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Monday, 13 November 2017

NaBloPoMo 2017: Day 13: More things about forgiveness....

Last night, I put up a post about forgiveness. Despite the late hour, messages pinged back and forth on WhatsApp; later, there were some comments on the blog itself, and on Facebook too. I will try to address most of these today. 

But before I do that, let me just say how thankful I am for these comments – it shows that people care about what I write and they think about it, and feel moved enough to share their thoughts/experiences/feelings.

First off was an old student, saying, “It's too difficult to do Ma’am. The persons who hurt me will continue to be happy; only I will continue to be unhappy. What’s the use of forgiving them, Ma’am?”

Valid point. One that strikes us all when we start on that particular journey. The answer I gave my student – we need to do it because we’re actually doing it for ourselves, not for the person who has hurt us. The more you hold on to hatred, anger and other negative thoughts, the more you burden yourself with things that will burn you up inside. Should you give another person in the world – that too someone who hurt you – so much importance, that, because of them, you lose your peace of mind?? Worth thinking about….

Second – A friend of a friend sent a similar query. What must one do when despite us trying to be forgiving, the other party does not show any regret or repentance but acts as though he/she is right? Isn’t this how an ego problem arises?

That’s right. Just because you are being forgiving, it need not evoke a sense of guilt in the other party. In fact, if you forgive because you expect such a response in return, it cannot perhaps be real forgiving – it’s more of a calculated move in a battle of minds….and such battles can go on endlessly, without any end in sight….

On a deeper note, though, one must again consider WHY he or she is being forgiving. Again, I repeat, if you choose to forgive, do understand that it is for YOUR OWN BENEFIT. Forgiveness is not a tool to control other people; it is a tool for bettering oneself.

Third – A friend wrote on Facebook: I would say only forgive because what’s the point if you don’t remember why you have forgiven.I think forgiveness should come from acceptance not ignorance.

She’s right too. Forgiveness should IDEALLY come from acceptance not ignorance. But there are two points here:

One – not all of us are at the stage where we can right away accept and forgive. But why suffer until we reach that stage? Start by trying to ignore (forget)…after some time, your abilities to accept will increase. Also, as my sister Maithili V. also pointed out on Facebook in a subsequent comment, it’s important to ignore the situation but not the person….a delicate balancing act….

Two – remembering why you have forgiven is a double-edged sword. It’s useful because as I wrote yesterday, you must remember so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes again and again. But it can be dangerous if you keep reminding yourself that you have been so great to forgive someone – because it can tend to increase your ego….which is exactly what another friend pointed out as below…

Fourth – a friend wrote on the blog: I have been following this for years now....and it works... It's not the absolute behaviour that causes the hurt in the first place, but our response to it that coils up like a servant within and unleashes the negativity....Let go..breathe..,.what I'm a trifle uncomfortable with the technique you have shared is that it focuses on the I...I forgive you..I think the aham (sanskrit for I and ego both...perhaps for a reason) is the root cause of all the sufferings... The moment you acknowledge that it isn't about the I but a larger eco system and the positivity and well being thereof, you've crossed that barrier.. Also, by attributing to others the underlying cause of a negative situation, in that, it was They who hurt you, you are externalising the problem and that's where I love the part about remembering what was it about Us that drove them to that acrid behaviour..

Again – perfectly pointed out. It is indeed our response to certain behaviours that cause us hurt. As to the technique of saying “I forgive you,” while there is a real danger of the ego this guy pointed out, it’s important to remember that when we’re just starting out on this journey of being forgiving, that’s a risk worth taking because let me first get rid of the negativity of holding grudges; then I will tackle the negativity of ego that arises from the thought of 'I am forgiving.' Also, there’s a way to avoid that ego: focus on the word 'forgive' instead of on ‘I’ or ‘You.’ In short, the journey from being someone who can’t let go to realizing it’s a part of a larger ecosystem is a huge one for many of us – it has to be crossed in small steps that are within one’s capability.

Regarding the second part – about not externalizing the problem but looking at what we did to drive them to such acrid behaviour….I’m definitely all for first introspecting into one’s own contributions and trying to reduce those. 

But as all of us will testify from personal experience, there are quite a few boorish people in the world who, for no fault of ours, will hurt us. In such cases, no amount of soul searching will help and in fact, it may lead to an unhealthy guilt that becomes the root of maladaptive behaviour. In such cases, externalizing the problem, laying the blame where it is due, is essential. Yet, at the same time, it need not become the albatross around our neck – to such people, saying “I forgive you” with the sense of acceptance, may be the only solution left to us……

…which is exactly what another friend pointed out …she wrote “The irony is that certain things that are meant to be, will be, and it just doesn't matter if we forgive or not in the first place.. we just need to get used to it.” THIS is unconditional acceptance…the stage that’s pretty far down the forgiveness lane…

Sixth – a friend wrote to say she can neither forget nor forgive certain persons responsible for some major negative events and that she prefers to keep them at one arm distance….

That’s ok. We all have our own threshold level for how much pain we can carry – once we cross that, we’ll start feeling the pointlessness of it all – that will be when one will be ready to embark on this particular journey.

The one thing here that I wanted to clarify. Keeping people who hurt us at one arm distance may be an actually good policy – because we don’t really know what are the limits of our own ability to forget or forgive. If you remember the post about letting go, the reader who wrote about the property dispute etc said that finding other avenues to grow themselves helped them stay away from heartache.

Finally, here are two messages that I got which reaffirmed my faith ….

First, a friend shared her experience:

"I was carrying a lot of anger towards my uncle. Due to some family dispute and property issues, we were not on talking terms despite living right next door. When he was nearing his end, I told myself that I HAVE to forgive him, and met him. I saw a strange expression in his eyes which I had never seen. When he died I prayed for his soul and thanked him for teaching me this lesson. After this incident, the way I felt, I can't express in words. So from then on, I am applying this where ever necessary. But mind you, we do get stuck up sometimes and I am still working on it. I just remembered this when I read your article."

I’d like to note here – when she says “I HAVE to forgive him” it’s not as if she is a God who’s going to forgive the other person for his wrongdoing. It’s rather the spirit of saying, “I must let go of my anger towards him.”

Second message made me marvel yet again at how beautifully the Universe puts things together, letting one person’s words be an instrument to heal another person…

A relative of mine wrote within minutes of posting the blog:

"I was badly hurt by a person. I could only cry. When I read those last lines, I seriously stopped crying and I didn't know a blog post can do this much to a person...Now, my mood has levelled up. I am calm and composed and I really feel far better now after reading this."

What more could a writer ask for ????

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