“Just because of the good that one has done, let us not turn a blind eye on the wrong made.
Just because of the wrong made, let us not wipe out all the good that was done.
Seeing both rightly, let us help each other face up, do penance, right the wrong and develop further the goodness.
Only then can we grow together fruitfully.”
We hear it all so frequently. The staff who rather not do anything than make a mistake. We also hear of that boss who quicker forget than forgive — forget your effort and contributions and not forgive your single mistakes, that is.
In today’s society, are we becoming one that has no more room for forgiveness? In our law-conforming country, is there room for pardon, or should we remove these words from our vocabulary and just go by the book? Or have we removed these words already? Are there stipulations for wrongs doers to be given a slap on the wrist and nothing more? Or is that where human interpretation should lie?
Ignoring Judicial systems for now, let’s look at workplaces. A common trend for some employees is to just do the minimal possible. The idea is that the more you do, the higher the chances for mistakes. This attitude lies in the repercussions that come with mistakes. Certain companies, it seems, have a culture of condemning staffs for making mistakes. Instead of correcting the mistake and moving on, the person is usually sidelined indefinitely. Having such corporate culture is unhealthy for companies or organisations. It promotes stagnation and stifles growth both for the group and the individual. Change if at all need to come in at the top level and management need to earn back the trust from the company that the change is not just a show. Over time, staffs will have the courage to, as everyone says, ‘think out of the box’.
In some companies I’ve worked in however, the atmosphere is rather different. Staffs are encouraged to take risks, calculated risks that is. And failure is not uncommon, but the cane comes down tougher for not doing than for trying and failed. As a result, we were more motivated to try and try and not be afraid of failing. Granted, we are not wild horses on the loose, but we make what we like to call “guestimates” with the confidence that management is behind us should something go wrong. Such companies do usually have its own check and balance to ensure that it is not exposed to too much unnecessary risks of course. So staffs also have to start to up more ownership and have to be ready to stand by and in some cases defend the decisions made. Compared to the prior system, employees play a more active role in running the company and not just passive wage-earners.
The same applies to volunteer groups, non-profits and even families. As volunteers, it is already out of interest and passion for certain common goals that they commit their time, energy and often money into an organisation with no monetary rewards. If volunteers are too heavily penalised when they make a mistake, then the already small pool of volunteers may shrink and disappear altogether. Check and balances should be in place, but some room for learning and growth should be present. Instead of corrective or penal measures, it may be wiser to establish preventive measures to ensure that mistakes are firstly minimised, and secondly caught earlier in the process and not wait till it deserve a “death” sentence. That way, volunteers can
continue to offer their time without fear of harsh backlashes while being guided in the process so that public interest is maintained.
In families, an atmosphere of openness and forgiveness is healthy and wholesome for both the children and the parents. If parents act like police, the children may start behaving like thieves. If the parents act like judges, then the children will act like prisoners. Having openness requires trust between the parent and the child. But that trust can only develop if the child have confidence in the parents’ interest in the child’s happiness. If the parents punishes too harshly, then the child may end up hiding matters from the parents for fear of punishment without recognising the wrong in their own actions. Punishments should be coupled with learnings so that the child learn and recognise that their actions are wrong. If they come out of punishments believing that their actions were right and the punishments were uncalled for, then they would start hiding as mentioned. Or they may stop playing or trying anything altogether. This is the equivalent of the employee who does as little as possible because then he has lesser chance of being wrong. If this happens to a child who is strong-willed, they may start rebelling. For a more introvert child, they will just give up trying anything.
Singaporeans as a whole seem to be struggling between “openness and forgiveness”, and “closeness and backlashing”. We need to find a balance that works for us in our Asian context. With the drive towards opening our doors to foreign talents, we are in greater need to learn to be forgiving. Let us not forget, that most of our forefathers were immigrants once. And if not for the kindness and forgiveness given by various individuals along the way, we would not have come so far.