Tag: forgiveness

Horse Sense #4 – Forgiveness

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about forgiveness. I’ve learned a lot over the past year about forgiveness from an unlikely friend: the beautiful horse I’ve been spending time with.

A few months ago, I leased Ileeah, a lovely Arabian horse trained in the horsemanship method I was learning. My lessons were frustrating at first, but I began to see how responsive this horse is and just how much I could learn from her because of her extensive training and experience. What I found most humbling was her ability to forgive me when I did something wrong. One day I was taking her halter off and accidentally poked her in the eye. She immediately jumped away from me. But in the next moment, as I was apologizing profusely, she walked right back over to me as if nothing had happened.

Along the way, I have had to forgive myself over and over again―when I gave her conflicting messages about where and when I wanted her to go; when I got angry with her and nagged at her rather than giving her a quick, direct instruction to stop what she was doing; and when I didn’t have the ability to let go of my negativity toward her when she defied me.

Horses have an amazing ability to forgive. They don’t seem to hold onto resentment or negative emotions the way humans do, and it allows them to deal with whatever is happening in the moment rather than reacting to something that happened the moment before. They always seem willing to try again with patience and persistence. I think these qualities have helped horses survive for thousands of years. Even though they are prey to other animals and have had to work for humans, they have persevered and their presence with each moment has allowed them to react appropriately when they sense danger.

In playing with horses (and I use the word “play” because it really isn’t work), I have learned more about how to forgive myself. I have made many mistakes with Treasure, Ileeah and Winslow―the three horses I’ve played with over the past year―and I suspect that I will continue to make mistakes with horses as I continue. But every time they forgive me, I have an opportunity to forgive myself. Buck Brannaman, the famous horse trainer and a leading practitioner in the area of natural horsemanship wrote, “Horses are incredibly forgiving. They fill in places we’re not capable of filling in ourselves.”

This week, find the things you’re not forgiving yourself for and try to release them. See what it feels like to make a mistake and then forgive yourself for it. Try cutting yourself some slack when you’ve done something goofy and don’t carry your inner angst about it into the next moment or the next day. Laugh at yourself for your foibles, and see how unimportant they are in the face of all the good things you bring to others.

The famous phrase “To err is human, to forgive divine” so aptly describes the divinity we see in those beings who are able to forgive―both human and animal. This week try forgiving yourself and moving into the next moment without the burdens of guilt or shame weighing you down.

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2014 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

Changing the Story

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge is about how our memories and stories about people and events stay locked in our minds and how we use them to justify current actions and to judge others. I recently read “The Sense of An Ending” by Julian Barnes. Briefly, it is a story about a man’s memories of a relationship he had with a woman early on in his life and how those memories become challenged when they are reintroduced many years later. The man realizes that the stories he’s told himself about her and the circle of friends and family they had around them at the time are grossly inaccurate.

The aspect of the book that stands out for me is how our memories of events stay locked away in our minds until we bring the stories back up to justify our current attitudes or actions ― and how difficult it is to change those stories, even when we realize they’re not true and that they do harm.

Here’s an example of how I’ve seen this play out in the work place:

Jim and Brian began working together on the same team three years ago. They both had strong and very different opinions about what direction the business should take over the next 12 months. They were passionate about their perspectives and tried influencing the rest of the management team to see their points of view. This pitted them against one another, and they both created strong negative attitudes toward each other.

This was difficult for the rest of the team. Most people could see pluses and minuses to each of their strategies for growing the business, but because Jim and Brian often fought against each other, team members tended to shy away from siding with one or the other. They became paralyzed whenever Jim and Brian were in the room. They just wanted them to stop fighting and to get along so the team could move forward.

Time went on, and it became apparent whose strategy was best for growing the business. But because Jim and Brian were caught in their memories of what happened three years prior when they were so opposed to each other, they had difficulty changing how they saw and felt about each other.

At some point, however, Jim and Brian began to see that the business was succeeding. This allowed them to change their relationship to one another. Jim’s strategy happened to be the better one, but he didn’t boast about it or say to Brian, “I told you so!” He just continued to try building the business. Brian, on the other hand, could have easily resented Jim as he saw Jim’s strategy succeeding, but he was smart enough to change his opinions and began supporting Jim, knowing they would all win in the end.

