Forgiveness is Key to Moving Beyond Your Crucible #73

Warwick Fairfax

June 22, 2021

Have you suffered setback and failure? Then you probably have struggled with anger and maybe bitterness as you think of those who contributed to your pain. In this episode, Crucible Leadership founder and BEYOND THE CRUCIBLE host Warwick Fairfax discusses with cohost Gary Schneeberger the critical need to forgive those who have wronged us (or even ourselves) in order to move past our crucibles and toward a life of significance. Warwick lays out seven steps you can begin practicing today to cultivate what he calls the noble character to practice forgiveness. From understanding the difference between forgiving someone and condoning their actions, to channeling your pain in more productive ways than being consumed by bitterness, you will walk away from this discussion with practical action steps you can take beginning today to start walking in this truth expressed by Marianne Williamson: “The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.”

Highlights

  • You can’t move past your crucible without forgiving (4:46)
  • The ramifications of unforgiveness extend beyond the individual (9:55)
  • Step 1: Forgive because you’re worth it (15:33)
  • Step 2: Forgiving does not mean condoning (20:36)
  • Step 3: Forgiveness takes time (27:22)
  • Step 4: Channel your pain in a more productive way (33:27)
  • Step 5: Get help (41:18)
  • Step 6: Modeling forgiveness halps others (46:01)
  • Step 7: Forgive yourself (50:26)
  • Lessons in forgiveness from Warwick’s dad (59:58)
  • Warwick’s final thoughts (1:03:04)
  • Three points of reflection on forgiveness (1:04:24)

Transcript

Warwick F:
Welcome to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Warwick Fairfax, the founder of Crucible Leadership. When you’re angry and bitter about what somebody has done to you, you might have been fired, abused, maybe it was divorce, it could be all sorts of things in which you feel like somebody is responsible for making your life miserable. You might even think that made your life a living hell, so to speak. How in the world can you forgive them? Bitterness and anger puts you in prison. It’s like drinking poison every day. You’re the one that it’s really killing, the other person often doesn’t care. And so, why is forgiveness important? Because you’re worth it. Because if you want to move on and have a productive life, a life of significance, a life of joy and fulfillment, you cannot do it, it is absolutely not possible, unless you forgive.

Gary S:
Those are strong words, challenging words, and true words. Hi, I’m Gary Schneeberger, co host of the show and the communications director for Crucible Leadership. What you just heard Warwick say, is a critical reality as well as a key challenge to all of us who’ve endured setback and failure and trauma and trial. As we discuss in detail in this week’s episode, we simply will not be able to do what this show aims to help us do, move beyond our crucibles if we don’t forgive those who inflicted, or who we believe contributed to those crucibles. And that includes in many instances, ourselves. How do we do it? That’s the meat of today’s conversation. Warwick lays out seven steps you can begin practicing today to cultivate what he calls the noble character to practice forgiveness.

Gary S:
From understanding the difference between forgiving someone and condoning their actions, to channeling your pain in more productive ways than being consumed by bitterness, you will walk away from this discussion with practical action steps you can take beginning today to start walking in this truth expressed by Marianne Williamson, “The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.” The reason that we do not have a guest today is, it’s one of those episodes where Warwick and I have a discussion around some key principles of Crucible Leadership. And today’s subject is forgiveness.

Gary S:
Now, if you’re virtually or actually scratching your head saying, “What does forgiveness have to do with crucibles?” One of the things that is sort of our organizing construct for what we’re talking about, is that crucibles can tend to lead to blame in some way. Warwick has said many times on this show, if you’ve listened many times, you’ve heard him say, “Crucibles, what happens sometimes it’s your fault, sometimes it’s not your fault.” That can lead you to think, regardless of whose fault it is, it may be somebody’s fault. In a large majority of crucibles, there is blame that crops up and that blame has to be dealt with. And that’s what we want to talk about here. And that forgiveness is one of the ways, is the chief way to kind of move blame out of the viewfinder and begin the process of bouncing back from your crucible. That’s sort of a 30,000 foot level Warwick, I know you have some more concrete thoughts as we get this discussion rolling.

Warwick F:
Yeah. Very good point, Gary. Really, why forgiveness has come up a lot, is we’re all about here at Crucible Leadership, how to get beyond setbacks and failures to live a life of significance, a life on purpose dedicated to serving others. Well, often when bad things happen, whether it’s a failure of your own making, a setback, could be a physical setback, maybe we’ve had victims of abuse, we’ve had all sorts of different kinds of crucibles, very often there’s blame, there’s anger, even there’s bitterness, even rage. And the challenge is at least it’s our belief and my belief that you cannot move on with your life, you cannot get beyond your crucible, title of the podcast, without forgiveness. And so sometimes blame is something like, I don’t know. It’s something that we want to hold and cling on to.

Warwick F:
We don’t want to give them the satisfaction of forgiving them. If it’s something that we’ve done ourselves, we don’t feel that we’re worth forgiving. And so really, why we’re talking about this is, if you don’t forgive, if you don’t try to stop blaming somebody, whether it’s you, others, God, the universe, you can’t move on. If you can’t move on, you’re in what we call a prison, in a sense of your own making. This prison of bitterness and rage and anger. And that’s not a good way to live. There’s no way if you’re in the prison of resentment that you can live a life of joy and fulfillment. It’s just not possible. So, we want to help people… We’re dealers in hope, we want to give people hope here. And there’s not a whole lot of hope when you’re in the prison of blame and bitterness and anger.

Gary S:
That’s absolutely true. And it’s not… Let’s at the outset set the expectation here. Folks, if you’re dealing with some unforgiveness, if you’ve got some things that are going on because of your crucible that it’s hard to forgive someone, this is welcome to the club time, right? If it were easy, we wouldn’t have to talk about it. It would be something that would be natural. It’s not natural. Some of the crucibles, some of the traumas, I call them traumas, tragedy, setbacks, failures at the outset. That’s how I always introduce to show, it’s not easy to find forgiveness. One of the… I did a lot of searching around on the internet for quotes about forgiveness. And we’ll start off with this one from Indira Gandhi. Why is forgiveness so hard? This is what Indira Gandhi said. Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave. Ouch! Right? There’s virtue involved, and you got to be brave.

