Forgiveness requires mental toughness. We’ve all been lied to or cheated by someone we care about. While forgiveness is no panacea, it ranks among the most prudent strategies you can employ to create peace of mind in your life. In this episode of my national television show, Mental Toughness with Steve Siebold, I explore some of the benefits of letting go of anger and releasing the mental energy holding a grudge requires. As we all know, forgiveness is easy to say and hard to do. I don’t dispute that or claim that forgiveness is the answer to every broken relationship. I only ask you to consider some of these ideas as well as the psychological dynamics involved when people make a conscious decision to take the fear-based low road to betrayal. With 95% of the population operating in a fear and scarcity based consciousness, it’s no surprise many people lie, cheat and steal. They don’t do it because they’re bad; they do it because they’re scared. I’d love to hear your comments on how you’ve used forgiveness in your life and how it”s worked for you.  Steve Siebold  (4:57)

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Steve Siebold
Author and Professional Speaker since 1997. Past Chairman of the National Speakers Association's Million Dollar Speakers Group. Author of 11 books with 1.4 million copies in print.

23 thoughts on “Mental Toughness and Forgiveness”

  1. Your message is timely, as are all reminders to forgive.
    I often struggle with authority figures, and am currently reclaiming ground with a boss in my full time job.
    I’m also feeling neglected by a girlfriend who has little to do with me now she is determinedly married.
    I can see how both are acting out of fear. Thanks for the insight.

  2. Mike,

    I have clients that want me to learn some new skills so I can offer them additional help. It was nice chatting with you, but I have to bow out of the conversation, seeing as I have to read about 600 pages of material in 60 days.

  3. You met the challenge and grew up a stronger man, Paul. [My confirmation name is Paul so I’m St. Michael Paul – not bad.] BUT that’s an example of turning a negative into a positive.

    “I am not sure if we have more agreement on the nature of man, but look at it this way. If man’s nature is essentially bad, then it gives you a very big market for your mental toughness assistance. If man’s nature was good and everyone was disciplined and courageous at high levels, they wouldn’t need your help!” – Paul to Steve

    Whether Man is essentially good or bad or both or either scared or not scared or XYZ – it’s only those who believe they can improve from either group that matters.

    So the real issue is what one believes – fact or not – and that belief becomes the faith one acts upon, right?

    So what does that say about all this mental toughness, forgiveness, critical thinking, and delusion?



  4. Mike and Steve,

    A funny story:

    I was given a lousy nickname in 3rd grade.

    You probably heard the Johnny Cash song “A boy named Sue”. While I don’t agree with everything in that song, I can tell you one thing for sure. A lousy nickname can definitely make you mentally tough and make you more of an independent thinker! You learn real quick to overly value the opinions of the crowd and individuals.

  5. Mike,

    Some cultures in human history taught that a person could not make radical changes to themselves. I have found this not to be true and for Mr. Siebold’s sake, I hope I’m right. 🙂

    In terms of mental toughness, I worked for a sales and management training company which was very valuable to me. Secondly, sales prospecting makes you mentally tough. Steve’s material is great too and I have found insights in his material. Next, if you haven’t guessed I am a Christian and I have found that the Holy Spirit can enable great levels of self-discipline/control which is essential for mental toughness.


    I am not sure if we have more agreement on the nature of man, but look at it this way. If man’s nature is essentially bad, then it gives you a very big market for your mental toughness assistance. If man’s nature was good and everyone was disciplined and courageous at high levels, they wouldn’t need your help!

  6. Mike,
    I’m with you on this one. Fear is not always apparent or obvious. Almost every bad decision I’ve ever made, in retrospect, was made from a mindset of fear. Through years of study and introspection, I’ve observed my thought patterns and behaviors in a love and abundance-based consciousness as well as a fear and scarcity based consciousness. When I operate from fear, I’m small, petty, and self-serving. When I operate from love and abundance, I think big, act bold and feel like I can conquer the world. Amazing how the same individual can think and behave so differently. The critical variable seems to be whether I’m operating from fear or love; ego or spirit. I’ve found that most people, upon reflection, are the exact same way.

  7. So is human nature fixed or not? I know I have the same personality – likes, dislikes, sense of humor, attitudes – as I had growing up. But I’ve also changed in significant ways – so I know personally that change is possible.

