Achieve The Best Forgiveness Skill – On This Earth By Richard G. Lazar, PhD


Hardly Ever Used, Yet Vital

  I am referring to asking forgiveness for your own behavior or lack thereof, even if you are a decent human being (DHB). I am also categorically saying that it is important… more important than you think, to get that forgiveness as soon as humanly possible. Most of the time, you may apologize for your behavior and yet not secure the feedback that you need to move on in a positive way with that person.

Did you ever hurt someone inadvertently? Did you ever anger someone and they quit you? Did you ever make serious mistakes in social behavior and no one told you? No need to go on. If you are still alive, it has happened. It is likely to continue unless you come to grips with the right way to earn forgiveness with fellow mortals. I do think there is a right way. It is a skill.

Being Sorry Is a Nice Start

Most of us know enough to say I’m sorry when we think it is appropriate. The word “sorry” comes from the feeling of sorrow. Sorry or sorrow refers to being sad. Sometimes we are likely to say I’m sorry when we genuinely mean it and sometimes we say it because it is civilized. Not expressing sorrow when we have hurt or wronged someone is often perceived as rude, crude, or socially unacceptable. Of course “I apologize” is in the same ballpark. However, when “I apologize” is overused for being late, it can become stale and you can become highly predictable and seen as unreliable…hard to count on when needed.

Without doing it, you simply just transmit, “I apologize,” and go on without ever knowing how the other human being really thinks or feels about your behavior. Does it matter? It does matter in most instances, especially as we mature and have younger children and grandchildren who can learn from you something that can be ever so useful in business, family, and social success. Do you believe it? I know hundreds of men and women who have told me that having learned and practiced this “forgiveness skill” has had a significant, positive impact on their lives.

The Worst of Apologies

They go like this, “I am sorry for any embarrassment you may have”. “I am sorry you are taking this the wrong way”.   “I am sorry that others can’t see it my way. ” In a nutshell putting it this way is without any “ownership or accountability” for what you did and said. Look at the newspapers and TV with people involved in scandals, to see how they apologize. Surely remorse can be a fleeting thing and a promise may really be a commitment to act and behave in an absolute different way that is more acceptable to you. However the proof of the pudding is in our subsequent behavior.

The Best And Right Way—Asking for Forgiveness

Some readers may roar, “I knew this all along!” It has been used properly by some, but not enough. I believe that if you are saddened by hurting someone unintentionally, it is a good idea to say, “I’m sorry that I said (bleep) to you. I know it was wrong of me. “ And then follow it with, “Will you please forgive me?” This is the time for courage, because you do not know how the other person will respond. Yet you must wait through the quiet period. The silence can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, the point is, that by asking for forgiveness, you are respectfully enabling this person to DECIDE whether or not to accept your apology. If the answer is, “Yes” or, “Of course”…you are in clover.

If the answer is, “No”, brace yourself humbly and respectfully ask, “What will it take to forgive me?”…should you wish to find out. If it is important to you, then work it out to your mutual satisfaction, clarifying misunderstandings and committing to resolve things as you plan to go forward in work, church or family life. It may be too little or too late in your judgement to seek forgiveness in some cases. That is your decision.

What if Someone Doesn’t Ask Me for Forgiveness?

 Of course, the flip side of this art form is that, “No one does it to me.” Just notice it when someone apologizes to you this month, and someone will. You probably know what I’m about to ask you to say. It is, “I heard you say, I’m sorry. Why not ask me if I will forgive you?” Assuming that you have stunned or shocked or simply increased curiosity, you will be asked for forgiveness which then gives you the opportunity to tell it true…forgive yes or no and why or why not? It can also clarify, inform and increase mutual openness, mutual trust, and mutual confidence in your relationship.

Example Anyone?

As I have done in previous columns, I have a true story, an anecdote that worked for me and a number of colleagues. Some years ago, I was with a group of IBM engineers returning from France to the USA via Basil, Switzerland. As we were approaching our connecting flight, one of the men cried out, “Damn, I left the tube of secret information in the overhead rack.” He was carrying the company confidential and secret information about our proprietary hardware and software that needed to get back to headquarters. We ran to the Lufthansa Airline counter, and rudely sought a supervisory agent and asked respectfully to get the tube off the plane. He said in a very crisp tone, “No, way, and the plane is now taxiing down the runway on its way to Germany.” We asked two other red coats. Same answer. “No way.” Holy mackerel We looked at each other—six of us—thinking we’d all be fired…or worse. I made a quick decision. I was going to go crazy on purpose! So I did. I started running around the circular airport terminal flailing my arms about me wildly and screaming, “Stop that airplane. It must be stopped immediately. Get me to the airport manager at once. Someone must help at once.” Every employee and every passenger stopped to hear me. I ran to each airline ticket counter and shrieked the same basic message.

Finally, it seemed like forever, someone, I think it was the airport manager, came out and pacified me, saying the airplane has returned to the terminal and handed me the tube. Though grateful that it worked, I do not recommend this today. Thankfully, this was no serious airport security problem then.

My colleagues were standing back, far away from me, trying not to recognize me. I went over to them and asked for $50 from each of them. That was long ago and $300 was a bit of money. “What for? asked one man. “I’m buying flowers. Follow me,” I said. I bought all the flowers available for sale. We went to each airline counter and passed out beautiful flowers, saying, “Here, will you please forgive us?” “We deeply apologize. You know, ugly Americans.” Mostly, the reaction was smiles of gratitude, good humor and forgiveness. People from many countries had a story to tell about the crazy Americans. My buddies and I boarded the plane home, made a few champagne toasts and slept.


Yes we do. Carôn and Richard Lazar have lovingly lived happier by using this skill.

Yes we do. Carôn and Richard Lazar have lovingly lived happier by using this skill.

Lazar Achievement Psychology
About Richard G. Lazar, PhD

Quirky, confident and a bit whimsical. Tough and warm. Not old, just mature and ripe . . . even in retirement.