I say it’s the secret, not because this is a new concept, but because when applied properly it will change your life in ways you never thought possible.
Significance is ultimately about action, not merely thought. Often we think we’re living significant lives, only to find that we falter embarrassingly in moments of conflict with others. When we’re upset and we raise our voices, judge with prejudice, put others down, lose our calm, fail to listen, become irrational (… or post vicious comments on social media?), this is not caused by whatever is applying the pressure on us. This is latent anger peeking out, the legacy of the past, unresolved conflicts.
Successful people can and do attempt to move beyond past conflicts by merely offering apologies – expressions of remorse – for their transgressions. While that’s important, it doesn’t go far enough into the root of the problem. There is a way to ensure that egotism and the fires of anger have truly been extinguished. Only when we go beyond merely proffering apologies, and also humble ourselves enough to unconditionally forgive those who have wronged us (including ourselves), will we be humble and teachable enough to be willing to persevere, stretch, trust and seek whole truth on our path towards doing what is right and experiencing real harmony. You accept others, you strive to be loved and needed, and thus you establish a covenant to serve. True, deep forgiveness can be difficult to bestow, and a good number of us don’t come close to managing it. Yet psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists all confirm that everyone in the world can and should forgive, for their own good…
…and if significance is what you seek, you have no other choice.
Merely apologizing doesn’t often resolve our underlying anger, or anyone else’s. Most apologies are easy to verbalize, and have a formal quality to them; they don’t reflect an underlying process of spiritual growth and self-reckoning. We’ve all heard empty professions of remorse from politicians and celebrities, sometimes even delivered in the expectation that their partner in conflict will in turn give them an apology. Successful people have made education, internships, first jobs and careers all about themselves, and so they stay at a superficial level, having difficulty healing their hearts enough to make meaningful changes in behaviour. Significant people, because of their intense and habitual focus on others, can transcend anger and hate on the deepest level, stretching past their egos in an almost miraculous act of personal purification, and changing their behaviour forever in the process. Their hearts open and they extend forgiveness both to themselves and to others, without the expectation (in the case of conflict with others) of receiving forgiveness in turn.
The minute we unconditionally forgive is the moment we let go of every excuse we have ever had for failing, falling, and staying where we know we will do the wrong thing. We let down our guard, lose our defense mechanisms, and remove the walls we once hid behind that kept the world from seeing our insecurities, faults, weaknesses, and limitations. The moment we forgive is the moment we actually admit we are not always right – the most difficult thing for a leader to do. Offering forgiveness means you have a tender heart; a real “macho man” is velvet AND steel – compassionate enough not to fight the onslaught of laughter or tears because he is always authentic, yet strong enough to fight, protect and defend everything and anyone who is good, clean, pure, positive, and right. Offering forgiveness is the ultimate expression of love and respect, the law that enables us to keep our power and authority in check, ensuring we treat all people as we ourselves want to be treated.
To become significant beings, we must do the hard, steady, inner work of forgiving others unconditionally – rather than simply stating “I apologize” – so that we can learn from the past and address what we will do in the future to behave better.
I have seen so many examples of bitterness, resentment, and hate in my life, within people who were close to me. Worst of all, I have seen it within myself. Do not underestimate the power that these feelings will have on who your are. You may think that your negative feelings for a certain person are warranted and rational, but trust me when I tell you that letting go will truly set you free. The real miracle of forgiveness is it’s ability to change the heart of the forgiver. The burden of these feelings are indeed heavy. Unfortunately, these feelings will be accumulated slowly over time and eventually evolve into deeper feelings of hate, anger and sadness. Because of this slow shift, you may not realize the gradual slide in your attitude, the creeping pessimism and “jaded” outlook on life. Just like the frog who slowly boils to death, your mind and spirit will eventually “die”.
Now the good news.
Once you have dealt with this pain, through true and deep forgiveness, the joy and happiness that results is always equal to the pain you suffered through lack of forgiveness. Now I want to be clear when I say I am NOT suggesting that we bury ourselves deep in misery so that we may achieve the greatest happiness on our way out, however, you will know this is the truth when you study any significant person’s life. There is an undeniable link between overcoming deep suffering and becoming truly great.
The secret here is it doesn’t matter what you have suffered or are currently suffering. The way out is forgiveness. This won’t happen in a moment. Take some time to ask yourself deep, soul-searching questions. You will be surprised, after a time, that you know exactly what needs to be done.