Gary S:
And those can be things that can be hard to summon sometimes and hard to manifest sometimes, as you’re moving forward. Is that true? That seems fair-

Warwick F:
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Indira Gandhi, this prominent, former Prime Minister of India. Yeah, it does take courage. And one of the things which I’m sure we’ll get into, why is forgiveness so hard, because sometimes, and we’ve had all different kinds of guests on the podcast, let’s say it’s… Let’s make it really challenging. Maybe you were abused growing up by a family member or somebody else. It’s like, “Well, if I forgive, am I condoning it? Do I say it’s okay? I want them to know that this what they did just crushed my soul, crushed my life.” And the tragedy of it is, when we think somehow by forgiving we’re letting the other person win, it’s so often when people do bad things to us. This is galling, but often true, is they don’t care. If they know, it doesn’t really worry them that much. It’s galling. It’s often the case that people that do terrible things, sometimes there’s no remorse.

Warwick F:
And so we feel like we have to hold on to this because we don’t want to say it’s okay. And that’s why we’ve talked about this with multiple guests, who’ve been through horrific experiences, and they’ve pretty much all agreed that there is a fundamental difference between forgiving and condoning. And that’s something that’s actually one of the points that we’ll get into. But that’s why Indira Gandhi is right that forgiveness is for the brave, because you’ve got to be willing to say, “Okay, what happened was not right, but I’m going to forgive because I have to do it for my own sanity.” It doesn’t as we’ll get into, it doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a bit like exercise, it requires a lot of work. And you often have to keep coming back to the well. But yeah, it’s not easy. And sadly, so many of us choose not to go there.

Warwick F:
We just, “I’m not going to forgive, because I want to remember how much they hurt me, how bad that was. And I never ever want to forget.” And some reason they think by not forgetting, that’s a good way of handling it. Just fundamentally, you damage yourself. That it’s somehow people saying, “No, no, no, I’m not going to forgive because what they did was wrong.” And they can’t get past that concept.

Gary S:
Right? And the ramifications of that affect both the individual who feels that way and it can affect a wider swath of people. And one of the things we’re going to move as you’ve hinted at a couple times, or we’re going to move into the details, the steps of overcoming that bitterness and that anger and embracing forgiveness that you’ve written in a blog that should be on crucibleleadership.com by the time you hear this listener. If it’s not, it will be there shortly. But I wanted to sort of paint a picture of what forgiveness looks like in action, and what hanging on to anger and bitterness looks like in action. And it’s not my picture, this is a picture by a man named Dr. Kets De Vries, who in advocating for a forgiveness culture, cited the contrast between the results of Nelson Mandela in South Africa who was well known as he was imprisoned under the apartheid system, he was imprisoned for a very long time, finally freed and then became the leader of South Africa. And contrasting him with Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who handled things differently than Mandela did.

Gary S:
I’m going to read a couple of paragraphs from what Kets De Vries wrote to paint a picture of what it looks like to live in what he called a forgiveness culture and what it looks like to not, to get started on this conversation. This is what De Vries wrote. “When you fly over Zimbabwe, you see a wasteland.” That’s Robert Mugabe’s country. “When you fly over South Africa, you see something very different.” Two leaders with very different attitudes toward forgiveness. De Vries was a teacher, he says, “If I ask my class, which political leader do you most admire? 95% say Nelson Mandela.” Remember he did this research back when Mandela was still in power. When you ask why, the answer is forgiveness. At the end of South African apartheid, and after 27 years in prison, Mr. Mandela forgave his oppressors, and encouraged many of his party’s members who clamored for revenge to do likewise, telling them, “Forgiveness liberates the soul and removes fear. That’s why it’s such a powerful weapon.” In comparison, Robert Mugabe opted for bitterness, vindictiveness and hatred against white Zimbabweans and the nation’s black citizens who oppose him.

Gary S:
By encouraging supporters to forcibly occupy white owned commercial farms, Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of Southern Africa became the poorhouse. Under his rule, unemployment rose to between 70% to 80%, life expectancy fell. In mid November 2008, Zimbabwe’s peak month of inflation was estimated at 6.5 sextillion percent, making the national currency basically useless. That’s the difference. Someone who embraced forgiveness, someone who embraced bitterness.

Warwick F:
Yeah. Gary, that is such a superb example, the contrast between Nelson Mandela, the President of South Africa and Robert Mugabe, the Prime Minister, I believe he was of Zimbabwe, couldn’t be greater. As listeners may know, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades maybe in the infamous Robben Island prison in South Africa. But the difference between how they handled how they were treated was very different. As you point out, Mandela, he created these councils of reconciliation, I’m sure where appropriate, there was justice, and things were taken care of as appropriate. But his focus was on the future of South Africa, of have it being a stable, prosperous country. And he created that environment.

Warwick F:
And really, given he was in solitary for years, it would be understandable if he said, “After what you’ve done to me, and people like me, there’s going to be retribution.” But his focus was on the future of South Africa, of it being prosperous with people of all backgrounds. And as you rightly say, contrast it with Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, that was very different. Understandably, he wanted to make people pay. But as you say, he took all the land from the white farmers, which again, you might say was a good idea, but how about trying to make cooperatives or co ownership of farms or some way in which you can empower and give black people in Zimbabwe a say, and ownership while not losing the intellectual capital? They were not able to achieve that. The focus was on retribution rather than how do we make sure Zimbabwe is prosperous for people of all backgrounds? So, you’re right, it was a huge contrast in how those two leaders handled that situation.

Gary S:
Yeah. And that word picture, that image that we’ve just talked about, it’s a good place to then jump into what your blog’s about. You use the phrase in talking about Zimbabwe and South Africa, what Mandela did allowed for the creation of a stable, prosperous country. What we’re trying to do for individuals who have gone through crucibles, and maybe bumping into some anger, some bitterness sometimes, we’re looking to set them on the path to a stable and significant life. And that’s what the seven points that you discuss in your blog, are really designed to do to set them on that path. So, the first, and you mentioned it a little earlier as we first started talking, but it’s worth repeating, the first step toward embracing and enacting forgiveness, is to realize that you’re worth it. Why is that such a critical place to start?

