overrated thing called EGO, also known as Edging God Out. It requires a humbling of oneself which is painful and no one willingly walks into pain. I remember a time when I had tense words with a member of my support staff. The next day during my morning prayer, I was compelled to forgive and to apologize to her as soon as I got into the office. I didn't want to do it. It was very hard for me particularly since I felt I didn't start it. Nevertheless, when I got into the office, I went to her office. I started to apologize but she stopped me and said it was all her fault and I had nothing to apologize for. We both smiled and our relationship improved. Forgiveness, either at work or at home, may not be an easy thing to do, but the rewards are immeasurable.

  • Marcia S. Clement

    I have a brother who is has been through a divorce in the last three years. Something else must also be going on, because he is withdrawing from our family, his children, and is showing such extreme bitterness and seems to have set his Christianity aside. I have read THE HEART MENDER, and when Josef so innocently makes the comment that his family was killed because her husband taught the Brits how to fly their aircraft, it is a heart-stopping moment. I think my brother at this time thinks he is the only one in the world who has been wronged. EVER! Additionally, my mother is from New Orleans, and my brother is a history buff, so I think he would read it for historical reasons. He needs forgiveness and to be forgiven. I think this book targets men better than any novel I have read in a long time. PLEASE consider sending me a copy. Thank you so much!!

  • Tyler White

    As a leader currently, there is so much miscommunication and pain currently, and I would love to have a resource like this to alter our culture, prayerfully towards humility, starting with me.

  • http://southernbelle886.blogspot.com @hasbell

    I love Andy’s books. They are always challenging and eye opening with encouragement to push you along. Would love a copy of his book.

  • NT

    As a person who works on a church staff, I am always looking for resources and tools that help me grow spiritually so that I may set the example and lead others. Forgiveness is an often discussed topic in the Bible because the Lord knows how important it is in order to maintain a right relationship with Him and with others and how hard it is for us as humans to embody this quality. Christ was our ultimate Example in this area. From reading this post, I believe this book will be incredibly helpful to me and my ministry. I hope you will consider sending me an autographed copy. Thank you for the great post!

  • cynthia

    To whom it may concern, I believe that God is the author of second chances. HE has given me many second chances. I would like to better learn how to give others second chances. I have just gone thru a deal w/ the pastor of our church, whom left our church w/out a word as to why. HE is now back, and i struggle w/ not getting angry w/ him for abandoning us. Would love to recieve the book , the heart mender.
    thank you so much for offering it in this way. cynthia

  • sisterbygrace

    Awesome resource. We all can benefit from it. Thank you for sharing :)

  • http://kingdomfoundation.wordpress.com Zeb

    Honestly, I want to be in right standing with God and find the wisdom he wants me to have and one of the things he says is found in Proverbs 10:14a – Wise [men] lay up knowledge. Another passage says to seek for wisdom as if it was gold or something I highly value. I am just trying to learn as much as I can. So I hope that I win thisvook so that I may learn more of Gods wisdom and knowledge so that He can use my fullest potential.

  • Deborah

    I would like a copy of this book because I have been on both sides, the one who caused the hurt as well as the one who was hurt. Of course, I moved on without thinking about a "reset button" which can make the difference in what happens next. Also, forgiveness is a topic that many do not understand or fail to understand. So, this book will shed a different perspective into this topic.

  • K Pate

    Andy's insight is so needful and appropriate. Thanks!!

  • http://encouragementacres.blogspot.com/ Donna Pingry

    There have been so many times when I have needed forgiveness and many times when I have needed to forgive. Forgiveness hasn’t always been automatic. There are still broken relationships in my life. Saying you are genuinely sorry doesn’t guarantee automatic forgiveness even if you mean it with all your heart. Hidden in my closet are some resentments and reluctance to forgive as well.
    When leadership makes mistakes we expect they are closer to God, more in tune with the Master, less likely to sin. We want to hold them as an example of what we want to become ourselves when we arrive someday.
    Sadly we are flawed people..whether we are in ministry or sitting in the pew.
    Forgiveness has taken me to the Master’s woodshed and forgiveness has driven me to His feet.
    I’d love a copy of this book to share with someone going through a hard time right now. This book has already blessed me and another person I shared it with so I’m hoping to expand the circle. Thank you, Andy Andrews and the wonderful people who shared their lives in his book. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with this book.

  • http://www.mynsp.com/helenfu Helen Fu

    My father taught me: to forgive others is to be kind to yourself, then you don't have to carry the burden any more!

  • Carrie Matson

    The choice to forgive self and forgive others requires a the daily practice of renewing the mind with truth, grace, mercy and love. This enables a person to live a life of godliness, contentment, joy and unconditional love. When I am referred to as a hypocrite I completely agree with the accusation – no one but me and God know what I get away with in my own mind and in my own choices on a daily basis. No one is as interested in my own self protection and prosperous living as me and God. God however is perfect and flawless and knows what is best for me at all times with an eternal perspective. Because pride and fear often cloud my choices, forgiveness of self and others is a daily exercise that strengthens my dependence on God and my humility toward others. The greatest servant leader ever tells us to take the log out of our own eye before attempting to address the speck in another's eye. Forgiveness is an ongoing choice to live in freedom. The truth always sets us free.