    “They don’t do it because they’re bad; they do it because they’re scared.” — Steve

    I made a bad choice once that was very costly and I did it for many reasons BUT there was also a component: fear that if I didn’t do what I did I’d lose something.

    Fear may be subtle and not appear as fear – desire can be an expression of fear – and not all fear leads to bad choices, does it.

    People who don’t forgive – who don’t accept things that happen and face them – usually take fear along with them – and other negative qualities.



  8. Mike,

    I have had marketing jobs which were fun for people to participate which made things a lot easier. Of course, in these jobs I really didn’t need to be a hardnose except when it came to people filling out the contract right and of course there was negotiation in terms of price.

    On the other hand, I was also a debt collector. Let’s just say that the debt collector position let me side the darker side of human nature. 🙂

  9. My experience teaching – kids were creative and worked hard for me and I was not a hard nose – I was an inspired guy and naturally wired for spontanious play – teach by improv – though I was very much discipline focused.

    Nevertheless, notwithstanding kids creative and playful side – and instinct to be curious – I saw the other side also: lazy, do least to get by, avoid work whenever possible, and plead for a higher grade than earned. And I saw the hazing, teasing, cruel side.

    And as you say, Paul, there’s lots of historical evidence that the bad, evil, and lazy side of human nature wins out.

    I continue to grapple – playfully – with this subject.

    You present lots to consider, Paul.


  10. Steve,

    The Milgram experiments certainly showed people are willing to do an insufficient amount of independent thinking so I would agree with you there.

    Now as far as research in terms of whether people are inherently good or bad we do have the social science of history and history does not paint a very pretty picture of mankind.

    Now I have done some more thinking about the fear/scarcity issue. King Solomon, who was certainly known for his wisdom (despite not heeding his wisdom and having so many wives! ), said in the book of Proverbs, “The wicked flee when nobody is pursuing, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” I have found that love and disciplined thinking are powerful allies when faced with fear. I think a good case could be made that moral strength increases courage and reduces fear.

    Now as far as the scarcity issue, I will relay to you something I was told by a Bangladesh student and something I was told by a student from Mali which is one of the poorest countries in Africa. I asked these two students how much opportunity there was for economic advancement in their countries if you were poor. The Mali student told me that college education in his country was free, but people gave the excuse that good jobs were not plentiful so why bother going to college. Well he went to college anyways and is doing fine. The Bengladesh student told me that there is opportunity to advance economically in his country, but people have a more leisurely view of life than in America. I have been told that Japan does not have a lot of natural resources like America, yet despite this apparently being true, they do seem to do well. Also, the Nordic countries of Europe generally do well also despite their environmental challenges.

    Now granted these the Mali and Bangledesh students are the go getters of their societies, but it does raise some questions in my mind as far as how much poverty in the world is cause by the natural tendency of people to be on the lazy side. Of course, poverty can also be caused by corruption in their countries and by the lack of wealthy countries to give to poorer countries, but that would only reinforce the notion that human nature is essentially evil. Now certainly mankind does not live in paradise and there is some degree of scarcity, but there is plenty of scarcity cause by sloth, corruption, wars, etc. that point back to mankind having an essentially evil nature without God changing that nature.

    Now as far as charitable giving, there is certainly men and women engaging this. I would raise two points though:

    1. How much of this giving is caused by God given change. There is very solid research from reputable sources showing that atheists in a given country for example, give far less to charity than theists in their country as can be seen here:

    2. Just because people can do good, doesn’t mean they have an inherently good nature. For example, a glass of water certainly has nourishment, but if there is poison in that water the water is not inherently good for you.

    Next, of course, there is certainly the question of what is “good”. Of course, the higher your standard of what is good, the less likely you would be to say that man is essentially good. I think if you were to use a Holy God as the standard/benchmark, then man is going to come up short. I would argue that without some absolute standard of good, namely God, then good becomes meaningless. For example, an evil and prideful man like Adolf Hitler would probably argue that wiping out the supposed inferior races was good. A radical and evil Marxist would argue that it might be supposedly good to kill the wealthy capitalists in their country.

    Lastly, I will reiterate that I do think the necessity of a large amount of on site supervisors/managers for organizations does make a powerful argument that men are not essentially good. Essentially good people would work diligently regardless of whether or not a supervisor was there or not. All my experience, shows this doesn’t happen. When the cat is away, the mice do play!

