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Forgiveness in the World of Business

Updated: May 31, 2023

How applying the steps of forgiveness can help you better run your business.

As any business leader can tell you, running a business is a series of challenges and obstacles. The responsibilities are burdensome, the hours are long, and even when the waters are calm there will always be threatening storms on the horizon. Good business leaders anticipate that things often won’t go as planned, but sometimes forget that even situations and people in the business world can cause us hurt and pain. After all, if we’re doing it right, we invest far more than time and money into running a business; we invest ourselves and pour our hearts into it. When a painful experience is inflicted upon us, the process of forgiveness can be a valuable tool for healing and regaining momentum. The steps of forgiveness - acknowledgement, acceptance, forgiveness, learning, and moving on - can each be applied to business, some of the biggest companies have shown how to successfully navigate challenges using this process.


The first step in the process of forgiveness is acknowledging the pain and challenges your business has faced. This involves recognizing the impact these challenges have had on your business and your team. Acknowledging the pain can be difficult, but it is essential to confront the reality of the situation before you can move forward. When a company acknowledges the pain of a setback, it can prompt a closer look at internal issues and roadblocks and become a catalyst for change. For example, when Tesla experienced production issues with their Model 3, CEO Elon Musk acknowledged the challenges and worked with the team to find solutions. By acknowledging the pain and challenges, Musk was able to create a culture of transparency and accountability, which ultimately helped the company to move forward and produce better cars.


The next step, acceptance, requires understanding that you cannot change the past, but you can change your response to it. Pain and challenges will always be a part of your business, but you do not want them to define it. With acceptance, you can begin to visualize your path forward and identify ways to move past the pain. Acceptance can help a company to find a new direction after a setback. For example, when Kodak faced bankruptcy due to the rise of digital photography, the company had to accept that they could not change the past and that this new era of photography was the way forward. They then focused on their core strengths and pivoted to become a provider of digital printing solutions. By accepting the challenges they faced, Kodak was able to find a new direction and move forward.


To feel forgiveness, we choose to let go of negative feelings towards those who caused the pain. Forgiveness is not about excusing behavior or denying the gravity of the situation. Instead, it is a deliberate decision to release yourself from resentment – which often manifests as a desire for revenge – and allow your business to heal. This is when the process becomes a gift to yourself and your business, as it frees you from the burden of holding onto toxic feelings that stand in the way of your company’s productivity and success. Forgiveness can help a company to repair damaged relationships and move forward with a renewed sense of purpose. For example, when Starbucks faced backlash over racial bias in its stores, the company acknowledged the pain and responded with a public apology and a series of initiatives to address the issue. By forgiving themselves and taking action to address the problem, Starbucks was able to repair relationships with customers and employees and move forward with a renewed commitment to diversity and inclusion.


The past can teach us valuable lessons. We can learn from it by reflecting on the challenges and setbacks your business has faced and identifying ways to avoid similar situations in the future. Learning from the experience is critical to the closure process and can help you create a stronger, more resilient business.

When Amazon faced criticism over working conditions in its warehouses, the company responded by implementing new safety measures and increasing wages for workers. By learning from the experience, Amazon was able to create a safer and more sustainable work environment, which ultimately helped the company to continue to grow and thrive.

Moving On

Sometimes the previous steps of forgiveness and learning can lead to repairing damaged relationships, and sometimes they don't. Moving on means finding peace of mind and focusing on the future. It involves recognizing that your business has a bright future, and you are ready to take it to the next level.

This final step can help a company to focus on the future and create a clear vision for growth. For example, when Apple faced challenges with its innovation and growth, the company moved on by acquiring new technologies and focusing on developing new products, like the iPhone and the Apple Watch. By focusing on the future and moving on from setbacks, Apple was able to continue to innovate and remain a leader in the tech industry.

The process of forgiveness can be a powerful tool for healing and moving forward, in both your personal and business lives. By using the steps of acknowledgement, acceptance, forgiveness, learning, and moving on, companies can create a culture of transparency and accountability, find new directions after setbacks, repair damaged relationships, avoid similar challenges in the future, and create a clear vision for growth. From small business owners to global brands, practicing forgiveness can help businesses to navigate challenges and continue to thrive in the long run.

Rebecca is co-founder and CEO of AvantGarde LLC, an award-winning consulting practice, to learn more about AG visit

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