Faithful to Forgive
In the workplace, with its deadlines and unexpected turns of events, employees under pressure are at greater risk of making mistakes. These mistakes may stem from lack of experience or poor judgment.
Should you fire employees who make mistakes or forgive them? Jesus provided the ultimate example of forgiveness on the cross when He prayed on behalf of his killers, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34 nkjv). This prayer was answered later when thousands of people in Jerusalem were saved on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41).
Why did Jesus pray such a prayer? The people involved in His death did not recognize him as the Messiah and weren’t fully aware of the magnitude of their actions. In the same way, employees who lack experience may not understand the magnitude of their actions. Their confusion may lead to unintentional missteps and miscalculations that affect a project’s completion and costs.
A frequent test of whether we have the heart attitude required to lead like Jesus is how we deal with the failures of those we lead. As a servant leader, you need a healthy capacity to forgive, correct and move on.
Matthew 18:23-35 tells the story of a servant who owed his king ten thousand talents—an enormous sum in those days. Because he couldn’t repay his debt, the king ordered that he be sold into slavery along with his wife and children.
The servant fell down before the king and begged for mercy, and the Bible says the king was “moved with compassion.” Despite the enormity of what the servant owed, the king forgave the debt.
Forgiveness is yielding your right to revenge, removing the charge from the offender’s ledger, and placing it at the cross. President Ronald Reagan exhibited these principles when he forgave John Hinckley, his would-be assassin in 1981. He told his daughter that forgiving Hinckley was necessary for his own healing.
Servant leaders seek to grow and develop people. And for them, this goal is just as important as results. So, when employees make mistakes, call them in and confront them in a spirit of compassion and love. Document your interaction with them, and depending on the severity of their mistakes, have witnesses present.
To get at the root of the problem, ask them why they thought the actions leading to their mistakes were okay. Sometimes, their answer to this question reveals bigger issues going on in their lives. It also may reveal a need for coaching and/or training to elevate their level of performance. Discuss the problem and give them a chance to improve. And, if you promise to follow up with another meeting or training, by all means do so.
Failing to forgive employees undermines your capacity to lead. If you don’t forgive, you lose the opportunity to develop employees and lead them toward a higher level of achievement.
Finally, in every situation, be willing to admit your own mistakes. You’re not looking for a scapegoat; you’re looking for solutions. And, doing your best will put you in a better position to develop your employees into workers who can meet new challenges and help your company adjust to the demands of a changing marketplace.
Can you name anyone whom you have yet to fully forgive? Take steps now to show Christ-like compassion to those whose mistakes have affected you in the past.
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