My dad was a prisoner of war. I only found out this sobering information from my aunt some years after his death. He never told us, his children, that he was imprisoned by the Japanese during the Sino Japanese war in the 1940s, tortured and left for dead on the side of the road after he got seriously ill from maltreatment. Nor did he blame them for the loss of his brother and brother-in-law. In fact he did business with them, and more significantly, sent his sons, my brothers to school in Japan. Father felt that they could benefit from the combined eastern and western education and culture they would gain in the school in Kobe.
I remind myself of this powerful lesson of forgiveness and collaboration whenever I am frustrated by some injustice. How can my experience compare to the horrors my father endured in a Japanese war prison? And yet he chose to forgive, learn from Japan's post war emergence as a peaceful nation, ready to trade and integrate into the global community. With that in mind I am more able to release my judgment, anger and make the effort to find commonality in the differences. Is it easy? No. Can it be done? Yes. I have a good model in my father's example.
Some powerful reasons for forgiving and letting go of resentment are: it frees us from being stuck in the past; it gives us more energy to focus on solutions instead of anger and revenge; it improves our health as the toxins from negative emotions dissolve, and it also improves our relationships with others. As it was once said:
"Holding onto anger is like holding onto a red-hot piece of coal and thinking that it is burning the object of our displeasure."
Here are five steps you can take to release resentment and to reclaim your equilibrium and good judgment. I call this process PADGE. Use this tool to help you in work and personal situations, with a clear head and heart you are able to accomplish so much more.
- Pause -- take a deep breath, then another and then another. Repeat until you feel the adrenaline coursing through your veins begin to simmer down. If you have to remove yourself from the immediate surroundings temporarily to regain composure, do so if at all possible.
- Assess -- what are the true dimensions of the issue? Who, what, when and how.
- Gather -- why did this happen, what are the possible solutions and the consequences of the various action steps? Involve all relevant parties as much as possible.
- Decide -- based on the above data, determine the appropriate next steps to resolve the issue and to prevent new ones.
- Execute -- embrace the challenge with commitment and the comfort that you have assessed, analyzed and come up with the best solution. Repeat any of the above steps as needed as you proceed; the situation can change and you have to be prepared to adjust to the circumstances.
Pause. Assess. Gather. Decide. Execute. PAGDE will help you determine the best course of action for the current dilemma and also give you insight into how to handle future issues. With compassion and forgiveness you will be able to break your heart open to more joy and good instead of breaking apart.
Happiness, free of resentment and anger is a choice. Your Happiness Choice.