Do we have to forgive the murderers?
It’s harder to forgive the rapists.
The remark passed unnoticed in the adult Sunday school class. Like many lessons, this one focused on God’s commandment that we forgive all people. It’s a tough teaching to follow. There are some really nasty people int eh world, or at least people who do nasty things to others.
I know. Some of those terrible things happened in my house. This isn’t a blog post about the horrors that happened in my house to my children. Maybe I’ll write that some day, but not today.
Today I want to talk about redemption. Both those seeking it and those offering it. I offer you the above opening simply to point out that to me, this topic is more than a Sunday school lesson. It’s more than a tale of attempting to overlook minor slights.
First let’s talk about those seeking redemption.
One of the stories in the news right now is about the owner of the NBA basketball Clippers. He said some very offensive things and might end up losing control of his team. Each NBA owner retains his ownership at the whim of his fellow owners. If enough of them vote that he has to sell the team, he’s out.
So, what did he do? He went on TV and apologized. He claimed he was baited into it. He was very sorry and he’d never ever do anything like that ever again.
Do you believe him? It doesn’t matter. What matters is if the other owners believe him. Personally, I have doubts. He’s apparently said offensive things like this many times before. He looks like someone who is sorry all right. Sorry he got caught.
But, it’s true that had he not apologized, there would be no chance he keep his team. At this point it’s a slim chance.
But, someone in the public square like that doesn’t really impact us much. It’s like when the US president screws up. He might apologize, as some have, but he’s not talking to us personally.
Let’s bring it a little closer to home. I’ve talked about two employees that needed to be fired. The first one was Sam (He ALSO Deserved To Be Fired.) Sam fell asleep at a customer site. When I confronted him about it, he gave me plenty of excuses, but took zero responsibility. If you read the link above, you will see that Sam had very little chance. However, over the years, I’ve considered what I’d do if Sam had instead said, “I screwed up. I was too tired and made a mistake.” Would I have still fired him? I don’t know. But, it would have made it harder.
As it was, his protests that he did nothing wrong, left him no hope of saving his job.
The second person that I’ve written about who deserved to be fired was James (He Deserved To Be Fired.) James lied to me. He told me a task was complete when it wasn’t. He compounded his error by deleting an entire department’s login accounts the day before he left for two weeks of training.
But, James’ attitude was different. He admitted he screwed up. My manager wanted me to fire him, but I really saw a chance for him to redeem himself. He helped himself a lot by admitting that he made a mistake. We put him on a 90 day performance improvement plan and 45 days in, James came to me and claimed the previous month had been the best of his career. James is still working for our old employer and doing a fantastic job.
I’ve screwed up at different points in my career. At one point I shared information with my team before I should have. It reflected badly on my review. I went to my mentor and asked him if I should simply transfer to a new department and start over.
My mentor looked at me with a look a disappointment.
Rodney, if you run from this, you’ll be running your whole life. I’d recommend you stay and clean up the mess you made.
It was hard advice to hear, but it was good advice. It took a couple of years, but eventually, I was able to show that one mistake didn’t define my career.
So, what about the story I opened with? My children owned up to their mistakes. Apologized. And then devoted themselves to therapy and attempting to make amends. It’s taken years and will take years more.
But, what the successful examples have in common is an acknowledgement that you’ve screwed up, and a willingness to improve. That looks like a simple formula, but looks can be deceiving. That NBA owner acknowledged that he screwed up and said he’s willing to improve. But, some think he lacks sincerity.
None of us can look into the heart of another. We cannot know if they are sincere despite what they say. We can watch what they do and if it looks like they are willing to make changes, we can start to trust that they are sincere. But, like Sam, who I fired, without at least the appearance of remorse, redemption is probably not possible.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about how I was able to forgive some of the biggest disappointments I’ve ever experienced.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.