Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II shared a strong working relationship as well as a uniquely special bond. Throughout the 1980's, they worked together as a driving force to consign Soviet communism to the ash heap of history. In 1981, both men suffered assassination attempts and barely made it out alive. Immediately following the assassination attempts, both Reagan and John Paul publicly forgave the gunmen who shot them. Both men believed that God had spared them for a greater purpose. It is possible that their forgiveness was actually the driving force that toppled atheistic communism.
Pat Williams, author of the book Great Leaders, has made some good points about forgiveness:
1) Forgive others to liberate yourself. Forgiveness enables us to make peace with our past and move forward with our lives.
2) Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. You must choose to forgive, even when you don't feel like it. The feelings will soon follow.
3) As a leader, set an example of forgiveness. Bitterness and resentment can tear an organization apart. Forgiveness enables teams, organizations, and nations to function smoothly.
4) Forgiving does not mean forgetting. We forgive because we can't forget. The memory of being hurt will keep hurting us until we make the decision to let it go.
5) Forgiving does not necessarily mean maintaining a relationship with someone. Pope John Paul did not become best friends with the gunman, but he forgave him so he could move on with his life.
There is a French proverb that says "to understand is to forgive.” People will disappoint us and wound us, but the more we can understand and empathize with them, the easier it is to forgive. Forgiving officially removes any constraints of the past and ensures that prior constraints will never dictate your future. In the case of Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, their act of forgiveness literally changed the world as we know it. Next time you are hurt, think about the power of forgiveness.