This quote is from Mark Twain. I’ve always loved it. It speaks to me about forgiveness. But more than that it speaks about the integrity of forgiveness. There’s no question that we have values in which we base our moral guidelines or honor codes. These values are different for all of us. No judgement – just different. Ideally, as we move through life, we become more conscious of our own values, we discover the truths for our lives and then we live (almost) every day thinking about the effect we have on others, even those who don’t know us.
To me integrity means following my values – at work, in my personal life, and in my travels on this earth. But I am imperfect. I regularly fail. And when I fail, I have to forgive myself and ask for forgiveness – but from whom? Myself? Others? G-d? The truth is the same for all three … I can only have forgiveness if I have the desire for it in my heart. That’s the integrity of forgiveness.
If you’re a parent, you know forgiveness like the back of your hand. Your kid spills something on your new dress? Forgiveness. Bangs up the car? Forgiveness. Says something hurtful? Forgiveness. But with others, we like assign total responsibility to someone else and frankly, I’m really good at ignoring my own part.
Someone with true integrity asks for forgiveness when they don’t do their best. But they don’t make the same mistakes over and over again. And they don’t make excuses. They are quick to apologize first – even when it might not be their “fault.” People with true integrity believe you when you say you are sorry but they do not appreciate you lying to them. If you say you’re sorry and do the offending action again, they are not likely to ever believe you. But, when you ask for forgiveness from someone with true integrity – they forgave you even before you asked.
When I look to the people in my life – those who I emulate – they have four characteristics:
- Integrity: They are not self-focused and self-absorbed. They are focused on who they are serving – and their service group is large.
- Responsibility: They take responsibility for their actions and they take that role seriously.
- Forgiveness: Of course, they forgive. They let others make mistakes and then they forgive them in their heart.
- Compassion: They are there for you even when they are not in front of you. They give in the most quiet, but selfless way.
We are living in a freaking crazy world right now. People are hurting other people every day. And, some seem to be out for just themselves. Yet we must keep moving forward.
In the end, the only thing you can take with you is the spirit of how you walked this earth. Our future is as we live.
Powerful. Yet simple.