In Step Two, we discussed the various poisons and nourishments that contribute to growing our ability to forgive. These individual moments add up to a larger climate in our life/workplace – a climate that is either conducive or toxic to forgiveness. A strong climate of forgiveness enables future forgiveness to be made more readily, and more healthfully – while a culture toxic to forgiveness stymies our ability to forgive fully, and delays the fruition of those ‘forgiveness trees.’
- Remember that climate is composed of our individual actions aggregated into a whole – we can forgive in any climate – and have an opportunity at all moments to forgive.
- Remember that if we aren’t enjoying our experience of a particular climate, we have the ability to affect that climate through our direct actions.
- Beyond ability, through forgiveness we have the responsibility to make that change – to increase the peace in the world experienced by ourselves and those around us. By knowing and living forgiveness, we increase our personal power through increasing the options available to us – that simultaneously increases the potential effect we can have on any culture, and those around us.
Three General Tools to Promote a Healthy Climate of Forgiveness:
Make Care a (High) Priority. Do those around you hold the belief that they are cared for, in a pure way that lands deeply within their hearts and spirits? Those people who experience care in a lasting and persistent way from those around them are more likely to care for others – it’s a domino effect. Caring for others increases our ability to identify and empathize with others, which in turn reduces our ability to see others as enemies. This is the idea of ‘perpetual forgiveness’ outlined previously.
Specific ways to show care:
~ Ask everyone with whom you (directly/weekly) work what their opinions of your impact on them are. Note their offerings with balance, and strategize with them several ways to increase their experience of care in the culture – not what they can change about themselves, but what you can alter in your behavior to meet them where they are in a pure way.
~ Set aside five minutes every day to offer one piece of intentional praise to those with whom you live or work closely.
~ Learn the love languages of those around you, and do one (random) thing per week to celebrate them in their love language.
Develop your own Capacity for Forgiveness and Model It. This tool falls under the general heading of being the change. When others witness acts of compassion, kindness and forgiveness, it moves them to act in similar fashions – especially if the outcomes of those actions (greater peace and balance; a sense of safety, confidence and celebration) are things they wish for in their own life. If you are living forgiveness on a daily basis, you’re already fostering a climate of forgiveness in those around you.
Treat others Fairly. This tool sits on an edge between helpful and self-defeating – let’s explore both sides … first, you’re invited to watch these short videos:
In the above video Bill O’Reilly, a conservative American political pundit, represents fairness as an act of tearing down. He defines fairness as a demand for equality perpetuated by the ‘grievance industry’ – basically, that since the Viet Nam War ‘protesters’ have gained power in America through demonizing white males. This demonization relies on the protesters creating a false rift between white males and ‘minorities’ – a rift that the protesters then declare to be ‘unfair.’ The protesters take (according to O’Reilly) often violent political action in order to close the gap under the guise of equality. Thus, for O’Reilly, ‘equality’ and ‘fairness’ take on the sense seen in the short story “Harrison Bergeron” by Vonnegut. “Harrison Bergeron” tells the tale of a dystopian future in which everyone is handicapped to the lowest common denominator in order to ensure equality from the bottom-up. Those people with gifts, aptitudes and exceptional skills are forced to wear devices that inhibit that skill – for example, strong people are made to wear heavy chains so that they’re just as strong as weak people without chains. By restricting the actions of the exceptional, equality (meaning enforced homogeneity) is achieved.
Against this tearing-down version of equality, O’Reilly proposes a celebration of difference – that we are all different and that this is ok. For O’Reilly, fairness and equality are pipe dreams – they will never be accomplished because there is too much variation in the human species. Trying to ‘enforce’ fairness is like trying to pin down a cloud – or worse, like crossing over into the territory of mandated mediocrity.
O’Reilly’s broadcasts are one of the strongest demonstrations of the self-defeating version of fairness – what happens when we perceive fairness as a mandate that all things be homogeneous. When fairness becomes a demand [I must be paid the same as everyone; I must be given the same work as everyone; I must be afforded the same privileges as everyone] – we create a persistent complaint, because, as O’Reilly notes, there will always be those with different aptitudes and means.
In his report O’Reilly misses a more pure version of fairness. Interestingly, O’Reilly’s affirmation that “Everyone is Different” is also an axiom listed by Eve Sedgwick, one of the founders of contemporary Feminism and Queer activism. She is considered the matriarch of post-90’s thinking around gender and sexuality – and apparently she agrees with uber-conservative Bill O’Reilly…
When Eve Sedgwick affirms that everyone is different – what she motions to is a general understanding that every human has a unique embodied existence. In the simplest form, she goes on to say that difference can operate as a bridge rather than a barrier. Instead of seeing difference as a bar to equality, we can view it as a spring-board for that equality. It begins when we honor a unique set of cultural conditions that impact upon others in a variety of ways. For Sedgwick, (for example) Women are paid less than men, and so an individual woman’s experience of the workforce is likely unfair. Instead of saying this ‘should’ change (as O’Reilly characterizes protestors) or that this shouldn’t change (as O’Reilly affirms) – Sedgwick moves first to understand the difference. What systemic, or pervasive forces are leading to this disparity in pay, and how is that disparity impacting the lived experience (if at all) of individual men, and individual women, in American culture?
Now, Sedgwick would go on to affirm that a sense of fairness includes a pay-structure that does not account for gender disparity, and this is not a specific attachment to a sense of ‘equality’ between genders – rather it is advocating for change based on a particular individual belief structure.
Sedgwick would also likely agree that it is unfair to ask Bill O’Reilly to play a one-on-one game of basketball with Shaquille O’Neil; but that it is fair for both O’Reilly and O’Neil to have equal votes in elections.
The distinction then, between self-defeating fairness and fairness is the degree to which we hold-tight to the outcome. Demanding equality or fairness to look a certain way (like O’Reilly’s caricatures of protesters, or “Harrison Bergeron”) does indeed lead to a skewed and likely unbalanced vision of the world. And, advocating for a personal understanding of ‘fair’ in the world – which denotes (ironically as both O’Reilly and Sedgwick affirm) an equal access to opportunity, power, and a positive future vision – when held loosely, forms a powerful vision of ‘fair.’
So, when we’re thinking about creating a climate of fairness in our workplace/life – we might better consider the following aspects:
- Do all those around me believe they have a largely equal opportunity for their own self-advancement?
- Do all those around me believe that their efforts are appreciated and valued?
- Do all those around me believe that they can advocate for change, holding loosely to their strategies?
- Do all those around me believe that we are synthesized on their Strengths and their Challenges, and that their Opportunities are commensurate with their unique difference?
- Does my vision of fairness line-up with the fairness of those around me?
We’ve taken a lengthy detour through fairness because it is one of the primary ways in which people form grievances against others – think of the phrases “What happened to me was so unfair;” “He never treats me fairly;” or “It’s only fair that…”. They focus on an external and abstract ‘should’ – that the world should be fair. If instead we explore the idea of fairness, we open up a world in which people have the ability to believe in their power to advocate for, and create, change with integrity – i.e., without being ‘demanding’ of that particular change from an outside force.
Microcosmically, a culture of fairness creates a climate of forgiveness through largely eroding the ‘bean-counter,’ ‘Investigative Journalist’ and ‘Robin Hood’ flavors. If those members of the community believe that they are heard, understood and empowered to speak, they’ll have a hard time fostering discontent. Instead, they’ll be open to forgiveness – and living in its fruitful climate.
For the original version of ‘Forgiving Climate’, see http://goo.gl/ZoSj5R