Have you ever made an accidental, but potentially harmful mistake? Well that happened to me. I got an email (you know where this is going) and thought I was replying to the sender. Instead, it went to another person. When the mistake was revealed, I was absolutely sick! OMG!!!
My reply was harmless, but the accidental recipient is a VIP and important to my friend. I was deeply fearful that my accident would cause: embarrassment, criticism, rejection, etc….Ohhhh… I felt sick! My goal is always to support and help, never to cause embarrassment of any kind.
Frankly, I wanted it to go away. But, a little voice in my head said “You must confess this mistake! It’s the only path of integrity.” I immediately contacted my friend and explained with profuse apology.
Then he set me free with a powerful gift. The gift of grace and forgiveness. He was so gracious and kind. He immediately sought to make me feel better! I was the one who totally messed up and he was consoling me.
His forgiveness was even more precious, as he just left a meeting where he’d been the target of criticism and blame. We started the conversation with all that he had endured. Then, I confessed my mistake. He was completely justified to give me exactly what he just received. Instead, he offered forgiveness. Beautifully, he turned an occasion for shame into a gift of grace. He has my undying appreciation and great respect!
There’s a lesson in all this. Good and powerful relationships arise from honesty, vulnerability, integrity, courage and empathy, with a hearty dose of grace. Grace and forgiveness free us from fear, shame, insecurity, anger and defensiveness that kill good performance, collaboration and success. People are far more responsible, honest, hard-working and loyal when mistakes* are resolved with graciousness, rather than blame and shame. I’ve witnessed corporate cultures that are encouraging and those that are frightfully punitive. There’s a palpable difference. Not only are the punitive cultures seriously negative, way too much energy is spent on defensive protection. Very little good comes from work cultures that are filled with fear.
If any of this strikes a chord of agreement or longing, delve more deeply into the powers that will set you free. Read:
Daring Greatly – Brené Brown – Sociologist and Researcher on the power of vulnerability (yes – power of vulnerability)
The Power of the Other – Dr. Henry Cloud – Psychologist and author on Leadership & Relationships
PS: To my gracious and forgiving friend….Thank you, Thank you!
*Obviously some mistakes are so egregious that consequences must be significant, but I’m not referring to dishonesty, serious error or negligence.