Branson makes good points while referencing Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Tutu and the bitter battle between British Airways and Virgin ...
In my career I have often been asked if I hate certain people. I have had many differences of opinion with people, and I have had a great number of battles with rival companies, but I can happily say I have never been driven to hate. It is the most unhelpful and unproductive of emotions, and says far more about the hater than the hated.
My friend Frank Giustra wrote eloquently about the futility of fear and hatred, and how much time is spent on emotions that are the first to disappear when we are faced with death. “To those that spend life fearing and hating others, why waste your life?”
As a child, if I ever said anything bad about somebody else, my parents would make me stand in front of the mirror for a long time. Their point, well made, was that my cruel words reflected badly on me. To this day, I always try to see the best of people, and will always try to make amends if I have a disagreement with somebody.
Perhaps the best example is in the aftermath of the Dirty Tricks campaign by British Airways. I fought tooth and nail to protect my company, Virgin Atlantic, but I was more than happy to invite BA’s Chief Executive Sir Colin Marshall round to my house for lunch. We cleared the air and he left with us on friendly terms.
As Frank said: “Hate consumes us and more often than not, it is a useless and misplaced emotion. We work ourselves up into a frenzy over misunderstandings, presumptions and fear, that in most cases we eventually get over or wonder why we ever felt in the first place.”
One of the most important lessons I was fortunate enough to learn from Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu is the power of forgiveness. Everyone deserves freedom to move forward. Arch calls forgiveness “the miracle medicine”, and it is a great way to move towards peace.
|Branson and Archbishop Tutu|
If you find yourself experiencing feelings of hatred boiling up, think about how much time you will waste creating more anger. Then think about how you could spend that time differently. I guarantee you’ll feel a little better, and the world will be a little happier.
I would suggest that everyone reading this ring up someone that they have fallen out with in their lives and invite them out for lunch or dinner. It could be an ex-partner, an old friend turned enemy, or a family member. Remember, there's always two sides to every story and give them the benefit of the doubt.Branson is missing a point about justice - but his experience makes you think perhaps.
And on Internationl Day of Peace last September, Branson said:
I am joining many others to promote the message that true peace is reached through forgiveness. Forgiving and being forgiven have been recurring themes in my life, and have shaped the person I am today.
The Virgin story could have been very different if I hadn’t chosen to forgive one of my very first business partners, Nik. One day I found a note outlining Nik plans to oust me as Student magazine’s publisher and editor. I felt incredibly betrayed and asked him to leave.
From Student came the idea for Virgin Mail Records. As the operation took off, I could not handle the business’s financials on my own. I called up Nik and offered him a second chance. Forgiving him was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I retained a great friend, became happier at work and in life, and gained the confidence to grow Virgin. Forgiveness brought us both peace and success. We’re still good friends today.
Since those early days, forgiveness has become something of a cultural policy within Virgin. Instead of letting staff go for misbehaving, we have often given them second chances; and as a result have reaped great rewards. It’s amazing how much people lift their game when you put trust and hope in them.
In my opinion, no matter the situation, how badly things have gone wrong, or how much you have been hurt, forgiveness is the best answer. We have been reminded of this time and time again by individuals who make my stories seem trivial.
I was privileged to recently meet Kim Phuc, who was severely injured as a girl by napalm bombs dropped by US military planes during the Vietnam War. Kim lost family members in the attack, and had to have 17 operations to try to repair the damage it caused. Yet, in 1996, when Kim met the pilot who coordinated the attack, she forgave him. By giving the pilot forgiveness Kim was able to move on with her life and travel the world to promote peace.
17-year-old Malala Yousafzai has become the voice of a generation and an inspiration to all people of all ages, including yours truly. Malala was shot in the head three years ago for speaking out about her right to be educated.
Despite the pain and the trauma she experienced, Malala publically forgave the young solider that shot her. Speaking at the UN she said: “Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him…. This is what my soul is telling me, be peaceful and love everyone.” Malala’s act of forgiveness freed her to continue to drive her vision of education for all.
And who can overlook Nelson Mandela’s powerful tale of forgiveness. Madiba was jailed for 27 long years of his life. But when he was released he forgave the people who imprisoned him. This forgiveness enabled him to become one the greatest leaders our world has ever seen.
He also brought together The Elders, an extraordinary group working for peace in the world – take a look at what they are doing to forgive for peace too, including Desmond Tutu’s wonderful Forgiveness Challenge.
Everyone deserves freedom to move forward. Forgiveness is the fastest route to peace. The more inner peace the world’s people have, the more world peace we will all experience.
Love and peace should be our highest aspirations. If you are seeking peace, try to forgive the person who you feel is causing you anguish. And if you feel you’re too proud to forgive, remember these wise words from Gandhi: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
I forgave, and have been forgiven, will you?