5 Ways Forgiveness Lowers Accountability and Influence

by  Tabitha Moore  |  Self Leadership
5 Ways Forgiveness Lowers Accountability and Influence

Forgive and forget…

If we want to be seen as good people, that’s what we do every time someone has caused us pain.

Maybe she didn’t hand in that report you needed on time, so you had to work an extra three hours, missing your daughter’s volleyball game. Or maybe your coworker cut you off mid-sentence in a meeting and then later reiterated an idea of yours that he claimed as his own.

Sure, these things upset you and maybe you gave them a hard look to let them know you weren’t pleased, but you needed to move on and focus on getting your work done.

So you decided to forgive them and forget about it.

And that makes sense, right?

After all, isn’t it better to forgive than hold that anger inside, making you bitter, draining your energy?

The problem is that when we do this, we are using forgiveness as a solution, not a process. In other words, we use forgiveness as an agent to help us heal from painful situations and move forward, not as a way to change the relationship and increase the partnership.

When we use forgiveness as a solution, we lower the other person’s accountability and our influence on them.

5 Ways Forgiveness Lowers Accountability and Influence

  1. At work, we generally try to avoid emotions that are unpleasant, like anger and hurt. We naturally believe that we should escape “bad” feelings as soon as possible. Forgiving and moving on is a logical way to achieve this. However, when you do this, you are just pushing back those emotions. They will continue to build up, causing you to avoid this person and making you less likely to want to partner with them in the future.
  1. Glossing over these unpleasant feelings not only doesn’t work, it also does not help you to dig into the emotion to find out what it is trying to tell you. Feeling hurt or angry are often signals that your boundaries have been crossed and can tell you how you can fix it. If you don’t listen to yourself, you aren’t holding yourself accountable for maintaining healthy boundaries.
  1. If you try to forgive without confronting the person first, you have not given them the chance to acknowledge what they did, so you have not held them accountable.
  1. Forgiving those who have not taken responsibility for their actions lets them off the hook and robs them of the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.
  1. John F. Kennedy said, “Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” He is warning us that forgiveness can leave you vulnerable to being hurt again. If the person who caused you pain has not been held accountable – you are opening yourself up to being harmed again.

How can you turn forgiveness into a process that creates more influence and partnership?

The 5 Steps for True Forgiveness

  1. You tell the person how they have crossed your boundaries.
  2. The person acknowledges what they have done, taking accountability for their actions.
  3. They feel remorse and apologize for their actions.
  4. You feel heard, and the two of you are on the same page in this situation, both of you being intentional to keep it from happening again.
  5. You feel an increase in partnership because of the mutual understanding, allowing you to forgive them.

In the process of true forgiveness, the relationship is changed forever in a good way. Many who go through these steps together end up feeling more connected and closer than they were before the incident. And their influence with that person has increased.

But what if the person doesn’t acknowledge what they have done? What if they refuse to be held accountable?

Even though this may be a painful outcome, now you are clearer on whether you can partner with this person in the future. If they are not willing or able to change their behavior to help you, at least now you know that in the future you need to go elsewhere to collaborate.

What are your thoughts on the interplay between forgiveness and accountability?
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock Photos

About The Author

Articles By tabitha-moore
Tabitha Moore is a leadership coach for women in corporate, helping them become highly influential while decreasing burnout to take their career to the next level. To find out how influential you are with your boss, colleagues and direct reports, visit http://feminineleadershipacademy.net/influence to take a free assessment and create a game plan for increasing your influence.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Will Lukang  |  26 Apr 2016  |  Reply

Excellent point on just forgiving without going through the process. Without dealing with the issue, people often missed the point that they crossed then line. Accountability is really essential to create a healthy environment that support the group overall goals.
Thanks you for sharing The 5 Steps For True Forgiveness.

John E. Smith  |  30 Apr 2016  |  Reply

Hi, Tabitha – excellent post on an important workplace issue.

I thought your five-step process for dealing directly with this to be very valuable. This will be a helpful tool to share with others, especially since so many avoid any type of confrontations at work and with those who are on a level or above the level at which one toils. Your approach provides some needed support, first for the idea that one can and should not just “let this pass”, and second, that a way to confront without conflict exists.

I do wonder about people who do not have the option to look elsewhere for collaboration when this fails. Whether we work at the lower levels of the organization or at the higher levels, we are often required by job constraints or design to work with another person, whether we would choose to do so or not.

I think your process has much value in any situation, but do you have additional thoughts about what to do when you cannot realign your collaborations?

About your ending question on accountability and forgiveness … for me, this always depends significantly on how the person who needs to be forgiven responds to a mature and calm confrontation over their actions.

If the person responds positively, then accountability has been reinforced. If they continue to avoid responsibility for their actions, then accountability is weakened or even non-existent.

Then we are at that point you mentioned of deciding whether we can adjust our work situation and collaborations to avoid a repeat performance.

Thanks for a very well-written and useful post:)


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