To forgive and forget implies we forgive someone his or her transgression(s) or mistake(s) and then let it go. This is how transgressions and mistakes reoccur and can easily lead to escalation of the issue. If you want growth and development this is wrong! Especially as there are constructive alternatives.
The appropriate alternative depends on the situation and individual’s roles and responsibilities within the relationship. To select the most appropriate response to a transgression it is important to consider the type of relationship, the individuals’ awareness and ability to meet the expectation, as well as situational requirements.
First start with the relationship. Clarify is it an equitable relationship, where individual’s are considered to have equal power and input? Or is a hierarchical one, with positional power differences?
In the case of true equitable relationship then the first, as always, step is to check if the expectation being transgressed is clearly articulated and agreed upon.
There is no way of getting around the reality that most, if not all, individuals are not mind readers and we can only live up to and reasonably be held accountable for expectations we are clearly aware of. Thus if expectations in an equitable relationship are not clearly articulated and agreed upon doing so is the first process that needs to be carried out when a transgression has occurred.
To clearly articulate each expectation, it needs to be considered from the point of view of it being realistic. It is not realistic to expect someone to go without food for a week. It is not realistic to expect someone to do tasks they don’t have the ability to do or aren’t clear of what the task requirements are. That is the expectation needs to be doable and clearly described. Does everyone know what is required and have the ability, personal knowledge and skills to do it? Do they have a supportive system and environment? Do they have the required resources?
When any of these are not fulfilled then ‘Forgive and EMPOWER’ by enhancing the system, providing the resources and develop the required knowledge and skills.
Finally is the expectation really agreed upon? Is it necessary to negotiate or renegotiate the agreement or adjust the expectation so all parties really agree. Full agreement empowers individuals’ to live up to agreements and expectations.
In the case of hierarchical relationship its important to fulfil and then go beyond these steps. It is important to be aware and remember those who are in positions of power are responsible for the wellbeing and development of those in their care. Yes in their care.
If you are in a position of power it is not simply a matter of saying ‘do this because I say so’. It is a requirement that you enable those you have a position of power over, those who you are responsible for, are able to do the tasks that they are required to do whilst maintaining their wellbeing. Occupational Health and Safety Laws so say! You are responsible for their safety and wellbeing.
If you are in a position of power you are responsibility for ensuring those under your command are able to do the required tasks. This means: clarity of expectations, the tasks and timelines; provision of the required resources, including systems, materials and time; and development of required knowledge and skills; training. This is a foundational responsibility of positional power roles, whether as a parent, supervisor, manager or CEO. This means when transgressions occur the person with greater positional power needs to ‘Forgive and EMPOWER! Not forgive and forget.
Start by considering the reason for the transgression. Is it due to lack of ability, inadequate system support, inadequate resources, knowledge or silks, or perhaps a combination?
The person(s) with lessor power have the responsibility to ‘Forgive and Learn’, to EMPOWER themselves.
Finally it is also important to consider the possibility of a mismatch? That is if an individual doesn’t match the requirements of the role and appropriate development is not realistic. In which case adjusting the team, partnership, maybe the most appropriate alternative.
In short when a transgression has occurred take into account the type of relationship and roles and responsibilities within the relationship. Consider the ability to meet the expectation and empower to enhance the ability to meet it where possible. In this way to ‘Forgive and EMPOWER’ promotes growth and increased satisfaction within relationships. Rather than continued transgression, with possible escalation, that commonly results from forgive and forget.