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The Burden of Judgment at Work

Ana Polanco

GirlthinkingHave you ever had one of those days? You spend the day fighting with a congressional staffer to see it your way, trying to convince your team to change direction, angry when someone presents your idea as their own, and then to add insult to injury, the consultant comes in and says the exact same thing you have been saying to your boss for over a year and everyone agrees with them.

You hold on to the moments when someone has hurt you, ignored you, treated you as if you lacked a real presence and power in your career. You hold that anger so you can never forget what it felt like and what that person did to you. You can feel your body temperature rise every time you’re in one of these situations. You will never forgive them!

Okay you get the picture.

The thing is, refusing to forgive is doing major damage to you professionally and personally. I can already see the long list of people laughing at me – the entrepreneurs, my banker friends, the political staff, consultants and even the lawyers. It sounds something like this:

“You know you can’t forgive these things. It’s us against them.” “Who can you really trust?” or “I can’t say that to him.” “He won’t understand.” or some other reason you think you can’t forgive that person.

It is true that every experience teaches us something about who we are and what kind of relationships we want to be in with others. And since our thoughts are a reflection of our feelings we find it hard to forget.

It is also true that letting go of the pain, the anger and the hurt is necessary to heal yourself and move forward. Now there’s no fairy godmother coming to wave the magic wand and make you feel better. You have to put in the work to learn how to balance and take back control of your emotions, to understand what forgiveness is about and to use it as a tool for healing.

Many English or Spanish dictionaries, define the act of forgiving as something we are giving up in relation to the pain someone or something outside of us has caused.

Deepak Chopra definition of forgiveness -- as letting go of the burden of judgment – calls us to look further afield. By asking us to let go of the burden of judgment that we feel we must carry towards others and even towards ourselves.

In practical terms, here’s how I work it:

Break the Habit

Trying to forgive is like trying to break a habit – drinking, overeating, overspending, and endless bad relationships. With most habits you keep going back many times before you realize that you have to change the underlying assumption of why you have the habit to begin with. And then you must find the will to change that underlying assumption and begin replacing the negative habit with a positive one.

Forgiveness is the same.  Example: I am angry because she cut me off mid-sentence. I remained silent.

Are you angry because she cut you off or something else? Are you angry because you remained silent and now you are stuck with the feelings associated with your silence? Does your anger come from some deeper place?

Pay Attention to Your Feelings.

If you are going to heal, you’ll need to start paying attention to your feelings and notice when they come up, with whom and how far back they go. I like to place attention on those feelings like a movie. When I am holding on to anger, I like to imagine myself as a third party. I wonder: why am I really angry right now? What am I holding on to or holding back?

Usually there is something else further afield in your thoughts – a parent telling you to be seen and not heard, notions of how women should behave and what is considered polite behavior. Find out what you’re holding on to and whether it’s serving you or holding you back.

Speak Up/Alza la Voz.

Hermana, you’ve been silent way too long. Every day events that are hurting you need not be held for so long. Why not take every opportunity you can to release and forgive. If someone cuts you off at work, say excuse me and explain that you weren’t done -- and then finish your thought. While this technique may not apply in every circumstance, si tú quieres, you can find healing in those small daily releases to strengthen your voice and heal your wounds.

If you have a big issue with someone that makes you deeply angry, I recommend you reflect on it before engaging others. Remember it’s what you feel and what they feel. Having a courageous conversation is an exercise that should be practiced before you engage in one.

Let go. Forgive often.

The more you let go of anger and resentment and ease into forgiving often, the more joy and peace you will feel. Your ability to look at issues with objectivity will expand and your capacity for strategy, relationship building and collaboration will grow exponentially.

Remember -- forgiveness is letting go of the burden of judgment.

Who wants to carry a burden around at work? Aren’t you busy enough?

Your turn: Pay attention this week to the times you were angry and keep asking yourself why until you get at the root cause of the problem. You might discover something you never knew was there!

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