  11. Human behavior is a mix of good and bad driven by fear and survival and the need of recognition – you know, all rolled up into what makes us what we are – then culture and upbringing add changes and habits to our genetic and new born nature.

    I like the saying, “Help people get the best out of themselves without the worse getting in the way.” For me that begins at home in me then outward.

    “Due to the sin of sloth or cowardice, many people can’t even trust themselves to be self-employed because they will goof off or because they lack the moral strength/courage to be self-employed. The sit on their couches and intend to start a business “someday”.” — Paul

    Yup – we see that every day and big government – the State – handing our more and more on the dole will make it worse,

    Forgiveness or accepting [not approving of as a synonym] are responses, right? OK, how about neither acceptance nor forgiveness – just, “OK, it was what it was, now do you want to talk about it, change it, stop it, or do it again?”

    I agree with Steve that forgiveness is a prudent strategy for creating a peaceful mind – and you know all the other other implications – and so is acceptance.

    Do fear and scarcity produce non forgiving behavior, that is the question.



  12. Mike,

    Two points: defines acceptance as: “favorable reception; approval; favor.” My point is that the person can certainly once again have approval and a favorable reception in the eyes of the person they had wrong, but wrong actions are still wrong/evil.

    2. There does seem to be a pernicious belief among many in the personal development sphere than man’s nature is essentially good. If man’s nature was essentially good, my guess is that 70% of supervisors/managers could be fired because naturally good people would do the work they are getting paid for without having someone on site to make sure they showed up and didn’t goof off once they did show up. In addition, if people were naturally good, managers wouldn’t need to resolve many conflicts between workers.

    Now I realize managers are also there to help people do things more efficiently via doing things the best ways, but there is no denying that managers are also there to make sure people don’t goof off, steal, and bicker with their fellow employees. The existence of so many supervisors/managers testifies to the fact that man’s nature is not essentially good. People don’t do bad things primarily because they are scared. They do it because of the moral darkness that exists within them.

    Due to the sin of sloth or cowardice, many people can’t even trust themselves to be self-employed because they will goof off or because they lack the moral strength/courage to be self-employed. The sit on their couches and intend to start a business “someday”.

    1. Paul,
      I’ve never seen any research that shows people are inherently bad. Most of the world’s population is struggling to survive and living in a fear based consciousness. Example: 50% of the population lives on less than $2.00 per day. A good percentage of the lucky ones (like us) who don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, are giving millions to charity, volunteering time, and many other selfless acts of charity. You can just as easily make a case that people are inherently good, wouldn’t you agree? In an effort to control the people the concept that we are all born ‘sinners’ was programmed into the consciousness of the masses. As ridiculous as this is, the masses bought into it and many still do today. Most people are smart and many even well educated, but they lack the ability to THINK for themselves. Instead, they allow leaders and institutions to tell them right from wrong. That’s why I’m so involved with mental toughness training. Once people wake up to the fact that they’ve been sold a bill of goods by people who were either ignornant of the truth or trying to manipulate and control them, their whole lives change. They start thinking for themselves and surronding themselves with other independent thinkers. The bottom line is I don’t know if you’re right or wrong, Paul, but I hope you’re wrong. My only firm conviction is you can make a case on both sides.

  13. “Forgiveness is typically defined as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, and/or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.[1] The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as ‘to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offense or debt'” – Wikipedia

    There are other definitions.

    Paul, why do you equate my statement: One can also have a belief system that makes moral sense and is compassionate and mutually beneficial based on acceptance rather than forgiveness without moral relativism.

    Mother is gassed in Auschwitz, son lives and through a life time of pain comes to accept the horror – the wrong, terrible acts which led to his mother’s death.

    But forgiveness of the offenses and offenders isn’t how the son sees it. The son sees it as accepting with compassion and horror what happened.
    Onxe I had to forgive my father for what I considered wrong, hurtful actions and I also had to ask him to forgive me for any actions he might consider wrong, hurtful actions coming from me.

    Then I came to realize working through that intellectually and emotionally, that when he continued to do things I considered wrong – or hurtful or indifferent to my needs and he didn’t see them that way, I could still see the wrongness and hurtfulness but not have to continue to forgive – just accept at his nature or his chosen actions.
    Recently there was hurt and pain in our family and the ones commiting the acts producing the hurt and pain are responsible for their wrong actions – truly blind or wrong actions.

