The ability of forgiveness | Inquirer Enterprise
Can you recommend another lawyer? ”Asks Don (not his real name), the head of a grocery retail company founded by his father. “Attorney P told us this is a difficult case and will cost us a lot. We want someone with more confidence. “
“Attorney P is competent and experienced,” I say. “Listen to him.”
“But Company X shouldn’t get away with what they did. We want to bring them to justice. “
The much larger Company X has reportedly taken certain actions to take over parts of Don’s business. Don initially trusted Company X so the contracts weren’t tight, but then Don and his family ended up on the losing side.
“We’re just trying to have a decent life,” says Don. “Attorney P agreed that they were angry, but he told us it was hard to win the case.”
“Evil is banal, the political scientist Hannah Arendt reminds us,” I say. “Company X is powerful and has so many more resources than you. What if you go bankrupt? What will happen to your family If your father were still alive, would he sue? “
“My father was too nice and some people took advantage of it. I want to fight for what is right. “
“Your father was good, generous, brilliant,” I say. “He expanded your business and left it to his heirs in good condition. By all standards he was successful and satisfied. “
“What should I do? Forgive and forget?” “Forgive, but remember,” I say. “Learn from your mistakes and take steps so that your family is not taken advantage of again.” “Forgiveness!” Don scoffs. “We talk about business here. “
I am quoting INSEAD Business Professor Manfred Kets de Vries who said, “Really transformative leaders are very aware of the cost of hostility. They see the havoc that an unforgiving attitude can wreak … Holding grudges is a form of halted development; it holds people back. “
De Vries compared Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe. Mandela is known to forgive those who had imprisoned him for 27 years and reconciled the various peoples of South Africa with the words: “Forgiveness frees the soul … That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”
“By comparison, Robert Mugabe chose bitterness, vindictiveness and hatred against white Zimbabweans and the nation’s black citizens who opposed him,” says Forbes Asia. “By encouraging supporters to forcibly occupy white-owned commercial farms, Zimbabwe, once the bread basket of southern Africa, turned it into a poor house. Under his rule, unemployment rose to 70 to 80 percent and life expectancy fell. In mid-November 2008, Zimbabwe’s peak inflation month is estimated at 6.5 sextillion percent – making the local currency practically useless. A “cleanup” campaign targeting the slums where his toughest opponents lived left 200,000 homeless. “
“Forgiveness works in business,” I tell Don. “Almost a century ago, a notable sibling, one of the heirs to a huge Filipino-Chinese family conglomerate, saw firsthand how several factions in the family struggled to get a bigger slice of the pie.
“He could have fought for his share, but he decided that peace of mind was more important. He forgave family members who did not treat him well. He went his own way and succeeded. After a while, the conglomerate collapsed inside and out and no longer exists today. “
“Is that a real story?” asks Don.
“His son, who held top positions in international banking, told me the story. This son now works for a leading family business consultancy in Boston and has never forgotten his father’s values.
“Avoid making hasty decisions when emotions run high. Your business continues to do well, so don’t bow to retaliation. Choose your battles, learn from your mistakes, forgive those who wronged you. “
Queena N. Lee-Chua serves on the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get your book “Alles im Familienunternehmen” via Lazada or the e-book version from Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at [email protected]
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