Roger von Oech

Creative Think

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Cam Beck

I believe in this concept, Roger. Here's a question, though.

When two people are at odds, what are the foreseeable consequences of forgiving without discussion and ultimate reciprocation?

Roger von Oech

Cam: Thanks for stopping by. Interesting question. I first started thinking about "forgiveness" in a systematic way back in 1999 when I took a Stanford Continuing Studies class called "Forgive For Good" by Dr. Fred Luskin. It was a wonderful class and became the basis of his best-selling book "Forgive For Good" (

He made the point that it's preferable if the parties can sit down and discuss past the acrimony (or offenses). This allows them to plot a new direction with new assumptions that aren't based so much on "that bad thing that happened in the past."

But that's not always possible. Sometimes, one side needs to forgive the other (without reciprocity) in order to plot out new directions in one's own live. In addition, some of us walk around with resentments. We're like "traffic cops" writing "imaginary speeding tickets" to those people who have slighted or offended us. Does doing that really do us any good? Probably not. If we can forgive the behavior that causes us to "write these speeding tickets" (or least put it in a different context), we'd probably be open to more possibilities.

Cam Beck

Grudges can be terrible burdens. The world would be so much brighter if everyone could just put them to rest.

I like the analogy of "writing speeding tickets." That's a good way to put it. :)

Shakespeare's Fool


Thought provoking as always.
I have, I am sure, much to learn about forgiveness. And you have me thinking that if I had forgiven some people more quickly and completely, I might have done better.

But then, no one ever treated me like Nazis treated Jews.

Before the Marshall Plan there were the Nuremberg trials. And Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation commission refused amnesty to more than 5.000 people.
Is it not most likely that forgiveness can sometimes be unreasonably refused and at other times be too easily given?


Roger von Oech

Shakespeare's Fool: Nice to hear from you again. You make some good points. And to be sure, there is a very wide spectrum in the scale of acts that can be forgiven either by both parties mutually or by only one of the parties.

My intent in the post was to suggest that "forgiving" is a creative thinking strategy, i.e., a means to open up one's thinking. And although the example I gave was epochal (WWI through to post WWII), my feeling is that for our purposes it can be best applied at the individual level.

Interesting you mentioned the Nazis and the Jews. Germany worked very hard for forgiveness after WWII and paid vast sums in reparations especially to Israel. Sixty plus years later, I'd say that there is less anti-Semitism in Germany than there is in neighboring European countries.

David Armano

What a wonderful way to start a Sunday morning—I'm inspired.

Forgiveness seems to go against the grain of human nature doesn't it? We need to make concious efforts to forgive rather than it coming naturally, without thinking, like second nature.

But of course the benefits are huge. Like many men, I had huge issues with my father growing up. Suffice it to say that it was only until I forgave him and accepted his limitations that I was able to overcome some of my own issues.

Forgiving is an extremely powerful act.

Thanks Roger.

Shakespeare's Fool

Good points: asking for forgiveness and redressing our wrongdoings.
Your points do, however, have me thinking there may be some people I should be asking for forgiveness. Not a pleasant thought even though the transgressions were minor.
I think that sometimes asking forgiveness is harder than forgiving. Particularly if I have to change my ways to deserve forgiveness.
Thinking how to ask forgiveness and figuring out how to make amends are also different ways of thinking.

Carolyn Wilson Koerschen

Forgiveness is a great topic for the week of Passover and Easter. Forgiveness is NOT like riding a bike-----it has to be learned over and over again. Maybe it is easier for others but I have to relearn the steps of forgiveness. In fact the steps are different each time forgiveness is required.

So during the season, when we are reminded of grace and as I recover from a life threatening health problem, I am taking baby-steps toward forgiving a professional colleague.

In this situation the first step was to accept that I couldn’t repair this situation- no amount of analysis or mediation will heal the harm that has been done. I am a "fixer" so this was very hard for me to accept. Acceptance led me to resign from a job I loved and where I enjoyed many successes.

After I resigned I began to feel worthless. I felt that my colleague’s hostility toward me meant that I had little or no value. OUCH! The only thing that is helping me get past this tough spot is listening to and learning from others. The ability to soak my mind through podcasts, websites and blogs is a lifesaver. I am thankful that I have time to think and engage with others who share my passion.

Soaking my mind led to these words on your blog:
The act of forgiving can help us let go of past assumptions and also open our minds up to new possibilities.

I am listing all of the assumptions and limitations that were part of my former role. Guess what? It is wonderful to be liberated from these. I am free to make a bigger difference than I could have in my former role. Despite great uncertainty I am confident that the next phase of my life will be much more rewarding---certainly a lot more fun!

Thanks Roger!

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