Warwick F:
Because, especially in one sense, when you’re angry and bitter about what somebody has done to you, you might have been fired, maybe it was abuse, maybe it was divorce, it could be all sorts of things in which you feel like somebody is responsible for making your life miserable. You might even think they’ve made your life a living hell so to speak. How in the world can you forgive them? Well, as we’ve just mentioned before, bitterness and anger puts you in prison. It’s like drinking poison every day. You’re the one that it’s really killing. The other person, as I mentioned, which is galling, often doesn’t care. And so, why is forgiveness important? Because you’re worth it. Because if you want to move on and have a productive life, a life of significance, a life of joy and fulfillment, you cannot do it, it is absolutely not possible, unless you forgive.

Warwick F:
And so forget the other person, you’re worth it, you’re… Because your life matters, and those that love you, they care for you. They believe your life matters. It’s worth it to you, it’s worth it to your loved ones, your family, your friends. The other person wins if you keep being angry and bitter, that’s how they win, if you want to look at it that way. If you want to win, you forgive them. In fact, often nothing can be more difficult to handle for the perpetrator of what they’ve done to you, is if you forgive them. I think even the Bible somewhere talks about pouring coal on some… And that’s true.

Gary S:
Heaping coal. Heaping coal-

Warwick F:
And so, I’m not saying forgive because it’s a way of getting back at them, that’s sort of a weird way of looking at it. But basically, the short story is forgive because you’re worth it, you cannot move on with your life without forgiveness. Not possible.

Gary S:
Sometimes listener, sometime do a search of forgiveness quotes on the internet, you’ll find a whole bunch of stuff. Here’s one that I found from Marianne Williamson, who we’ve talked about before on the podcast Marianne Williamson says this about forgiveness. “The practice of forgiveness, is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.” And that healing of the world starts with healing of ourselves. Before Nelson Mandela could enact policies as President of South Africa that created a prosperous nation, he had to first forgive what was done to him.

Warwick F:
And that’s true, because you look at a lot of the conflicts in the world, like in Ireland, Northern Ireland, the country of Ireland. Protestants, Catholics, it would be like, well, you do something to the other side and then they do something to one of yours. The movies are made out of this. Why you try to take retribution back on some other person. Well, they did it to my dad, my grandfather, my uncle, therefore, it’s payback time. The Arab-Israeli conflict, it never ends. Because of what they did to us, we need to do it to them. Our church has involvement in South Sudan at one of the poorest countries in the world. You have two major tribes that are in the same cycle, because somebody did something to somebody, there’s an endless cycle of retribution, which is just making it impossible to try to lift that country out of poverty.

Warwick F:
It’s hurting everybody in South Sudan. So, the point of all these examples is, lack of forgiveness can destroy countries, destroy communities, destroy the world. It is a big deal.

Gary S:
And it can, as you say in your blog, as you said at the outset of this discussion, as we got into talking about your blog, it can create a prison of your own making that you cannot get out of. So that’s point one of your blog on the seven steps to embrace forgiveness. The second point you make there is… This is critical. It’s a critical caveat, if you will. Forgiving does not mean condoning. Why is that important to stress for folks as we begin to discuss so early on, and we have seven points. Second point is, it’s not equal to condoning.

Warwick F:
Yeah, I think-

Gary S:
Why is that so important to stress at the outset?

Warwick F:
… that’s one of the biggest reasons that people say, “Well, I’m not going to forgive because what they did to me was so wrong. Because by forgiving it means I’m saying it’s okay. I’m giving them the satisfaction of knowing it’s okay.” And everybody we’ve talked to on the podcast has been through crucibles where let’s say, somebody else did something to them. They’ve all agreed, and we’ve had some people talk about pretty horrific crucibles. And the point is, forgiveness and forgiving does not mean condoning, it doesn’t mean that you’re saying what they did was right, it does not mean that there shouldn’t be appropriate legal consequences for what was done. It doesn’t mean that in certain circumstances, they shouldn’t be in prison, or if it’s a case of abuse, that they shouldn’t be distanced for the safety of yourself and your kids. So, it doesn’t mean that you don’t take appropriate measures. That’s the thing is, forgiving doesn’t mean what was done was okay, you’re not countenancing it, you’re not saying it’s alright.

Warwick F:
So, that’s a key concept, it sounds obvious, but if you’re in the midst of this blame, bitterness cycle, it’s not obvious. You’re thinking, “I don’t want to condone.” You got to tell yourself forgiveness and condoning are two different. Just because you forgive doesn’t mean what was done to you was right. It’s a huge concept.

Gary S:
Yeah. And it’s possible. In fact, many times they go hand in hand just as you said, forgiveness from an individual, right? I forgive you for this does not separate the person from any kind of consequences that their actions that caused the crucible to the individual doing the forgiving, that doesn’t release people from this. One of the greatest examples I see of this in the news from time to time, is stories of families who one of their children has been killed, either murdered or killed in an accident by a drunk driver or something like that, and the news loves to show because it’s such a counter to what seems like the eye for an eye metaphor that we like to use all the time in culture. Those stories when those things have happened, someone has been killed, a family will appear at the sentencing of the individual who was convicted of whatever crime might have been committed, and they say, “I forgive you for what you did.” I’m always in awe of that, because not only because it seems dissonant somehow, but because of the grace that’s exhibited in that moment.

Gary S:
Again, that doesn’t mean you should go free. It means I forgive you, I release you from… If we want to take this into a biblical discussion, the idea of forgiveness is to take on another’s sin. Right? To forgive someone who’s wronged you is to take on not responsibility for it, but to take it on and remove it from them and put it on you not the consequences of it. But what you’re holding “against them” you’re releasing. And that is because going back to point one, you’re worth it.

Warwick F:
Yeah. You raise a good point. Is from a biblical perspective, we should forgive because we have first been forgiven. And for people of faith if you believe that irrespective of your denomination, that should mean something. We are commanded to forgive. We have Jesus as somebody that has forgiven us. Now, if you don’t come from that tradition, obviously forgiveness as we’ve mentioned, it’s just for sake of your own soul is important.

