“I need to forgive myself 50,000 times a day” – that’s what Joe told me when we were driving in California on a business trip together. We were talking about forgiveness, and how IS it possible to forgive someone who has done something truly heinous… interesting discussions my colleague and I would have. Joseph at the time was a Managing Partner of a global management consulting business.
(That level of executive has to plan retirement mindfully: contractually, they are obligated to continue to consult to the blue chip companies they’ve been working with for another FIVE years after they’ve officially retired!) He’s a visionary man, Joe. When he said he had to forgive himself 50,000 times a day,
I was taken aback at the time. But over time his comment has popped back into my mind.
What did he mean by 50,000 times a day exactly? I believe he meant it figuratively rather than literally first of all. Although I got his point! Joe had had a lot of experience in the need to let go of guilt, and to deeply forgive himself. A few years previously, one of his sons had taken his own life, and Joe and his wife had subsequently separated, planning to divorce. Joe had always travelled a lot for his work so he wasn’t always at home, immediately available to his family: he felt he had some deep self- forgiving to.
Since that conversation, I’ve looked at the things I do that I immediately regret having said or done. We are none of us perfect after all! Just one example: as a Brit, there’s been many a time when I’ve unintentionally hurt my husband’s feelings, simply because we grew up in different cultures.. I realize I can stew around in that bad feeling or I can choose to forgive myself, and the other person too if relevant. I’m not saying it’s always easy! Yet truly forgiving is a releasing. Forgiving helps us heal on a cellular and on a physical level too.
Look at people who have forgiven people. How was Nelson Mandela able to forgive those who incarcerated and tortured him? How does anyone forgive a terrorist (300) bomber or a crazed shooter who has blown up a loved one? How does someone forgive a rapist?
I have not had to tap into that deep well of forgiveness, I don’t know about you? I do believe though that forgiveness is one of the most courageous acts of humanity. Whether it is for oneself or for someone else. Especially someone who has caused us pain or harm. I also believe forgiveness is essential for the evolution of humanity, for mankind.
Want to hear the good news about Joe?! He and his wife are happily back together. He has used his grief, his guilt, his experience and he now speaks to groups helping grieving parents. That ‘50,000-times- a-day-forgiveness’ method is definitely working for him!