Life Lessons for Forgiveness

By Barry Schlouch, a YPO member since 1989

It’s been 11 years since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Although it can be initially devastating to receive those three words, “You Have Cancer,” the event inspired me to seek the ultimate healing: How does one truly forgive?

After surgery to treat my prostate, I received news that my mother was dying. I had not spoken to her in seven years, but I called her and let her know that I hoped that she pulled through. As soon as I could travel to see her, I did and gave her a hug. It was at that point that I realized there was something to this cancer diagnosis.

It has led my wife, Deb, and I to learn how to heal the cancer versus fight the cancer. We began to work every day to embody the following lessons on our journey to discover how to actually forgive:

  • To cancel a debt (no eye for an eye)
  • No need to teach another a lesson
  • No need to get even
  • No need to bestow vengeance
  • No need to receive amends
  • No need for another to admit they were wrong
  • Harbor no grudge
  • Harbor no resentment
  • No waiting for vindication
  • No waiting for admission of guilt
  • No waiting for another to accept their role
  • No more waiting for God to forgive you
  • No more wondering if you are still loved
  • No more believing that you are not worthy of forgiveness

You can make the case why to be infuriated about a diagnosis, or the way someone has treated you, or a situation in your family. Today, when someone wrongs Deb or me, we now have the capability to simply forgive that person or event. When someone cuts us off on the highway, we forgive them and wish them a safe journey; when we make a mistake, we forgive ourselves and learn to become better people from the experience.

Forgiveness in business

Over the past 34 years, our site design and construction company has grown from its modest start in the basement of my home to employing 270 talented and dedicated employees. During that time, we were ranked as the No. 1 Best Place to Work in Pennsylvania, USA, by the administration of former Governor Tom Ridge. During this journey, we grew in developing a culture that recognizes the importance of the employee as an individual with goals, obligations and dreams; an employee who earns the support and respect of the company he or she serves and is treated with respect. We refer to this outlook as our C-T-H business model (Care-Trust-Help).

  • First, we make certain that our employees are safe on the job and return home every night to the people they love, and we provide programs for self-improvement.
  • Second, we encourage our employees to think and make decisions on the job, trusting them to make the right decisions. If they make a mistake, they know the company is there to correct the situation and help them improve.
  • Finally, we help our employees succeed by providing them job opportunities to grow and excellent benefit packages.

Since my cancer diagnosis, forgiveness has come into play for me with my employees and those I do business with. If someone wrongs me, I let it go. I no longer get angry at our employee but hold them to standards. I’ve learned that if it doesn’t work out, sometimes terminating an employee is the best gift you can give that person and they give you.

I have found that adversity in my life, especially the cancer diagnosis, has proven also to be a gift, if you respond to it appropriately. Deb and I have found that acquiring and practicing forgiveness makes it possible for us to be in our “happy place.”

Barry Schlouch is Co-founder and President of Schlouch Incorporated, a 270-person site design and construction firm headquartered in Blandon, Pennsylvania, USA. He is the author of the book “Excellence In Construction,” a speaker, consultant and mentor to both businesses and individuals interested in achieving excellence in business and life. His website is barryschlouch.com.

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