Gary S:
And to get… So that folks don’t think that we’re camping only on the Christian religion, I just see it in an article I have here that Mahatma Gandhi said this about this very subject. “An eye for an eye ends up making everyone blind.” Right? The idea of not forgiving, right? An eye for an eye, this bad happened to me, so I’m going to do something bad to you. What you were talking about earlier, this sort of Hatfields and McCoys. I’ve got to get back at you for this, and then it just keeps going on endlessly. Here’s Gandhi saying, “An eye for an eye ends up making everyone blind.” Bad for society and bad for individuals.

Warwick F:
I think that’s true. I think really, the bigger man, the bigger woman, the one who is more mature, has more nobility of spirit, more grace, as you put it, is the one that forgives. You want to be a person of a noble spirit, somebody who is respected, who is admired, maybe even revered. Revered is… That’s a tough one to get to. I know that one should aspire to that. But hypothetically, let’s say you do, it’s the people that are often most admired are the ones who can forgive and get beyond what was done to them. That’s a mark of admiration that people have in our society.

Gary S:
And listener, I don’t do this often, but I’m going to do it here. This is like the first time I’ve done this. Your homework for this episode right now is to write down the phrase nobility of spirit that Warwick just said twice. That is a goal to shoot for. If we say at Crucible Leadership, we say a lot, authenticity is something that you should shoot for. Transparency is something that you should shoot for. Significance is the end game that you want to play for. Nobility of spirit in the context of the blame that can emanate from a crucible, having nobility of spirit towards those who have wronged you, and expressing that nobility of spirit is critical. So, write that phrase down, make that phrase part of your life, because it can make things go completely differently, and it can help you move as the title of this show is, Beyond Your Crucible.

Gary S:
The third point in your blog, Warwick, logically follows from the first two points. If you looked at those first two points and said, “You’re worth it, so forgive the person.” And forgiving doesn’t mean condoning, so forgive them even if they are really bad things. The third point seems to follow logically from that, and that is forgiveness is not easy. That’s somewhat self evident, isn’t it?

Warwick F:
It is. It’s a bit like running a marathon. Once you finish the first mile, the race isn’t over, you got… If it’s 26 miles like Olympic marathon, is you got 25 to go. Yeah, it takes time, it’s a matter of the will. It’s not like, “Oh, I don’t feel like forgiving.” What you feel like doing is really not very relevant. It’s a choice. It’s a decision, you forgive because you feel like it’s worth it from a spiritual Christian perspective, we forgive because we’re commanded to, from a broader perspective you forgive because you’re worth it. Not only are you worth it, your wife, husband, kids, grandparents, friends, they’re worth it. Because I think as you’ve mentioned, Gary, bitterness and anger, it affects more than just you, it affects everybody around you that knows you well.

Warwick F:
And so, not only are you worth it, but your friends and family are worth it. And so that should motivate, but it does take time. And it’s not like, “Okay, I choose to forgive X horrific act. Good, I’ll wake up tomorrow and I’ll feel great.” No. It takes a lot of time. It can take months, it can take years. Obviously some of that… And I think we might get into this a bit more later. Sometimes we need to get help, and we’ll talk about that in a bit. Part of what certainly helped me in the area of forgiveness is if you try to understand the other person, understanding doesn’t mean condoning, okay? But understand how people grew up. It’s very often the case that those who abuse were abused themselves. Now, I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t get my head around how that could happen. But from what they tell me, that is very common, that those who abuse were abused.

Warwick F:
And so therefore, as you think about that, just try to… It doesn’t mean you condone it, but if that’s all somebody ever knew, well, they’re probably going to abuse. So just that notion of when you have compassion for somebody, it’s harder to be angry at somebody if you have compassion for them and understanding and maybe even some empathy for them. That does take work. That’s not easy, especially in tough cases like abuse. But in my experience, at least it can help to a degree.

Gary S:
Yeah. And forgiveness is in most cases, true, deep, noble spirit forgiveness, is a marathon not a sprint. And this idea of, it’s not easy, in marathons they have little water stations that you stop at as you’re running it, just to kind of catch your breath, because they know you’re going to need to catch your breath. I think that’s what this idea of it’s not easy, it takes time. Give yourself that grace as you’re going through this process. We’ve unpacked now three steps for forgiveness.

Warwick F:
Just one more thing I wanted to say on that, before we get to the step four is, there’s a couple things, which is one is, for people that we have a difficult relationship with, whether it’s a friend or a family member, is typically won’t be one incident. Right? “Okay, good. I forgave him for this and we’re good.” As I say, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. And I’ve had experience in my life, it’s like, “Can you quit doing new stuff? Because I’m having trouble catching up. Okay? I forgave you for the last 20, but you just piled on 10 more. Give me a break. I can’t…” It’s like you’re forcing me to sprint 26 miles. How about a leisurely jog? A marathon isn’t meant to be run like 100 meter race, but you’re forcing me.

Warwick F:
I can’t keep up. Life’s not fair. I get it. And so, that’s why it’s not easy, because it’s like the Bible says, how many times do you have to forgive? It’s like 70 times seven, which is a way of saying an infinite number of times. So, it’s not easy. That’s part of why it’s not easy. And a further point that I didn’t really put in the blog is, I think forgiveness is-

Gary S:
Bonus content. That’s bonus content.

Warwick F:
Exactly. Forgiveness is a bit like weeding. So, when you feel that little, slight tinge of resentment coming up, slight anger, rage, is like, “Oh, I’m not going to go there. I know where that’s heading.” That little weed is going to become a lot little ember. Let’s change metaphors. That little ember is going to become a forest fire. Nip it at the bud. Pour water on it before it becomes a huge bushfire, as we say in Australia. It’s much harder to deal with. So-

Gary S:
I want to stay with your weeding metaphor for a second though, because… Let’s go back to that. What does weeding involve? When you’re done weeding for the day, you’re dirty, because you’ve got your hands in there, right?

Warwick F:
Exactly.

Gary S:
Forgiveness can get you dirty, forgiveness takes work. It’s not just something you snap your fingers at, to your point that it’s not easy and that it takes time. It’s like weeding. But here’s the other way that it’s like weeding. What’s the purpose of weeding? Why do you weed things out from around your flowers?

