Q: What is true forgiveness?
J P Vaswani: True forgiveness is like a cancelled cheque—torn and thrown into the waste paper basket. When you forgive, you must learn to forget too! We must learn to forget injuries, hurts, insults, and betrayals done to us, so that we may be healed and those whom we resent and hate may also be healed in the process. The act of forgiveness is not complete unless you get rid of all the thoughts of the past from your mind. When you truly forgive, you free yourself from the impact of the wrong done to you. You must forget it all!
Q: How can we develop the spirit of forgiveness?
J P Vaswani: What I call ‘the five fingers of forgiveness’ are actually practical suggestions on how to develop the spirit of forgiveness.
- If someone hurts you, offer a prayer to God, “O God, help me to forget this hurt so that it does not enter my heart, and become a festering wound.”
- Before you go to sleep at night, think of all the people who have wronged you or hurt you, call out their names aloud and say, “I forgive you.”
- If a person has hurt you to a point where you are unable to forget it, unburden yourself to a spiritual elder, or write a letter to the person against whom you hold a grudge.
- When you forgive, ensure that you forget.
- Speak kindly about the person against whom you hold a grudge.
Q: What steps should be taken to refrain from living in the past?
J P Vaswani: What steps do you take to keep a burglar from entering your home at night? You close the door, don’t you? All you have to do is to close the door. Learn from the mistakes that you made in the past, but don’t carry this unnecessary baggage with yourself all the time. There is no human being who does not make a mistake. To err is human; everyone has made mistakes. Those mistakes come into our lives to teach us certain lessons. But, after having learned those lessons, you should forget the mistake. Don’t repeat that mistake again. Go to God and with a heart sincere, be contrite and lowly. Pray for forgiveness and pray for strength not to repeat that mistake in the future. Then proceed forward. Learn the lesson, forget the mistake.
Q: Why is forgiveness so difficult for one and all?
J P Vaswani: Because we are under the influence of ego. It is the ego that feels hurt. So as long as the ego is strong, there can be no forgiveness. I know of people who remember things that happened to them 20 years ago. Just imagine how strong the ego is.
Q: How can one walk the way of forgiveness?
J P Vaswani: To walk the way of forgiveness, one has to pass through four stages. The first is the stage of hurt. Someone has wronged me, done something mean to me, been unfair to me: and I cannot forget it. I feel hurt. The hurt keeps on pricking me as a thorn. It is here that we must remember that it is not I who feels hurt, but the ego. Those who are at this stage naturally hold grudges, not realising that the person who holds the grudge injures himself more than the one against whom the grudge is held.
Hatred and malice, like anger and worry, bring harm to the body, since they poison the blood. And they keep on increasing for, ‘a grudge is the only thing that does not get better when it is nursed’.
Hurt leads to hate which is the second stage. I cannot forget how much I have been hurt and I cannot send out thoughts of goodwill to my enemy. In some cases, I hate the person so much that I want him or her to suffer as much as I am suffering.
Then comes the third stage: this is the stage of healing, God’s grace descends on me and I begin to see the person who hurt me in a new light. I even begin to understand his or her difficulty. My memory is healed and I am free again.
The fourth stage is of coming together. I am anxious to make friends with the person who has hurt me. I invite him into my life. I share my love with him and we both move to a new and healed relationship.
Pledge to forgive
Join the Moment of Calm.
Take a break for 2 minutes on August 2nd 2014 at 2pm [local time]. Forgive those who have wronged you by saying a forgiveness prayer.
Complete Wellbeing supports the Moment of Calm initiative
This was first published in the August 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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