By Leena Kundnani
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
I believe that each of life’s experiences teaches us something; it leaves its mark on us in some way or the other. However, not all experiences are pleasant.
At times, we may be deceived, offended, and wronged by our family and friends. These experiences cause us untold hurt and anguish.
It may be that your boss is trying to undermine or intimidate you, your sibling is fighting you tooth and nail over money or property matters, or your in-laws are constantly humiliating your parents, but each incident leaves you with a heavy heart and a troubled mind.
It is very easy to be overwhelmed with anger and hatred when something negative occurs. These feelings impact and affect you as a person. They play havoc on your emotional and physical health.
We learn to cope with our negative feelings in various ways, from denying our feelings, numbing ourselves, and disassociating ourselves from such unpleasant people. These defence mechanisms act as a hurdle to the path of forgiveness.
Over the years, we build up a storehouse of resentment. We prefer to draw comfort from our resentments, feeling almost powerful and God-like, when we refuse to forgive.
Most of us believe in the notion “An eye for an eye”, and disallow ourselves from behaving in a compassionate manner towards the person who caused us grief. Refusing to let-go boosts our (false) egos, and gives us a feeling of self-righteousness and a sense of immense satisfaction.
We become slaves to the adrenaline rush of feelings of anger, self-pity, and retribution, and we draw comfort from these feelings to help us cope with our hurt and resentment.
As the saying goes, “To err is human, to forgive divine”. Forgiveness is considered an ideal virtue. Forgiveness does not mean that you bow down to the offender.
Forgiving the person who has caused you to hurt does not demean you, or make you smaller. You actually do yourself a favour when you forgive the wrongdoer.
Forgiving someone is the greatest gift you can give yourself. It is the best way by which you can heal yourself emotionally, and spiritually.
Forgiveness is an art, an art that takes years to master. It is about the most difficult thing that a person can do, but it is not impossible.
I recently interviewed a brother and sister who have not spoken to each other since the last eight years. Says Jaya, “We had a fight about some trivial matter concerning some family property years back. At that time, my parents sided with my brother, maybe because they knew I was wrong.”
“However I was unable to accept that, or forgive my brother. Since then, there has been no looking back. I have not spoken to him, or even attended his wedding. I don’t know my niece or nephew. I realize now how much I have missed out on. My daughter doesn’t even know her cousins.”
When I spoke to Aaksah, her brother, he said, “Yes I know Jaya was angry at that time”. I always thought she should have been the first one to come and say sorry, as she was the one who started the argument in the first place. She did not come forward or make the first move towards a reconciliation, and neither was I willing to be the one to take the first step forward.
In today’s scenario, where property and money have blinded our senses, it is not uncommon to see so many families come apart simply because no one was willing to take the first step forward and forgive the other person.
One question that has always plagued me is that “Can I truly forgive someone if I am unable to forget?” Well, to ask someone to forgive and forget is perhaps almost unrealistic.
You try to forgive the person who has caused you untold grief or hurt but the mind, which is like a sponge with an amazing capacity to hoard the negative feelings and emotional hurt, raises its head like an ugly dragon, and memories of the hurtful incident comes back to haunt you.
You are then left wondering, “Have I really been able to forgive?” To answer this question, we need to understand what forgiveness really means.
Forgiveness is a process of truly letting go of the situation and making a new start. It means breaking free of any feelings of retaliation; it is a process of truly freeing yourself from grudges.
When you truly forgive, you make a commitment to yourself not to mention the issue in the future or use it to your advantage. It is important to realize that we only hurt ourselves if we hold on to past incidents.
While some incidents may require a long time to heal before you can actually let go and forgive, most incidents are so trivial that it is simpler to forgive and carry on with your life rather than holding on to the emotional baggage.
Debbie Mandel, M.A. Motivational Speaker, Stress Management Expert, Author, Radio Show Host has the following suggestions:
• You can learn to forgive others when you first forgive yourself. When you make a mistake, YOU are not a mistake. So by learning from mistakes, rejections, betrayals and injustices, you can really grow as a person. Most often, we are unable to forgive others because we allow ourselves to be hurt. Once you accept that being hurt is part of your self-growth, you can forgive others – they are your teachers.
• If you make up your mind to forgive and let go, you do not poison or dilute your present. You can forgive as soon as you make up your mind to forgive and move on. Our thoughts govern our perceptions. Many perceived injustices are just that – subjective perceptions which might be misunderstandings.
• The easiest way to forgive is to reframe the transgression with a positive spin – compassionate circumstances that made the person act that way.