Warwick F:
Well done.

Gary S:
What are you trying to get in the end?

Warwick F:
You’re trying to get beautiful flowers or a beautiful lawn. And you don’t get the beauty without dealing with the dirt and dealing with the weeds. And yeah, it’ll crush the flowers and… Awesome points. Yeah.

Gary S:
Let’s move on now to… So we’ve gotten to the water station on our marathon, we’ve stopped, we’ve taken a sip. Now, we’re going to move on to the fourth point that you make in your blog. And this is where we really get into now some tips that you have for things you can do to help you on the process of embracing. And this is the enacting part of forgiveness. And the first one, point 4 from your blog is channel your pain in a more productive way. What do you mean by that?

Warwick F:
So, very often the people we’ve had on Beyond the Crucible on this podcast, they’ve channeled their pain in a way to help others. So, for instance, victims of abuse may try to help prevent other people being abused or for abuse survivors who have been abused, they will come alongside them, and try to help them and say, “I know where you’ve been. I’ve suffered your pain. I know what you feel like.” And there’s something very comforting when people feel not only understood, but they’re not alone. You know what they’re going through. You’re not just offering something from some ivory tower, you’re in there with them. That’s the highest degree of empathy when we can say, “I’ve been there with you, I know what it feels like. It’s awful.” It will get better, but it could take years, but just hang in there one step at a time. So it’s so often that a vision that you’re off the charts passionate about, can come out of your worst day, out of your crucible. We say that all the time.

Warwick F:
And maybe it’s not a direct correlation of, “Okay, if I was abused, I’m going to help other victims of abuse.” Maybe it’s something different. But it’s so often that you use your pain for a purpose to use that oft used aphorism. By using what you’ve been through to help others, there’s no question, there’s a healing component. And certainly, as I talk about a lot on the podcast, my crucible is a bit different. It was more certainly in large part due to my own failures and mistakes. But even… And we’ll get to forgiving yourself, which is one of the points we get to later. But I found in my own life, as I’m able to use my pain to help others, it doesn’t remove the scar completely, or the scab. But it does provide some level of healing, healing balm, as we say. There’s no question that it does ease your pain if you’re able to use it in a way to help others.

Gary S:
And in that healing for you, and perhaps for others, usually for others, there comes as you said at the outset, we’re dealers in hope here at Crucible Leadership. With that healing comes hope for you and for others, correct?

Warwick F:
Absolutely. Absolutely. When you can see that you’re able to help others, that gives you hope, it gives others hope. Hope does in a sense, tends to crush resentment. It tends to crush anger and bitterness. It’s hard when you’re filled with hope. Hope leads to Joy. Joy tends to put out anger and resentment. So, this sounds a bit sort of positive psychology, if you will. But good thoughts are better than negative thoughts. Negative thoughts which could have been another point in here, anger and bitterness, I’m sure it’s not that hard to find studies that will show it’s not good for your health, it’s not good for longevity. So you want to live longer and be healthier, don’t consume yourself with rage and anger. It’s just terrible for your health.

Gary S:
And that is a is an excellent. We haven’t talked about this. This is what I love about these discussions. I withhold things from you, and then you say something, and it’s like a perfect on ramp to what I want to say. And that’s this. Here’s another quote along the lines of what you just said. This is from Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said this, “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us, and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” If that isn’t forgiveness ending in hope, I don’t know what is.

Warwick F:
That’s so true. Yeah. The ability to forgive does help us to love and vice versa the ability to love. Yeah, there’s something about that. And as listeners know, Martin Luther King is talking about in just the whole civil rights struggle that beset the United States history for really its whole history since its founding, and a lot of division, a lot of pain, a lot of understandable hurt of hundreds of years. But Martin Luther King had an ability to not condone, to understand, to promote civil rights, yet do it in a way that in a spirit of forgiveness, not condoning, in a spirit of love. He was able to bring people together. I haven’t memorized his I Have a Dream speech off by heart, but I’m sure that there was plenty of having a dream of where there wouldn’t be division, where there would be love, where people will be treated based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. He had a vision that’s still working itself out. I wouldn’t say we’re there yet. Hopefully, we will be one day. But yes, love is a great antidote to bitterness and resentment.

Gary S:
Yeah. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. That almost if you didn’t have three other really good points to make, I’d be like, “Let’s drop the microphone and go.” Because that really is the essence of it. One of the… Who wants to be that person who is devoid of the power to love? That’s what-

Warwick F:
I almost say-

Gary S:
… you’re urging people to do.

Warwick F:
… the most loving people are probably the most forgiving. Think of people in your life who you think, that family member, that friend, their capacity for love is as great as I’ve ever seen it. How much bitterness did that person have? My guess would be zero to very, very little. It’d be hard to think of a loving, caring person that was filled with rage or anger. Just not possible.

Gary S:
And in the… I mean to extend that a bit, in the the universe of Crucible Leadership, it’s hard to think of someone who’s living a life of significance, who is full of bitterness and anger, who cannot forgive. Certainly, Dr. Martin Luther King lived a life of significance, as did Nelson Mandela. Those folks that we’ve talked about so far who have followed this principle, this nobility of character, which you mentioned. Yes, there’s hope, there’s love connected to that. But that all points to helping others and a life of significance.

Warwick F:
Yeah, there hasn’t been one person that I can remember in the 50, 60 guests we’ve had, all of whom, the vast majority of whom have been through crucibles often horrific ones, I can’t think of any of them that are riddled with anger and bitterness. Doesn’t mean to say you don’t have an angry or bitter moment, we’re all human, but their lives are characterized by love and forgiveness. I wouldn’t say the headline of their lives is rage, anger and bitterness would be how you would headline their obituary. That’s not the case for any of the guests we’ve had. So, it’s very true.

Gary S:
Point five in your blog, which is either on crucibleleadership.com right now, or is headed there shortly. So, if it’s not there, when you check listener, please go back and check. If it is there, we’ll put it in the show notes too so you can see that it is there. Your next point is that one of the ways to enact after you embrace the importance of forgiveness is to get help. And that can take many forms can’t it?