Overall, the biggest takeaway for me was seeing that both Jim and Brian had to change their views of each other. They had to stop telling themselves the same story they had created about the other. They had to forgive and forget and be pragmatic enough to know that, in the end, the business would succeed, and they would be liberated from their old stories. They could begin to accept each other in the present and appreciate what talents and strengths they both brought to the team.

In “The Sense of an Ending,” Barnes refers to this phenomenon this way:

“For years you survive with the same loops, the same facts and the same emotions. I press a button marked [the persons name], the tape runs, the usual stuff spools out. The events reconfirm the emotions ― resentment, a sense of injustice, relief ― and vice versa. There seems no way of accessing anything else; the case is closed ― which is why you seek corroboration, even if it turns out to be contradiction. But what if, even at a late stage, your emotions relating to those long-ago events and people change?”

For me, the lesson here is about changing our relationship to things when our opinions or beliefs no longer serve us or anyone else. It’s easy for us to create an opinion or belief about someone and then lock it away in our minds and hearts. It’s much more challenging to question those beliefs by asking ourselves if they are still true. Has the other person changed? Does he or she always do this to me? Is he or she always like that? Have I changed since I created that initial opinion? Have circumstances changed since I initially created that story?

These are all important questions that we can continue to ask ourselves about our held-fast beliefs about others.

This week, try seeing people for who they have become. Question your opinions about them, and ask yourself if your negative emotions and thoughts about them are still justified. Try stopping the old story loop that replays itself in your head. Interrupt those thoughts by asking, “Is this still true? What purpose do my negative thoughts serve?” You can change the story by observing what is true now and being open-minded and open-hearted enough to accept what is now true about the other person.”

Reading about Nelson Mandelas death this week reminded me of what true liberation is all about. It’s about being free in our hearts and minds from the negativity and resentment that imprison us. After he was set free from prison, Mandela embraced his captors and in some cases even hired them to work in his newly formed government. While others were angered and confused by his magnanimous gestures toward his enemies, he prevailed in his attempts to forgive and forget. And by so doing, he became one of the greatest leaders and heroes of our time.

As he so eloquently said, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

2/10/13 “Remarkable Bosses”

Good day, team.

This week’s challenge comes from a previous client of mine and his long-time mentor, Roy Gardner. Roy has been a consultant, coach and mentor to many people over the years, and I appreciate his observations of what remarkable bosses do and how they act. Your challenge is embedded within the following writing excerpt from Roy. Whether it’s about forgiving and forgetting or inspiring and motivating, choose one of Roy’s suggestions to try out this week in your interactions with team members. A special thanks to Christian Buschow for sharing Roy’s wisdom.

“Good bosses look good on paper. Great bosses look great in person; their actions show their value. Yet some bosses go even farther. They’re remarkable — not because of what you see them do but what you don’t see them do. Where remarkable bosses are concerned, what you see is far from all you get: They forgive, and they forget. When an employee makes a mistake — especially a major mistake—it’s easy to forever view that employee through the perspective of that mistake. I know. I’ve done it. But one mistake or one weakness is just one part of the whole person. Great bosses are able to step back, set aside a mistake and think about the whole employee. Remarkable bosses are also able to forget that mistake because they know that viewing any employee through the lens of one incident may forever impact how they treat that employee. And they know the employee will be able to tell. To forgive may be divine but to forget can be even more divine.

“[Remarkable bosses] transform company goals into the employees’ personal goals. Great bosses inspire their employees to achieve company goals. Remarkable bosses make their employees feel that what they do will benefit them as much as it does the company. After all, whom will you work harder for: a company or yourself? “Whether they get professional development, an opportunity to grow, a chance to shine or a chance to flex their favorite business muscles, employees who feel a sense of personal purpose almost always outperform employees who feel a sense of company purpose. And they have a lot more fun doing it.

“Remarkable bosses know their employees well enough to tap the personal, not just the professional. They look past the action to the emotion and motivation. Sometimes employees make mistakes or simply do the wrong thing. Sometimes they take over projects or roles without approval or justification. Sometimes they jockey for position, play political games or ignore company objectives in pursuit of personal goals. When that happens it’s easy to assume they don’t listen or don’t care. But almost always there’s a deeper reason: They feel stifled, they feel they have no control, they feel marginalized or frustrated — or maybe they are just trying to find a sense of meaning in their work that pay rates and titles can never provide.

