Dear Dan – Is There Ever a Time to Not Forgive

Dear Dan,

Is there ever a time to not forgive an offense, and instead seek for it to be righted?

I worked with a group over the summer to redo the organizations discipline program – after a disastrous year last year and the work has continued throughout this year.

Meanwhile, there is another group who attempts to thwart our every move.

These same people have made racist and misogynistic comments when in meetings with my peers.

I am tempted to go to my union or HR department to have these things addressed, but for the sake of all of our careers I don’t because I don’t want to seem petty, thin-skinned, or unable to handle problems on my own.

Looking for advice

Dear Looking,

It feels like you’re being tugged in several directions while trying to do the “right” thing. I’m not sure there is a “right” thing to do. You have options. With that in mind, I asked an education professional and an entrepreneur to share their thoughts.

But first, an idea on forgiveness from me.

You can forgive an offense and still hold people accountable. The main thing is to seek the best interest of others. Intervening isn’t about vengeance. It’s about making things better.

In this case, the best interest of others seems to include putting an end to inappropriate communication.

Now for some thoughts from Brian Barnhart and Glen Van Peski.

First, some ideas from Brian, Executive Director of IU13.

Brian writes,

I’m wondering if there’s a sympathetic ear for “Looking for advice” to seek within the district administration. I can’t imagine re-writing a set of disciplinary expectations in a district, without administrative input.

I try to always start with a 1 on 1 friendly conversation with the chief adversary. Often, they aren’t operating in a malicious way, and usually are surprised and willing to find compromise.

At the very least, an opening conversation can point to the differences of the policies, instead of the personalities. I’d absolutely recommend that the union teachers engage their school administration, as the admin will ultimately have to approve any changes to disciplinary expectations.

My greater concern is for the ongoing staff relationships. We spend way too much time working on getting ‘better at what we do’… and need to focus more on being ‘great at who we are’. Nothing we do is worthy of leaving a wake of broken relationships in our work.

Second, here are some thoughts from Glen, entrepreneur and founder of Gossamer Gear.

Glen writes,

I would say this is above my pay grade!

Instinctively, I would say that yes, there are times when we should seek for an injustice to be righted.  I’m wondering if it’s possible to be both forgiving of the people who are responsible for the injustice, and still seek for it to be righted.  Nobody should have to endure racist or misogynistic taunts.

You’re wondering if you should go to your union leadership (which sounds like it’s different than the opposing teachers’ union leadership) and/or the HR department to ‘have these things addressed’.

Really that sounds like you would be reporting the offenses of the opposing teachers, which would result in an investigation, and probably some actions against the opposing teachers, none of which would likely win them over.

The one possible positive result could be that they would be put on notice that you, on behalf of your teachers, refuse to be intimidated. I wonder if just calling them on their inappropriate behavior would do the same thing, without causing more escalation.

I keep circling around in my head to why they are fighting you.  If you know that, or can find that out, and try to address that in some way, that could help.  Maybe it’s fear of change, but given the scope of their resistance, it sure sounds like something deeper is going on.

My heart goes out to you, this is clearly consuming some mental and emotional energy.

You have our best,


What suggestions do you have for “Looking for Advice?”

Note: I relax my 300 word limit on “Dear Dan” posts.