Warwick F:
Absolutely. So, if you’re serious about dealing with blame, dealing with anger, bitterness, rage, you’ve got to be willing to do the work. If you got to run a marathon, you got to get training, you got to eat right, you got to stretch, exercise, you got to prepare. Well, you got to be serious. You can’t just say, “Oh, I’m going to forgive.” Oh really, how’s that going to happen? But you got to do the work. Part of doing the work, maybe involving counseling and therapy, it really depends. If you’re a victim of abuse or trauma, it’s pretty likely that that will be helpful and necessary.

Warwick F:
It really depends on the situation. It may be talking to friends or family members, maybe it’s… Maybe you don’t have clinical depression or some issue that you feel warrants that. Often counseling, I think many of us, myself included, have been through counseling at times where I’ve been through a few challenges myself. And one of the things that I believe is counseling, or seeking help, it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of bravery, a sign of courage. It says, “Look, I may feel kind of broken, I’ve felt pretty broken at times in my life, it’s okay to want to get help.” You don’t get mended, you don’t get healed without help. So whether it’s formal counseling from a psychologist or a therapist, whether it’s more informal, and obviously, you’ve got to know which one, it depends on the nature of what you’re dealing with. So seek help, be wise in terms of the choices you pick.

Warwick F:
But whether it’s formal counseling or a friend, mentor, family member, it’s helpful. Oftentimes, even now with my wife and not involving clinical issues, but I may be feel bad about something or resentful, or a little angry, or something, nothing massive, I’ll say to my wife, “I’m feeling bad but I can’t figure out why.” And after a short dialogue, she’ll say, “Is it this? Is it that?” She knows me very well. Our spouse, our friends, they know us. 99% of the time it works. It’s like, “Okay, got it. Now I know what it is I can deal with it.” Sometimes you feel bad, you don’t even know what the thing is, you just feel slightly agitated, slightly angry, to sort of name it, deal with it kind of thing.

Warwick F:
So, that’s… And that’s not over massive things necessarily, just things that come up day-to-day. And not everything. I’m all for counseling, not everything means you need to go to a counselor 24/7, sometimes you do, sometimes it’s a little weed popping its head up. It’s not a clinical issue, seek friends that can help you and figure it out and help you forgive. So, bottom line is get help.

Gary S:
Yeah. And one of the things I love about this discussion in the context of Crucible Leadership, is you talk, in your book you write about the need to get beyond your crucible, to enact your vision, to make your vision a reality and live a life of significance, it takes a team. Having a team around you is essential to being able to walk out your vision to get to a life of significance. The same can be said about the need of a team to get you to a place where you can both embrace and then enact forgiveness, right?

Warwick F:
Absolutely. Whether it’s counseling, family members, friends. And then as you move forward in using your pain to help others, you’ll need a team to help enact your vision, which will actually help with the pain. A team at all levels, both in dealing with the anger and bitterness, and being able to move forward beyond that to live a productive life. It requires a team and sometimes that really will lead into a point we’ll get to here in a bit, is there’s a power of kind of being vulnerable. There’s a power in when sharing what’s happened to you as… Well, it’s really… Let’s right into point six, funny enough. Modeling.

Gary S:
Let’s take it. Warwick just hijacks my role as the co host. But that’s fine. Point six, modeling forgiveness helps others and that’s part of a team thing.

Warwick F:
Yeah.

Gary S:
So, please unpack that for us.

Warwick F:
And so part of vulnerability, we had actually on the podcast, quoting Andrea Anderson Polk, she’s very vulnerable about what she went through in her family and uses it to help others in terms of just a very challenging upbringing. When you’re vulnerable about what you went through, and then talk about maybe how you were able to overcome it, it helps people feel not alone, but it also helps people have hope. So, it’s possible that you can… Nobody wants to go through pain, especially horrific pain, and things that are just… May think are unspeakable in terms of how awful it was. But when you use that to help others, it’s never right what happened, but maybe there’s a purpose in that pain. Maybe, the fact in the Bible talks that the life of Joseph when his brothers threw him in a pit and sold him off to slavery off to Egypt, which is about having family members sell you off as a slave, it’s about as horrific a thing as you could possibly have happen.

Warwick F:
And Joseph says, “They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” So, whether you believe in God or spirituality, or the universe, there can be a sense where if you use your pain to help others, there can be a healing component, there can be a way that that awful thing that happened to you can be used for good. And that makes pain easier to live with if somehow it’s being used for good. It doesn’t make it all go away, it’s no question, it does help I think significantly.

Gary S:
Yeah. And modeling that forgiveness. We’ve talked about people like Martin Luther King, Jr. When Martin Luther King Jr. says, “He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love,” and I reflect on his life, I think I’ve got absolutely nothing I shouldn’t be able to forgive. Right? The things that he… The things that that statement models about forgiveness, what he endured, what African Americans endured in the struggle for civil rights, and in many cases still endure today, that he could say that, models forgiveness in a way that can change hearts, that makes me reorient my thinking about it. Same thing with Nelson Mandela, that he could do that makes me reorient my heart. Now, we’ll go back to the example of Mugabe, that makes me sort of check my heart, I want to make sure I’m not living in that place.

Gary S:
So, the power of modeling forgiveness is that it can help overcome some of those things that we talked about at the beginning. It can take a long time. Oh, it’s too hard. It can seem like we’re condoning it. The modeling of someone who has had much to forgive who’s transparent about what they have to forgive, the modeling of that, really can help provide a big breakthrough in our own efforts to come to that place of embracing-

Warwick F:
Yeah. Another example which we spoke about Northern Ireland and the country of Ireland, that Protestant and Catholic challenges, the troubles in 70s, 80s, whenever it was, the violence. That rift goes back hundreds of years and as historians and others might know, when the British occupied Ireland hundreds of years ago, that sort of… Some would say that led to what happened, but that hostility between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland goes back hundreds of years. There was a point at which you said, “There’s no way that that will ever change.” Hundreds of years of bitterness is tough. It has changed. It doesn’t go to zero, but it’s significantly better than it was. So forgiveness in a society, it can happen. Not easy, but it can happen.

Gary S:
Yeah. And it can inspire the people who live in that society for sure.

