So much has already been written about forgiveness. All our religious texts emphasize on forgiveness and its importance. Then why is that very few people are actually able to forgive? What holds us from forgiving others? Why should we forgive when it seems so hard?
Most of us have had a story about how we were wronged, hurt, cheated, abused or betrayed. Few years ago, I had a group of friends, we had been as thick as thieves for years. One misunderstanding – and they stopped talking to me, left me all alone, just by myself. Well, this really wasn’t the idea about how I would have wanted to spend the last year of my school – spending all of my breaks, sitting all by myself. I was filled with anger, hatred, hurt and embarrassment and forgiveness was really the last thing on my mind. Even when others told me to forgive them, I asked myself – Why should I forgive them?
After all, forgiving them meant betraying myself. After everything that they had put me through, forgiving them would mean that I didn’t care about myself enough to stand up against what they did to me. Forgiving them meant that I was weak and they were stronger. Forgiving them meant that I had to forget everything that I went through. Memories are real and strong, especially when they are painful. Erasing what had happened was impossible for me. Moreover, why should I ever forgive them, when they hadn’t even bothered to apologize. Forgiveness requires the other person, doesn’t it? An apology is the precedent of forgiveness.
All of these incorrect beliefs that I had, harmed my relationship with my friends, making it beyond repair. It affected my other relationships, too. I often lashed out at my family and was unable to trust people around me, but the worst of it was that it affected my relationship with my own self. I was holding so much against them that my entire focus was on being a victim. I secretly wished that some time in life, they would feel the way I had. The constant turmoil hampered my mental peace.
It was shortly after this, that I decided to seek help for this and other related issues.
Over a period of few months, I opened up to my mother who showed me the path of spirituality. She made me realize that to ‘err is human’. Just like the way my family had forgiven me every time I had lashed out at them (and for several other things I had done in the past), I needed to forgive others too. Articles, books, audios and quotes were my companions, my source of inspiration to turn to a new leaf. Reading Lord Buddha’s teachings made me realize that holding on to anger was like grasping a piece of hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; I was the one who was getting burnt. I read about how Lord Mahavira forgave the serpent that bit Him. Sri Sri Ravishankar made me aware of the fact that the highest form of forgiveness is to realize that the other committed a mistake out of ignorance and having a sense of compassion for them. Forgiving others with a sense of compassion is the best form of forgiveness.
I had the opportunity to go for self-help workshops. It was a roller coaster ride. It gave me a chance to get rid of the vengeance and bitterness that I had filled myself with. I got a new and changed perspective to the situation – I put myself in the shoes of the people who hurt me, understood what I felt and took responsibility for my feelings.
Forgiving them, would become a gift that I would give my own self. A gift that would set me free from the past, the hurt and the anger. A gift that would put me back, in control of my own life. A gift that would actually empower me. The act of forgiveness had to take place in my own mind. It really had nothing to do with the other person. The reality of true forgiveness sets oneself free from the pain. It’s simply an act of releasing myself from the negative energy that I had chosen to hold on to. It symbolized letting go. Forgiveness didn’t necessarily mean, what they did to me was right or was justified, but forgiving them did mean that I could finally stop reliving all the trauma that I went through.
On the day of Kshamavali (last day of Paryushan – A Jain festival) I finally let go of everything that I was holding against them, freeing myself from everyting that was me holding back.
Forgiving them was my way of caring for myself – my physical, emotional and spiritual self. Forgiving them was my way to heal and bring peace to myself and to the relationships I had with others. What we often forget is that a simple act of forgiveness can restore all relationships and they can even deepen and thrive, not in spite of what happened in the past but because of it. The act of forgiving strengthens people’s commitment to a healthy relationship and they become more committed to not allowing divisive and hurtful conflicts occur in the future. Forgiveness is that glue that bridges the gaps caused due to miscommunication, difference in perspectives and anger in any relationship. Forgiveness is the cornerstone of human relations.
“Being committed to the practice of forgiveness is key to creating relationships and a life filled with love.”
– Jennifer Twardowski
Niyati Mehta aspires to be a life-time learner and add meaning to one’s and other’s lives. Her passion to understand human behavior makes her want to contribute more to the field of OD, L&D and Psychology. She believes in, ‘ I can I must and I will!’