Turning Tragedy into Triumph and Triumph into Tragedy

by Barry Maher

Your personal sense of scale defines your triumphs and your tragedies—and everything in between. That’s never more true than with victimization. Kacey McCallister is a young boy who lost both legs in an accident, one above the hip, one six inches below it. He plays baseball and basketball: at 2 feet 7 inches tall.

“I realize,” Kacey said, “there was nothing I could do to change it unless they come out with something that can grow legs. I just go with what I have.”

His family stays in touch with the truck driver who accidentally hit Kacey while the boy was crossing the street. “I think what [the driver] has gone through is much, much worse than what we have gone through,” Kacey’s mother says.

On the other hand . . .

Here’s a story from marketing expert Dan Kennedy. At a convention for a multi-level marketing company, one of their top distributors addresses the group. Whatever you may think of multi-level marketers, this is a man who’s worked hard and overcome great odds. He’s become a remarkable financial success; he probably makes over a quarter of a million dollars a year. Tonight he tells his story.

He’d been a copier salesman, a milk truck driver, a bus driver. He’d been fired; he’d failed in business. When he started with the multi-level company, all his friends and relatives ridiculed him. He’d invited them all to his first home meeting, then he waited—and waited—and none of them showed up. He never forgot that night and he’d used that hurt and anger to propel him to success.

He smiles though, as he tells of the day he invited them all down to see him off as he and his wife took their first award-winners cruise. He talks of the feeling as the ship pulled off, of sipping champagne and looking down at the dock as the whistle blew and the streamers flew by. And of his moment of triumph as he gazed down on those who had scoffed at him—presumably all his friends and relatives—and gave them the finger.

Who can fault someone for wanting to prove himself and to others that he’s better than any of them imagined—and using that desire to motivate himself to get wherever it is he wanted to go? It just seems to me that sailing off on a luxury line away from a lifetime’s worth of friends and family is not the most triumphant image I can imagine. Or if it is a triumph, it’s one on a much, much smaller scale than a 2 foot 7 inch tall boy playing basketball.

Granting forgiveness when you’ve been wronged is one way to change the scale completely. It can turn a tragedy into a triumph. Failing to grant forgiveness can turn triumph into tragedy.

Forgiveness and Survival

Eighty percent of Americans believe that forgiveness takes the help of God. It doesn’t. Robert Enright, founder of the Forgiveness Center explains, “The essence of forgiveness is always the same. You’ve been hurt by someone. You chose to give up the resentment to which you are entitled. You offer benevolence and mercy to someone who does not deserve it.” To someone who, at least in your eyes, does not deserve it. And it makes you feel better.

You forgive for your own sake, more than the sake of the person you’re forgiving: a person who may not care in the slightest if you forgive him or not; who may not even believe he did anything wrong; who may even persist in what he’s doing. You forgive him because it makes you feel better. If living well is the best revenge, forgiveness is one way to help you live well.

“Forgiveness and reconciliation aren’t necessarily the same thing,” says Enright. “You don’t have to cave in to the other person. But you can break the cycle . . . if you are willing to forgive.”

It doesn’t mean that you cave in. It doesn’t mean that you don’t go ahead and do what has to be done to make the situation right. And yes, it can be extremely difficult. But you forgive. For your own sake.

Adapted from Filling the Glass: The Skeptic’s Guide to Positive Thinking in Business by Barry Maher (Dearborn Trade Publications).

Barry Maher consults, writes and speaks on professional development, motivation, management and sales. Filling the Glass: The Skeptic’s Guide to Positive Thinking in Business was recently cited by Today’s Librarian as “[One of] The Seven Essential Popular Business Books.”

© Copyright, 2013, Las  Vegas, Nevada, Barry Maher, Barry Maher & Associates


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