Warwick F:
Absolutely.

Gary S:
The final point that you make in your blog at crucibleleadership.com, if not now, then soon listener, is that it really sort of summarizes everything and may land on for some people who the hardest person to forgive is. And that is, forgive yourself. Why is that sort of the final place to talk about forgiveness for you in the blog?

Warwick F:
So, sometimes we focus a lot understandably on terrible often unspeakable things that were done to us and how tough that is to forgive. And it is tough to forgive. And again, forgiving doesn’t mean condoning. But what happens if you’re the perpetrator? My case, I was young, idealistic, foolish perhaps, I didn’t deliberately try to hurt anybody, but by launching this to $2.25 billion takeover that failed, yeah, it ended up hurting, I don’t know, four or 5000 employees, there was uncertainty. Largely speaking, people didn’t lose their job, but it caused bitterness within the family, it ended 150 years of family control of a large media organization in Australia.

Warwick F:
So, yeah. It was sort of obviously a big deal. Well, I had to forgive myself for my own naivety, stupidity, and my book which comes out in October, is largely focused on my own stupidity and the lessons learned as well as from other places, but that’s the core of the book. And so sometimes, let’s say… Let’s say you’re the person who did horrific things, whether it’s abuse or what have you. I don’t know how you forgive yourself for those sorts of things. It’s easy to say you should never forgive yourself. And I guess it depends on what spiritual paradigm, and there are consequences. Depending on what it is, you should obviously try to attone, make amends. That’s a tough thing. But I think in general, we do believe that you need to forgive yourself, because if you’re going to try and help other people, you’ve got to find a way to do that. If you are going to live a productive life that benefits.

Warwick F:
If you’re just filled with anger and rage of what you’ve done, the anger and rage will only tend to hurt more people. The cycle of damage and harm that you’re doing to others, just to take it to the extreme, it’ll keep going unless you can forgive yourself. Which again, from a Christian perspective, God forgives us because that’s why I he sent his son to Earth so that we can be forgiven from the least bad thing to the biggest. So, it depends on your spiritual frame of reference. But either way, you’ve got to find a way to forgive yourself to be able to move on, have a productive life, have some degree of joy and fulfillment and live a life of significance, a live on purpose dedicated to serving others. If you don’t forgive yourself, you’re not going to be able to help the world in any fashion or form. So, that can be the highest mountain, the toughest hill to climb sometimes to forgive yourself. But-

Gary S:
Indeed.

Warwick F:
… if you care about others like your family, your friends, other people, you’ve got to find a way, you got to make a choice. It may not be easy. If you have a degree of self awareness, that can be pretty tough. You can just want to perpetually beat yourself to a pulp. In my own way, me was more being young and foolish, I went through a lot of the 90s thinking, “How stupid can I be? Why didn’t I talk to family members? Why did I do this? Why did I do that? Oh my gosh, how dumb can I?” Why? Why? Why? Endless whys. You’re not always going to get an answer to the why’s, you’ve got to find a way to forgive yourself if you care about the people around you, and if you care about using the pain that you’ve inflicted in a sense to help others.

Gary S:
And that what you just described about forgiving yourself, I think operates on two axes. One is forgiving yourself to yourself. And I think you had a lot of that to do after the takeover failed and as you put it you made bad decisions and you had to sort of forgive yourself for ending the family control of the company and the loss of the heritage and those things. But there’s also as you alluded to quite a bit there, forgiving yourself of things that you have done to others. And I have some experience with this concept from Alcoholics Anonymous. I am as we are having this conversation 24 years sober. And one of the principles I learned first week in Alcoholics Anonymous, as one of the steps of the 12 step program, one of the steps is to make amends for those you’ve wronged, make amends to those you’ve wronged.

Gary S:
And the idea that was implanted in me by my sponsor, and the idea that’s in what they call the big book, the book of Alcoholics Anonymous that helps people along that 12 step journey, is you’re only responsible in that context for your side of the street. Yes, you ask for forgiveness, you apologize, you seek forgiveness for those wrongs that you’ve committed where you can seek forgiveness, where it’s not going to make the situation worse, where the person still around, where you can, you make those amends. But once you’ve done that, you’re not responsible for how that’s received, you have to then come to the place where you forgive yourself for what you’ve done, you’ve done what you can, you’ve cleaned your side of the street, and then you have to move on.

Gary S:
I think that’s one of the part of forgiving yourself is being able to… Is realizing that when you go to seek forgiveness from others, you may not get a… I’ve discovered 85% of the time when I do that, people are gracious, people are kind, people are loving, people are understanding. But there are some people where you don’t get that, you have to be okay with that knowing that you’ve done all you can to make it right. And that’s where you have to be able to forgive yourself.

Warwick F:
I think it’s a profound point you make there, Gary. There’s two sides of it is, if you’ve asked for forgiveness and you’ve done it genuinely from the heart, you’ve tried to make amends, do everything you feel that should be done. If they don’t forgive you, that’s up to them, that’s between them and their creator, or however they look at life. You’re not responsible for that. But the other side of the coin is, when things have been bad done to us, sometimes we feel led to confront that person and say, “What you did to me was wrong.” And you want them to apologize, you want them to ask you for forgiveness. Very often from my experience, that doesn’t happen. Most people are not self aware enough or not willing to own what they did, or the blame to apologize.

Warwick F:
So you have to… As appropriate and you have to… Whether it’s counseling, or seek the advice of family and friends, as appropriate as you feel led by all means, confront the situation, again, if it’s not a safety issue, and just say what you did was wrong and basically ask them to ask you for your forgiveness of them. That often doesn’t happen. And you got to live with that. Okay, I confronted the situation, I was hoping they’d apologize, they never did, I’m going to forgive them as an act of the will even though they never said, “I’m sorry.” In the majority of cases in my experience, people aren’t particularly good at saying, “I’m sorry.” You’ve got to be the bigger man, the bigger woman and you try, they didn’t say sorry, they didn’t apologize, you still got to forgive.

