Key Point: I read Laura Hillenbrand’s bestseller Unbroken just after the hardcover was released and was mesmerized by the real-life tale of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini. The account of his horrendous experience as a U.S. airman and prisoner of war during World War II was a jaw-dropping read. Over the holidays, the story was released as Angelina Jolie’s movie of the same name, and Zamperini (played by Jack O’Connell) displays acts of astonishing resilience that keeps him alive in the face of the savagery of man’s most feared adversity… Other men. (Although, sharks do compete for air time). It’s an incredibly inspirational story.
What’s most unique about the Zamperini story is a theme not often found in similar stories: Forgiveness. For those of you who have not read the book or seen the movie, I won’t give away spoilers so you might fully enjoy reading or watching the journey to forgiveness unfold.
According to a blog in Big Think by Robert Montenegro, “A new short film directed by Oscar-winner Ross Kauffman and released by the John Templeton foundation delves into how forgiving his past oppressors helped save Zamperini’s life. Unbroken: The Power of Forgiveness features interviews with several of Zamperini’s family members who muse on the late vet’s post-war rebirth. The film strives to convey the power and strength afforded to those who forgive their enemies. The following image shows up at the end of the 6-minute film.”
What I find remarkable is that some people like Zamperini find their way to look beyond the most atrocious barbarism and understand that being forgiving and generous of spirit, truly sets one free. And I find the opposite amazing as well; some people carry around grudges and all the associated burden, even for the most comparatively trivial reasons.
This “I’ll get you back” thinking is naturally resident in the workplace and is such a waste for all involved. Unlike what Zamperini experienced, most people do not willfully intend to hurt others in every day situations. Still, we do so for all kinds of reasons, because we are so ridiculously human and incapable of perfectly navigating a relationship with ourselves AND others.
- Recognize that forgiveness of others is something you and I are most deserving and worthy of. Carrying around and/or acting on revenge, while dramatically appealing in many award winning TV shows like House of Cards, Suits, Sons of Anarchy, etc, is just that… TV… It’s fake. In real life, it’s relentlessly painful and a source of chronic grief. It is not a gratifying release at all. Awards are not given out for hateful revenge in real life. Tons of research (notwithstanding centuries of spiritual wisdom) bears this out. Forgiveness may not garner “awards” either, but it quietly helps us feel better.
- Empathy involves recognizing that the hurtful acts of others often come from their own complicated shortcomings. This is not to say that such behavior is right or just. Of course it’s not. I’m also not suggesting that we accept abuse. And I know that inflicted hurt is a long and complex continuum. Ideally, we can avoid being around those that repeatedly cause us pain. But why add to it by rubbing salt into our own wounds? Forgive… Heal. If Zamperini could, well maybe we can too?
Forgiveness in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: So Zamperini can forgive the atrocities committed against him as a prisoner of war in WWII, but you can’t even look at “Cheryl in accounting” because she beat you out for that promotion? See. Petty, right? I like putting these issues in perspective, because I think as a millennial, 99 percent of us can’t even fathom Zamperini’s experience. But it seems we have developed a new, evolved rule regarding “forgiveness.” Since very very few things are “Zamperini Bad” anymore, it’s just unappealling to be “that person” that won’t let something go, or won’t forgive. These people are the dwellers, the self-righteous victims, and the person unable to recognize a different solution or path to success… That attitude looks ugly on everyone. (I’m clearly talking about when someone steals your stapler or writes you a “harsh toned email,” not serious/criminal situations). Your path for personal success is out there, but unlike your newly leased car, it doesn’t necessarily have a colorful touchscreen GPS display to help you find it. That’s ok. But revenge can drive you in the wrong direction.
– Garrett Rubis
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis