A survey conducted in New York revealed that 70 per cent of those who visited doctors for treatment, revealed having one or the other form of resentment. Looking at their case histories, a well-known physician remarked, “Ill-will and grudges often make people sick. Forgiveness will do more towards getting them well than many pills.”
A divorced wife, who was unable to forgive her husband, developed a cancerous growth that led to surgery. She was convinced that her emotional hurt and resentment had contributed to her cancer.
We all know that stress causes insomnia—so can bitterness! Research has even uncovered a relationship between unresolved anger and cardiac arrest. People who hold grudges fall easy prey to illness. When they make the conscious decision to cease hatred and resentment—they set themselves on the road to recovery. This is why hatred has been likened to cancer—it is the cancer of bitterness that destroys both body and soul.
A vast amount of documented research links the working of the body with the thoughts and feelings of the mind. Our emotional turmoil is manifested in our body. We begin to be at war with ourselves. Doctors have a peculiar word—to somaticise. It simply means taking an emotional issue and unconsciously displacing it on to our body. The result can be anything from a perforated ulcer to a cancer.
Mary Chandler narrates a moving story about the healing power of forgiveness from her own life. When Mary was barely 16 years old, disaster struck her family. A terrible accident took place outside their home, when a huge truck rammed into her parents’ car. Her six year old sister and two year old brother were scared stiff, but safe in the back seat. The father was badly shaken, but unharmed. However, her mother was severely injured. Her head lay on the pavement, her feet were still wedged in the car, and blood streamed down her face and hair.
Shocked and terrified, Mary could only pray, “Please God, don’t let my mom die!”
In a daze, she watched the ambulance arrive and take her mother to hospital. Then she saw the driver of the truck—tall, slim, dressed in working clothes—standing with his head bowed, near the smashed car.
“I’m sorry,” he said to her. “I didn’t see the stop sign and…”
“I hate you!” cried Mary. “Look what you’ve done to my mom! Why couldn’t you drive more carefully? I’ll never, ever forgive you—I hope God doesn’t either!”
Mary was deeply troubled, sorely embittered. ‘What has my mom done to deserve this?’ she thought. ‘What have we done to deserve this? Why had God allowed this to happen?’
“The accident ended my childhood,” Mary was to write later. At 16, she became the surrogate mother to her siblings—all six of them. She attended school during the day and worked part time in a local movie theatre in the evenings. She did her homework between 11pm and 1am.
She missed her mother! Her love and warmth and care were all lost to the children. Money was tight too—for her mother’s income was now lost.
As the weeks dragged on, Mary’s bitterness grew. Reports from the hospital were not good— her mother’s mind and memory were still hazy. Doctors had still not been able to relieve the pressure on her head.
Mary no longer blamed God for what had happened—but she despised the truck driver, who had caused the accident. “He should be the one to suffer—not us,” she thought in anger.
Worries, responsibilities and constant work took their toll on the children.
One night, Mary was sitting at the dining table, working on a huge pile of assignments, when she was overwhelmed by tears. “I can’t go on like this,” she sobbed. “God, please help me.” She felt the old bitterness and anger return, as she thought of the tall, thin truck driver.
“Mary,” she heard her mother’s voice saying, “I have forgiven him. It’s time you did too.”
Startled, Mary looked up to see if her mother was there—of course, she was not! She was in the hospital, miles away.
“Forgive him,” repeated her mother’s voice. “If you can’t do it on your own, ask for God’s help in forgiving him.”
Mary closed her tear-filled eyes. “Please God,” she prayed. “Don’t let my heart harden to stone. Help me understand. Help me to forgive!” She remembered the slim man’s anguished face and trembling voice saying, “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”
She had heard from her father that he had been calling the hospital constantly to enquire after her mother. He too had suffered because of the accident. As Mary prayed that night, she found that her bitterness began to dissolve. The hatred in her heart vanished, and she felt compassion for the first time. She thought of the guilt and the heartache the driver must have suffered, and her heart went out to his family.
Suddenly, the phone rang. It was 12.30am. Mary lifted the receiver with trembling hands. “Honey, it’s Mom,” she heard as if in a dream.
“The switchboard is closed for the night, so I came over to the payphone to talk to you. How are you my darling?”
“But… but Mom, how did you get to the phone at this time of night?” Mary stammered.
She had heard from her Dad that her mother still suffered from severe dizziness, which prevented her from walking upright. Whenever she had tried to get up from her bed and walk on her own, she had fallen down and lay helplessly on the floor, until someone came to her aid. How could she have come up to the pay phone? Perhaps someone had helped her.
“Mary, are you all right?” she repeated.
“I am fine Mom,” Mary blurted out, a smile spreading across her tear stained face. “I’m just fine. Tell me, how are you?”
“At peace,” came the mother’s reply.
“So am I Mom,” Mary whispered. “So am I. Finally, I have forgiven him. I just spoke to God before you called, and I feel a burden has been lifted from my heart. I have forgiven the driver who caused your accident.”
“Mr Abbott will be so relieved,” said her mother. “Your Dad and I have forgiven him long ago. But he still remembers what you said, and he has asked me again and again if you would ever forgive him. He was here to see me today, you know.”
Mary felt a lump in her throat. “Next time he calls, Mom,” she said, “tell him please.”
Six weeks later, Mary’s mother came back home, almost completely recovered. The accident taught Mary valuable lessons—she learnt to forgive and be forgiven. She says she still hears her mother’s voice, “Ask God to help you forgive him.” It made a great difference in her life!
Forgiveness is not just a favour you confer upon another person. It is a much-needed protection you need for yourself. It protects you from corrosive feelings of bitterness and anger that can corrupt mind and soul. There are four simple principles we have to follow, in order to forgive in the best spirit:
- Stop being judgemental. We do not have all the facts necessary to make a fair judgement—so the best thing is to leave it to God.
- Develop the spirit of tolerance and understanding. Human beings are not perfect and we are all bound to make mistakes.
- Control the animalistic impulse to fight, hit back and hurt.
- Pray constantly for God’s help. Sometimes, forgiveness is so difficult that we cannot do it alone. It requires the grace of God to change our minds and change ourselves. God’s grace can dissolve even the most deep-seated bitterness.
Forgiveness sets us free. It allows us to be freed from the grievances, penalties, and shackles of past mistakes. It heals the one who forgives—and the one who is forgiven.
A Moment of Calm
The Sadhu Vaswani Mission, Pune is calling upon the people of the world to observe a ‘Moment of Calm’ on 2 August 2012 at 2pm local time.
During the Moment all will unite in prayer and forgive everyone who have harmed or wronged us [including ourselves for all our own past deeds and guilt].
Rev. Dada J P Vaswani believes that if there is one quality the world needs more than anything else, it is that of forgiveness. Each act of forgiveness inspires others to do the same, triggering off a positive chain reaction.
“A Moment of Calm is an experience, which each one of us as a human being should have. If not once every day, at least once in a lifetime. Our minds are agitated, our minds are disturbed. The natural state of the mind is to be thrilled with peace, surpassing peace. This we do not have, because so many of us, we hold grudges against others. And this Moment of Calm takes you beyond all those things which keep us captive. Just experience this Moment of Calm by forgiving all wrongs that have been done to you. It was Jesus who came and taught this lesson. He said if a brother smites you on the right cheek give him the left also. The Master [Rev. Sadhu Vaswani] said, ‘I have but one tongue. If I had a million tongues, with every one of those million tongues I would still utter the one word—Give! Give! Give!’ And the best giving is forgiving,” said Rev. Dada at the launch of the campaign in Chicago on 4 June 2012. Actor Aamir Khan displayed his support to the Moment by urging the audience to join in through a recorded message that was played at the launch.
You too can pledge to observe the Moment of Calm through www.facebook.com/MomentofCalm, www.sadhuvaswani.org or email email@example.com. You can also send an SMS: IJM to +91-9767641362.
Spot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!