    Harsh words were hurled at them – they didn’t get it or at least appear to get it. Forgiveness isn’t part of the context now – anger and hurt remains. It will pass over time.

    Forgiveness and acceptance with compassion can resolve our feelings and thoughts – can reconcile them.

    Mentally tough question: can there be forgiveness without acceptance and can there be acceptance without forgiveness? Also, does acceptance without forgiveness mean moral relativism?



  14. Mike,

    If your mother was murdered at Auschwitz could you accept Hitler’s behavior? If your mother was starved by the cold hearted Stalin in the Ukraine, could you accept Stalin’s behavior?

    I don’t buy moral relativism, excusing away moral depravity, or pretending that man’s heart is good. The truth is that we have all lied and knowing done wrong to others. It is also true that you do not have to teach a child to be bad, but it certainly does require effort to teach children to be unselfish and to behave well.

    Jesus. who is certainly widely regarded as one of the greatest moral teachers said, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13). Jesus taught that men’s hearts were evil as did the Jewish prophet Jeremiah before him.

    With the above being said, many things taken to extreme lead the error. And “positive self talk” which certainly has its uses in sports/business and other areas, can certainly lead to delusion. Taken to its logical conclusion, Stalin and Hitler were essentially good guys once you got to them because human nature is essentially good. Well the truth is they were not good guys. And the truth is locks, police, armies, and financial auditors are all very necessary due to the nature of man. I do think the nature of man can be changed through God, but history teaches us that man’s nature is not essentially good left to himself.

    Lastly, I would disagree that all forgiveness is self forgiveness. People do wrong to others and it does take effort and disciplined thinking for people to forgive those wrongs.

  15. One can also have a belief system that makes moral sense and is compassionate and mutually beneficial that is based on acceptance rather than forgiveness.



  16. Steve,

    All forgiveness is self forgiveness. After all there is nothing to forgive unless we BELIEVE there is something to forgive. We can only be offended if the offending party violates some part of our personal belief system. Forgiving is a responsibility and it is an essential ingredient to happiness and fulfillment.

    If we choose to not forgive, inevitably the violated party ends up carrying around the heavy load of resentment, bitterness and righteous indignation. The grim refusal to forgive weighs heavily and often the one who has perpetrated the unforgiving act continues on without awareness or remorse.

    When we forgive it does not mean that we should tolerate destructive behaviour or let others take advantage of us. Forgiveness liberates us.

    Be careful of those whose forgiveness is carefully concealed as something close to charity. “I will forgive you if you….” conditional forgiveness is not forgiveness it is often the beginning of co-dependence.

    Brent Baldwin

  17. Dear Steve,

    re: people doing bad things and why they do it

    Today, I had some young man try to steal some money from me. He laughed when I caught him and apologized and returned it, and one thing I can tell you for sure is that he wasn’t scared. I know it might not be the most popular thing to declare that man has a sinful nature, but the 20th bloody century dispelled the 19th century notions that evil does not reside in the hearts of men. Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and their followers had plenty of darkness in their hearts and Auschwitz and other historical places are a testimony to this matter.

    You do advocate realism and not living in delusion. It might not be comfortable to acknowledge the darkness in the heart of man and in our own personal hearts, but it is certainly necessary. Men will not call out for God’s grace to conquer the darkness in their hearts, if they choose to live in delusion.

  18. We all have awareness limits and aptitudes which produce variations of performance and expectation, understanding and accomplishment as you described in the tennis practice example, Steve – which is a good example. And our aptitudes and potential for greater awareness is unknown – so we can assume there can be growth even while accepting what is in any situation.

    Knowing that, it should be easy to forgive and ask to be forgiven because that knowledge of our differences – limits and aptitudes and unknown potential of awareness – produces compassion. Compassion is a result of awareness.

    I’ve used that compassionate awareness to forgive people and myself over and over again which doesn’t mean we’re not accountable for our actions and choices. It’s also difficult sometimes to be forgiving and when I’ve grappled with that I’ve had to look back at myself, not the other person.

    Fear and scarcity is a good way to sum it up – greed is scarcity; ignorance is scarcity; self-centeredness is fear; agression is fear; and so on.
    The dating story has to be a good one!


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