“Effective bosses deal with actions. Remarkable bosses search for the underlying issues that, when overcome, lead to much bigger change for the better. They support without seeking credit. A customer is upset. A vendor feels shortchanged. A co-worker is frustrated. Whatever the issue, good bosses support their employees. They know that to do otherwise undermines the employee’s credibility and possible authority. Afterword, most bosses will say to the employee, “Listen, I took up for you, but…” Remarkable bosses don’t say anything. They feel supporting their employees — even if that shines a negative spotlight on themselves — is the right thing to do and is therefore unremarkable. Even though we all know it isn’t.

“They make fewer public decisions. When a decision needs to be made, most of the time the best person to make that decision isn’t the boss. Most of the time the best person is the employee closest to the issue. Decisiveness is a quality of a good boss. Remarkable bosses can be decisive but often in a different way: They decide they aren’t the right person and then decide who is the right person. They do it not because they don’t want to avoid making those decisions but because they know they shouldn’t make those decisions. They don’t see control as a reward.

“Many people desperately want to be the boss, so they can finally call the shots. Remarkable bosses don’t care about control. As a result, they aren’t seen to exercise control. They’re seen as a person who helps. They allow employees to learn their own lessons. It’s easy for a boss to debrief an employee and turn a teachable moment into a lesson learned. It’s a lot harder to let employees learn their own lessons, even though the lessons we learn on our own are the lessons we remember forever.

“Remarkable bosses don’t scold or dictate; they work together with an employee to figure out what happened and what to do to correct the mistake. They help find a better way, not a disciplinary way. Great employees don’t need to be scolded or reprimanded. They know what they did wrong. Sometimes staying silent is the best way to ensure that they remember.

“[Remarkable bosses] let employees have the ideas. Years ago I worked in manufacturing and my boss sent me to help move the production control offices. It was basically manual labor, but for two days, it put me in a position to watch and hear and learn a lot about how the plant’s production flow was controlled. I found it fascinating, and later I asked my boss if I could be trained to fill in as a production clerk. Those two days sparked a lifelong interest in productivity and process improvement. Years later he admitted he sent me to help move their furniture. ‘I knew you’d go in there with your eyes wide open,’ he said, ‘and once you got a little taste I knew you’d love it.’ Remarkable bosses see the potential in their employees and find ways to let them have the ideas, even though the outcome was what they intended all along.

“Leadership is like a smorgasbord of insecurity. Remarkable bosses worry about employees and customers and results. You name it, they worry about it. That’s why remarkable bosses go home every day feeling they could have done things a little better or smarter. They wish they had treated employees with a little more sensitivity or empathy. Most important, they always go home feeling they could have done more to fulfill the trust their employees place in them. And that’s why, although you can’t see it, when they walk in the door every day remarkable bosses make a silent commitment to do their jobs even better than they did yesterday.”

Have a good week!


© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.

1/6/13 “Resolutions”

Good day, team.

It is the start of 2013 and a wonderful time to begin anew. Many of us come up with similar New Year’s resolutions. We resolve to exercise more, eat better, keep our weight under control, be more organized, reach out to family and friends more often, etc. The list is endless. These types of resolutions are often not the hardest for me to keep throughout the year. I actually resolve to do these things daily, and I have more or less success with them, depending on how much self-discipline I can muster.

This year, I thought I’d make a deeper inquiry into what I’m holding onto from the year before that is particularly difficult to let go of or change. What behaviors am I continuing that prevent me from being healthier physically and psychologically? What attitudes am I harboring that prevent me from moving forward or seeing something differently? What prevents me from experiencing the peace and freedom that is inherent in my heart?

The resolutions that I find especially hard to keep have to do with forgiveness, loving kindness and peace. These three states of mind and heart seem to be challenged most often in our interactions with others.

