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What Does Forgiveness Look Like? Part One

forgivenessNot too long ago while I was working on a client’s business, I encountered a situation that made me wonder what forgiveness is. I know that it is choosing to let go when you can hold on. Sometimes it might be releasing a debt that someone owes you. I get that part. But what does it look like in action?

Here’s an example to explain what I mean.

Let’s say Jimmy George Bob’s sandwich shop is offering franchise opportunities across the U.S. (Do you like that name? I’m good, right? Oh yeah, back to the story. ) It is going to cost quite a bit of money to put a new storefront in a location. There are lots of things to think about – and they want each of their locations to be a brand new building – not just take up residence in an empty location.  It’s pretty expensive to do this so the three of them decide to only ask for a partial down payment and they’re willing to cover the rest. You have to go through a pretty extensive vetting process to get approved though. 

Now, in Townville, Central USA, there’s a group of  college graduates that are able to pool their money and put together the funding to pay their part. While out one night, they discuss Jimmy George Bob’s, their favorite sandwiches from that restaurant and they’re dreaming big. Stanley, one of the grads, is really excited and tells the group he wants to do it. So someone says ” Yeah, that sounds awesome. It would definitely be cool. Check it out!” 

Next day, Stanley makes some phone calls, figures out what to do to get the franchise and rather than talking to anyone else in his group, he decides to do it as a surprise for everyone. The group is going to be SO EXCITED!! 

A few weeks later, after Stanley has had meetings with Jimmy, and George (Bob was unavailable) it’s time to break ground at the new location. A huge party is planned and it’s going to be a massive celebration. That’s where he’ll tell his new partners about this great venture. At the same time he presents them with the bill for said grand venture. 

Can we all see where this is going? It’s a train wreck waiting to happen right?

Unfortunately, as much as many parts of this story are completely overblown and way off the charts, this is based on an actual story that happened.  It wasn’t a sandwich shop and it wasn’t as extravagant as constructing a new building, but the sums of money involved were well above what an average American can  easily bankroll.

Well, when it was discovered what Stanley had done, all heck broke loose.  I mean he hadn’t just pledged his own money, he had guaranteed them all of the money from the friends too – certain he would get it.

But instead of taking on the responsibility for the consequences of his actions, Stanley blamed Jimmy and George for the whole thing. All those forms he’d signed and the meetings he’s had? Oh well, it seems Jimmy and George lied to him.  At least that’s what he tells everyone. They didn’t tell him the truth – they just wanted his money.  And when Stanley’s friends heard that,  they did what all good friends should do.  They stood by Stanley.

But rather than figuring out how things could be worked out for everyone, they decided to attack. And they hit hard.

They went to friends of friends and leaders in their community and shared the story about how horrible Jimmy George Bob had been to Stanley. Though they didn’t go to the press, they did get a group of people together and all of them decided to barrage Jimmy, George and Bob (remember Bob wasn’t there) with reasons they should break their contact with Stanley. After all, he couldn’t afford all of that money. It was horrible to scam him that way!  And they threatened bigger things. More public things. Things that could really hurt Jimmy George Bob’s reputation. 

So here is the question. What would you do if you were Jimmy, George and Bob? We all know what Stanley did was wrong, but were his friends wrong to stand with him? The restauranteurs have all of the letters, forms, reports and legal documents that he signed stating his intentions.

Legally, they are fully in the right and on top of that, Stanley is morally in the wrong.

So where does the forgiveness part come in? Well, that’s a long story. You’ll have to tune in Wednesday for Part Two!