Life crises can teach powerful lessons. The first lesson I learned through my health crisis was about letting go. This second lesson was a reminder of the power of forgiveness. I didn’t recover after my first open heart surgery, even though I was “supposed to.” My initial heart surgery was successful in that my mitral valve was repaired. However, I couldn’t get well. I lost a tremendous amount of weight (size 2 clothing was falling off my once muscular 5’8” frame). I had Afib where my heart pounded out of my chest; and me, the life-long runner, had difficulty breathing to the point that I was hospitalized several times.
I continued to deteriorate. It wasn’t until I could hardly walk on my right leg that I discovered the real problem. My cardiologist sent me for a sonogram on my leg. The results were not good. I was rushed into a room where a team began working on me. It turns out I had a blood clot in the artery of my leg and another had gone to my spleen. The fear was that the next clot would go to my brain. The echo cardiogram showed my heart full of infection. Somewhere in this process, I had contracted endocarditis. It had gone undetected until I almost collapsed. I was horrified to learn that my open heart surgery had to be re-done, but this time a significant amount of bacteria had to be cleaned out. The repaired valve had to be replaced with a cow’s valve. After nine hours of marathon surgery, the heart surgeon on call sat with my husband and said, “I hope she wakes up.”
I’m thankful to have recovered. Part of my recovery involved letting go of anger and blame as to why so many medical professionals didn’t see the problem. Why I didn’t research it better. Why no one connected the dots. I had a choice: to forgive, to let it fester or to fuel the fire and be litigious. Choosing forgiveness is often difficult. I wanted to find out why things went wrong and hold others accountable.
What I re-learned in the process of healing is that forgiveness is really for the person who feels wronged. I found peace through forgiveness. Judgment and wanting justice only binds you to the past and limits your future. Not forgiving harms you physically. Feeling anger or hostility toward others or a situation releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which negatively affect the cardiovascular and immune systems. When you forgive, your body starts to return to homeostasis which leads to self- healing.
Lack of forgiveness is rampant in many organizations. People hold grudges for years impacting their own well-being as well as productivity. Through the many organizational analyses and the executive coaching work my company has done, we’ve seen that the anger and frustration many managers and employees have toward each other limits both their individual and the organization’s growth. The lack of forgiveness and the need to be right impedes any progress toward building trust and ultimately towards becoming a high performing team or company.
Life brings challenges personally and professionally. We don’t always like what happens. To protest what has happened is stressful, disruptive and certainly prevents healing. Ultimately, forgiveness is for the person who sees themselves hurt in some way. Practicing forgiveness lays the groundwork for getting better: body, mind and spirit. You can find peace and productivity through forgiveness. My open heart surgery opened more than my heart and I’m sharing my top three lessons – letting go, forgiveness and gratitude.
For more information on practicing forgiveness in the workplace to lead to more productivity, schedule a free consultation.