Unfortunately, it’s not difficult to recall a few heinous crimes that occurred over the past several months and that lead to the deaths of children and adults at the hands of young men. How do we forgive the young men who perpetrated these crimes? Where is our ability to transform our anger, our resentment and our fear? As Albert Camus wrote, “We all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes, our ravages. Our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to transform them in ourselves and others.” Forgiveness releases the forgiver from resentment and fear. It allows the forgiver to transform the negativity and restore peace and love into his or her heart. As for the forgiven, the miracle of redemption is possible. Offering another person the time and space to change, to turn evil deeds into noble ones, is the true result of forgiveness. No matter how extreme the circumstances, a transformation of the heart is possible.

One of my favorite stories about forgiveness comes from Roberto De Vicenzo, the famous Argentine golfer, who upon winning a tournament received a large check for his victory. After receiving the check and smiling for the cameras at the clubhouse, he walked alone to his car in the parking lot. There, a young woman approached him. She congratulated him on his victory and then told him that her child was seriously ill and near death.

De Vicenzo was touched by her story and took out a pen and endorsed his winning check for payment to the woman. “Make some good days for the baby,” he said as he pressed the check into her hand.

The next week, he was having lunch in a country club when a PGA official came to his table. “Some of the guys in the parking lot last week told me you met a young woman there after you won the tournament.” De Vicenzo nodded. “Well,” said the official, “I have news for you. She’s a phony. She’s not married. She has no sick baby. She fleeced you, my friend.”

“You mean there is no baby who is dying?” said De Vincenzo.

“That’s right.”

“That’s the best news I’ve heard all week,” said De Vincenzo.

By forgiving the thief and remembering what was most important, De Vincenzo shows us the greatness of his heart.

One of the biggest blocks to loving kindness is our own sense of unworthiness. If we leave ourselves out of the circle of love and compassion, we have misunderstood. The Buddha said, “You can search the whole universe and not find a single being more worthy of love than yourself. Since each and every person is so precious to themselves, let the self-respecting harm no other being.

It starts with cultivating loving kindness toward ourselves — free of judgment and self-deprecation. This then becomes the foundation for experiencing loving kindness toward others. Each day, I try to make an effort to help another. Sometimes I stop at an intersection to allow a pedestrian or bicyclist to go before me. Other times, I hold the door open for someone or give a checkout clerk a smile at the grocery store. What prevents me from doing these small kindnesses? Usually, I’m in a hurry or too self-absorbed with my worries.

Mother Theresa once said, “I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time. I can only feed one person at a time. Just one, just one … So you begin — I begin. I picked up one person — maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person, I wouldn’t have picked up 42,000. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if I didn’t put that drop in, the ocean would be one drop less. Same thing for you, same thing in your family, same thing in your community, where you live. Just begin … one, one, one.”

Finding peace means surrendering our illusions of control. Human beings are constantly in combat — at war to escape the limitations of circumstances we cannot control. We fight against evil, we fight for good, we fight to maintain, we fight to win. We courageously wage war over what’s right and what’s wrong. Even when we work too hard to be good, we can lose our inner peace and tranquility.

Thomas Merton wrote, “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to the violence of our times.

I try to take peace as my responsibility. Only I can affect the quality of my inner state and when I’m feeling peaceful, there is a greater possibility that I’ll project that peace onto others. I often ask myself, “What do I have to let go of to be at peace right now?” The renowned Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield wrote,

“If you put a spoonful of salt

in a cup of water

it tastes very salty.

If you put a spoonful of salt

in a lake of fresh water

the taste is still pure and clean.

Peace comes when our hearts are

open like the sky,

vast as the ocean.”

This week, explore these three qualities of forgiveness, loving kindness and peace. Which one challenges you most? What kind of attention will make it more of a reality in your life? Are you willing to think that peace is possible for you? Is there something you can do in this moment to extend your loving kindness to another? Are you cultivating forgiveness in your heart by letting go of hate and resentment? What can you do this week to let go of last year’s baggage that prevents you from experiencing these qualities?

Life changes unexpectedly. Although events can be difficult, I know the key to my happiness lies in how I respond to them. With forgiveness, loving kindness and peace, I have a better chance of allowing life to be as it is while I remain gathered in my inner strength and compassion.

Have a good week!


Many of the quotes in this week’s challenge came from a wonderful little book titled “The Art of Forgiveness, Loving Kindness and Peace” by Jack Kornfield. I am grateful to him for compiling such wisdom.

© Copyright 2013 Pathfinders Coaching, Scout Search Inc., all rights reserved.