ADVICE// Forgiveness

Friday, 25 July 2014

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

For the longest time I carried around a lot of anger towards people in my life. I’d been hurt by a people I trusted, and for a long time I wanted to hurt them back. I carried around a bag of resentment, anger and sadness, one that was a very heavy one to carry. I realize it makes less juicy and interesting writing to talk so generally, but these stories aren’t only mine to tell. So perhaps the kindest thing I can do both for them and me is not retell the story, but instead create a new one: a story about letting go.

One of the most difficult things as people we are ever called upon to do is to respond to evil with kindness, and to forgive what may seem as the unforgivable. I once read a quote that said “resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for it to kill your enemy”. Unfortunately the hate you may feel towards the person who hurt you does not harm him or her in the way that you would want.  It’s a hard thing to do—to completely let go of something painful and forgive the person who may or may not have realized what they did. At my angriest point, I was convinced the people who hurt me did it with full intention and cruelty. I felt not a shred of compassion; just unadulterated pain and rage. Then I realized, unless someone is a sociopath, they are rarely without feeling. And if they've hurt another person, even if their ego prevents them from admitting it, odds are they feel remorse on some level.

The Aramaic word for forgiveness is "kareb” which literally means to “untie”. The fastest way to free yourself from an enemy and all associated negativity is to forgive. Untie the bindings and loosen yourself from that person's ugliness. Your hatred has tied you to the person responsible for your pain. Your forgiveness enables you to start walking away from him or her and the pain. Forgiveness is for you and not the other party. Freeing yourself through forgiveness is like freeing yourself from chains of bondage or from prison.

Forgiveness is not acceptance of wrong behaviour. If you must continue to interact with someone who has wronged you, who has offered a lame apology only to follow it up with more bad behaviour, nothing requires you to trust such a person. This person isn't likely to ever be trustworthy -- you must keep a distance. While it's fruitless to torment yourself over this person's actions, you should not be his or her willing victim. Acknowledge; move on.

Resentment causes problems. It not only causes us to be unhappy, but can strain or ruin relationships, distract us from work and family and other important things, make us reluctant to open up to new things and people. We get trapped in a cycle of anger and hurt, and miss out on the beauty of life as it happens. Want to live a long, happy life? Forgive the unforgivable. It really is the kindest thing you can do for yourself. Your enemy may not deserve to be forgiven for all the pain and sadness and suffering purposefully inflicted on your life, but you deserve to be free of this evil. 

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