How to Forgive a Boss who’s Wronged You

how to forgive your boss

I woke up one morning a few months ago and blurted out, “Jerk!”

I’d been having a dream about my boss…from 9 years ago.

As an executive coach and consultant, I enjoy helping others with challenging personal interactions, but I’ve held onto some serious resentment towards the worst boss I’ve ever had.

You see I’ve had a lot of bosses in my career…some great…some not so great, but there was one that wounded me so deeply years ago that I’ve struggled to forgive him even after all this time.

Sometimes I’d fantasize about what I would say to him if I ran into him at the airport. Maybe I’d tell him off or share the successes I’d had since I packed my things under cover of night and never returned to that office.

He bullied and threatened myself and my coworkers. He seemed to relish doling out public ridicule…frequently referring to my “Alabama way of doing business” and that “it would never cut it in the Big Apple”. Instead of threatening to firing anyone, he preferred “offer them a demotion”.

Let’s just say I hadn’t considered forgiveness even once. A guy like that doesn’t deserve it anyway, right?

Inspired to Forgive by Watching Others

But holding onto to this hostility comes at a cost. It’s requires a lot of energy and becomes a distraction.

I’ve been ready to let it go but haven’t until now…

Sometimes it takes an event to move you. For me it was two events in the same week. I was inspired how the Charleston community pulled together in forgiveness so quickly after the massacre at Mother Emmanuel AME.   At the 1 minute 29 second mark you hear forgiveness given in one of the most difficult situations imaginable.

Then soon after that a friend from high school lost his father in a boating accident. It was a wake up call for me when he requested that everyone stop sending him the name of lawyers because he had no intentions of suing the other party. He and his family just wanted to move forward in forgiveness.

My example may seem small compared to these two tragedies, but I’ve decided to forgive that boss and let that go. Since then I’ve experienced more calmness and peace…which is something that’s common for many people who offer forgiveness after they’ve been wronged.

How Forgiving can be Made Easier

Forgiving is a little easier when you understand that it’s not about forgetting. It’s simply declaring..

“Although I remember what happened, I won’t hold onto it and use it against you.”

So the event that happened informs your trust, but you won’t use it as a weapon for keeping score.

With my old boss, I’m not going to be working with him anytime soon, but I’m giving myself permission not to invest any more energy in thinking about that.

Three Steps to Help You Forgive

Here are few small steps to help you down the road of forgiveness whether it be your boss or someone else in your life:

1. Consider forgiveness a path, not a destination – By considering forgiveness a path, it takes the pressure off for it to be immediate, and it’s easier to be patient with the process. Even after you decide to forgive, you may occasionally find your anger and resentment re-emerging…and that’s okay. When that happens just remind yourself with, “Oh. I remember now that I’m done with that.”

2. Practice every day forgiveness – When you practice forgiving for the small things, it helps you build capacity to forgive for the bigger things. It’s easier to start with what you can forgive today. Maybe it’s someone leaving dishes in the sink or forgetting your birthday. Or, perhaps practice by forgiving yourself.

3. Share your desire to forgive – Even if you’re not quite ready to forgive, share your desire to forgive with someone else. It doesn’t have to be with the person you want to forgive. Sometimes just declaring it can release enough momentum to help you forgive. Writing this to you now is helping me move forward.

The good news here is that you can start with any of these steps. Just trying one can move you down the path of forgiveness.

Try it today and notice the difference.

PS:  What would you like to forgive?

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