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  • Father of the Bride

    My middle daughter and oldest grandchild were abandonned by her first husband. He left to chase pleasure. About a year later some friends from church introduced my daughter to the man who became her second husband. Numerous people told me what a fine person my daughter was seeing. He came riding in like a knight on a white horse. He sparkled and shined and said the right things. His previous marriage had ended when his wife became unfaithful to him. So, it appeared to be two wounded souls finding each other in the night.
    I felt a certain suspicion but I decided that I was only reacting to being challenged as the leader of the family and that maybe he was all that he appeared and we were told.
    Oh, if I had only listened to the inner warnings. So many people claimed he was victimized in his first marriage. His wife left him for another man and now I see why (not justifying it, I just see why).
    My daughter’s husband (now) has hurt so many in our family, church, and city. He deceived until recently he was exposed. He stole money from everyone who gave him a chance. All the while, posing as a Christian leader. Even setting up a Bible Study in which he invited those he was stealing from. He accepted the controversial position of deacon in our church. Controversial, because he had been previously married and some felt that excluded him from consideration. During this period he stole a few hundred thousand dollars from church staff, business partners, contractors and from my wife and I (because we were foolish enough to enter into a flip house business deal with him).
    After it all surfaced the family was hurt, angry, and confused. We still have those feelings despite so much prayer. The problem in a nutshell is that he is sorry he got caught, but not remorseful or repentant. He cries, but that is because he thinks everyone is being so mean to him. But if we relax our distance he immediately begins his strut. He has never asked me for forgiveness for stealing from me. He has even asked me to lend him money and a car so he can continue financially. He lied then also. He asked for 10s of thousands of dollars telling me it would clear his debt to everyone. If I’d have given him the money, it wouldn’t have come close to filling the hole. Some of the people who were stolen from have gone to the District Attorney and are seeking criminal charges.
    Now about my daughter. She has lost total respect for him. She is still in the marriage seeking direction from God. She has been attending marriage help from a Christian marriage counselor. Last week the counselor told my daughter that she didn’t have a marriage to save. Another Christian couselor had been meeting with my daughter’s husband and upon comparing notes they agreed that this was not a marriage to save.
    My daughter continues in the marriage waiting for more insight. She struggles everyday just to live in the same house.
    The issue is that no one and I mean no one, not our pastor (who has met with him numerous time) believes he is truly repentant. He just ran out of options. He was exposed.
    I don’t desire for him to get his just reward. I surly don’t want my just reward, either. We all just need an honest heart felt apology and inner change.
    He still wants to lead. He keeps telling my daughter that she needs to be the wife that God wants her to be and support him without judgement.
    Yeah, you’re right. Not seeking true repentance is a product of not accepting responsibility, nor understanding the depth of the pain, anger, and confusion his actions have caused. Please pray for my daughter and my granddaughter. My granddaughter suffers from his fits of anger. He has even screamed that he hates my granddaughter (7 yrs. old) and is jealous of her. What a mess. What deception. What a need for realization, repentance, forgivenss and love.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/woody36060 woody36060

    We have only three choices in life:
    1. Change the person, place, situation or thing that is frustrating us.
    2. Divest ourselves of the person, place, situation or thing…
    3. Change our attitude as it relates to the above situation(s).
    Problem is that 1 & 2 seldom if ever work well. Number 3 however, ALWAYS works. The major ingredient in option 3 is forgiveness. Without forgiveness it is virtually impossible to appreciably and effectively change our attitude. Thanks to Andy for reminding us of this.

  • John Blankenship

    Sounds like good life changing information!!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/chrisvonada chrisvonada

    Great post Andy, just found this buried in my July 4th weekend e-mails… I read The Heart Mender in record time (not a speed reader). I believe it's your best book yet !!!

  • http://www.spencemcdonald.com Spence McDonald

    This article touched me deeply. Thank you.

    Yes, we all have someone we need to apologize to for our misgivings. I know I do. We are not free from the sins upon others. Go and ask for forgiveness. I did just the other day and it will be a day by day connection that will share how sincere I am.

    So I was thinking… We have choices. Our choices can be positive or good and they might be bad choices. I believe we are smart people and know the difference between right and wrong. What I have witnessed has been that bad choices always equal bad consequences. It is like a law of the universe or something. Then there are the good choices we make that can produce either good consequences and sometimes bad consequences. Seems there is a risk with the energy of a good choice.

    So if there is a risk, do we make the choice anyway. Well, what does your internal ethics guidance system say. If you have high values then the the question is a no brainer. You take the risk and make the good choice because it matches your value system.

    Again, thanks for a great article. It was one more reminder to continue on the path of genuine forgiveness.

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