Gary S:
Right. The truest definition of forgiveness, the truest realization of forgiveness on both sides, whether you’re asking for it, or it’s coming in… or you need it, is it’s not dependent upon the other person either accepting your apology, or the other person apologizing to you. It’s dependent upon, as you’ve said many times, it’s an act of the will. It’s about the nobility of character that comes from being able to release that anger and bitterness, whether it’s towards yourself because of what you might have done, or it’s towards others for what they might have done, regardless of how that commerce has gone in the exchange of, “Please forgive me,” or someone doesn’t say, “Please forgive me,” regardless of how that goes, you have to be able to… Forgiveness is not dependent upon someone asking for apology or you receiving apology. It’s something that you control. And that’s why I think what AA talks about, what my sponsor talked about, all you’re responsible for, all you can control is your side of the street. And that’s true in the pursuit of and the reception of forgiveness.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. Kind of one final point that occurs to me just on this, I think it’s very often helpful to have models of forgiveness. Family members, friends, people who have come before us. You’ve mentioned obviously Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, tremendous examples of forgiveness. If you’re fortunate, maybe you have family members, people you actually know personally. And for me, one in my life was my dad. As listeners would know, my dad had the same name as me, Warwick Fairfax, but he was knighted so he was Sir Warwick Fairfax, and he both had nobility of spirit, nobility, I suppose in title, I guess. He looked every bit the nobleman instead of central casting, if you will. But he had nobility of spirit.

Warwick F:
And that was exemplified when 11 years before the takeover in 1976, some other family members got together because they had enough shares, they threw him out as Chairman, and I was 15 at the time. I felt like it was the definition of a righteous man falsely persecuted, whether it’s true or not, depends on your perspective. But I just… I probably had my own share of bitterness at the time with a father I dearly loved, how could they do that? But in his own way, and I don’t pretend it was perfect, because few of us it’s not easy to forgive perfectly, we can only do our best. But when I asked him at the time, “Well, how did you deal with all this?” He said, “Well, I made a decision to forgive because that’s what God would have me do.” And it just blew my mind at age 15, that he could say that. Now, you could analyze that and say, “Well, Warwick wasn’t perfect.”

Warwick F:
And he may not have been perfect, but he did that because it was the right thing to do. And he thought it would be the best thing for me, he would hope one day I’d take a leading position in the company, but just that decision he made to forgive what to me seemed pretty unforgivable, totally unwarranted was astounding to me. And that’s been really the model for my life in terms of a human that I actually know. That model of forgiveness has stood with me my whole life in terms of if my father, Sir Warwick Fairfax, if he can forgive what that was done to him, then I should be able to forgive. It was a powerful model that’s been a sort of a touchstone for me.

Gary S:
Yeah. And it’s something that you’re still acting on, you’re still living through, you’re still enacting, you’re still embracing and enacting.

Warwick F:
Been a lot of decades.

Gary S:
All these years later. I don’t want to do the math, but if you were 15 then, it’s been a while and you’re still talking about it. And more importantly, you’re still living it and exhorting others to it.

Warwick F:
Right. And so the point of what you’re saying is, one of the other points is my modeling forgiveness does it help others? At least it helped me. It’ll help other members of his family. I don’t know whether he saw it that way at the time, but it wasn’t just about him, it helped other members of my family. Certainly, it helped me. So, that was a gift he gave me. That act of forgiveness. It was incredible.

Gary S:
That is a fantastic time to put down the landing gear on our conversation and begin the process of bringing the plane in for a landing. What Warwick, as you sort of think about all the ground that we’ve covered today, what’s the thought and exhortation, and insights you’d like to leave listeners with today?

Warwick F:
I’d say forgiveness is an act of the will. It’s a choice, it’s not a feeling. It’s not about I don’t feel like forgiving. That’s not relevant. What’s relevant is, you need to forgive, it’s the right thing to do, you’re worth it. Get out of the prison of anger, bitterness and resentment. If you want joy and fulfillment, if you want freedom, freedom from bondage. Bitterness is like weeds, it’s like chains, throw off the chains, seek freedom and not because you feel like it, not because other people you think may be worth it, but you’re worth it, your family’s worth it, your friends are worth it. Forgive because it’s the right thing to do and you’re worth it, it’s a choice, it’s not about how you feel.

Gary S:
This would be the moment now that we dropped the mic, boom. Plane’s landed, we’ve dropped the mic. Thank you for another fascinating discussion. And I hope listeners you found this to be a discussion that is helpful. To that end, I would like to leave you with on his blogs, Warwick always ends every blog, one blog a month, find him at crucibleleadership.com, but he ends every blog with three reflection points. And as you’ve listened to this conversation, as things have been stirred in you, here’s three reflections that we would encourage you to ask yourself moving forward about this very big topic. This is a very big subject that we’ve discussed here on forgiveness. The first reflection, What is it that you need to forgive, be it in yourself and others? Identify that thing, write that thing down, give it some thought.

Gary S:
Second, how will forgiving enable you to move on beyond your crucible? That’s a very personal thing to think about. Take the time to think about that. How will forgiving enable you to move on? Be specific, as you sort of noodle on that, as you sort of jot some thoughts out about that. And then the third point of reflection, and I love how Warwick does this. This is kind of Warwick’s default place to go when he’s exhorting you to take action. What one step will you choose to take today? Not tomorrow, not put it on your calendar for next week. What one step will you choose to take today to get out of the prison of anger and bitterness? The prison that can stifle your pursuit of a life of significance, let alone your ability to move beyond your crucible. So, listener until we are together the next time, please remember that your crucible experiences are painful, we know that. Warwick knows that, he’s talked at length about his crucible and the pain it’s caused him. I know that. I’ve talked at less length about it, but trust me, I’ve been through them.

Gary S:
But here’s the good news. Neither Warwick nor I are still stuck in those crucible moments. And you don’t have to be either. If you lean into the lessons of your crucible, if you learn those lessons, and you apply them like we’ve talked about today, one of those lessons is the necessity, the value, the life giving impetus of forgiveness. If you apply lessons like that to your life, your crucible is not the end of your story, then it’s not the period at the end of your book. It is in fact, the beginning of a new chapter in that book of your life. And that chapter can be the most rewarding chapter you have as you live out your life because where it leads to, where that final sentence will end at, will be a life of significance.

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