Of the many inspirational moments Nelson Mandela’s passing has provided, footage of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings was the most potent for me. Established at Mandela’s request, and chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the hearings brought post-apartheid victims and abusers together, face-to-face, to listen to, express and understand the pain and suffering endured on both sides of the racial divide.
The footage and the accounts are harrowing, raw and emotional, as you would expect. Yet the light at the end of this dark process, was real, heartfelt, and freeing forgiveness. Freedom for both victims and abusers, not necessarily to forget, but to accept in the other, genuine remorse and forgiveness.
Hating is Heavy
One of the greatest weights that people can carry around with them is hatred. Hatred of any other person or group of people. Even in the supposedly civilised domain of the workplace, I continue to be amazed by the strength of feeling people harbour against others whom by they feel have wronged them. Consequently many coaching conversations start with trying to step into another person’s shoes to seek understanding as to why they may have behaved less than perfectly. The simple, inconvenient truth is that, as humans, we are inherently flawed and imperfect.
With this in mind, here are some simple questions to ask yourself, that might just help to lighten your own load.
- What is hatred costing you? If you’re hating, you’re probably over-thinking others’ motives. Are you over-suspicious, increasingly cynical or putting great effort into ‘ignoring’ the hated one.
- What exactly do you hate? I often discover, it’s something specifically that was done or said at a particular point in time. So it’s rarely the case that it’s the ‘whole’ person that is hated.
- What do you ‘not hate’? On closer analysis, there will be aspects of a person that are deserving of hate, but worthy of understanding.
- Say it out loud – this is where a coaching conversation comes in. It’s what some psychologists call ‘clearing’. Letting you get it all ‘off your chest’ in a safe environment.
- Listen to yourself – how do you respond to the three ‘what’ questions above?
- What are you up for? – exploring what truth and reconciliation could bring to you?
- What will you do next? – deciding on the very next steps that you can take.
As a coach I am sometimes asked to facilitate conversations between people whose working relationship is, at best, not as good as it could be. In other cases the relationship may have broken down considerably. Whatever the starting point, it can be helpful to have an independent person there to help kick-start communication.
I have always found, that once these brave first steps have been taken, people find their own way together. Maybe not everyone finds everlasting happiness, but with a lightened load, they can renew their energy for moving forward.
So take a moment to reflect on what the great Madiba strived for. What might we all be capable of achieving with just a drop more forgiveness?