Any relationship between couples, parents and children, siblings, friends or colleagues involves two people, two human beings, neither of whom is perfect. To err is human, as we all know. We have our sins of omission and commission, through which we hurt each other. Just think of all the actions that strain a relationship - lying, cheating, indifference, apathy, shirking our responsibility, shifting the blame on to the other person, use of abusive language, violence and betrayal. Alas, the bitter truth is that all this happens, not between strangers, but between two people who are very close to each other. Such acts cause emotional injuries which do not heal easily. And relationships are jeopardised.
We need to practise the art of forgiveness if we wish to restore our relationships. No emotional hurt can be unforgivable. With a little effort, we can put them behind us to effect a reconciliation with our loved ones and friends, thus restoring peace within our minds and hearts.
Forgiveness, in contrast to retaliation, is not an instinctive or spontaneous impulse. If we are hurt, we are conditioned to think, almost as a reflex, “I’ll fight back, I’ll do to you what you did to me.” On the other hand, forgiveness has to be cultivated. It is a well-considered, well-thought out emotional choice that we make to forgive freely those who have hurt us. For as we all realise, forgiveness does not just consist of mouthing the words, “I forgive you.” It involves letting go of anger, resentment, hurt and bitterness. It allows us to heal the other—and be healed ourselves in the process.
We find it is easier to forgive a stranger or an acquaintance than to forgive a friend or relative, someone whom we know and trust. At such times, we can only tell ourselves that in the end, we are not responsible for what others do to us—only for what we do to them.
There is another important fact that we often overlook in emotional disputes with those who are close to us. Rarely is a dispute one-sided.
Somewhere, somehow, we have a share in what we regard as an offence against ourselves. However, in our grief and hurt, we become blind to our own faults, while we magnify the faults of others. A little reflection, a period of calm introspection and a little humility will set the balance right.
A girl came to a holy man and said, “I know not why, but I am unable to sit in silence and pray or meditate. I feel restless. I used to be so happy. But that is a thing of the past now.”
The holy man asked, “Why is that so?” The girl answered, “I think it has something to do with the girl whom I once regarded as a friend. But she was very cruel to me, and I said that I would never forgive her, never talk to her. I am sorry I said it, but since then there has been no peace in my heart. What shall I do?”
The holy man said, “It is better to break a bad vow than to keep it. Go to her and seek her forgiveness.”
The next morning, she went to her friend and confessed her uncharitable attitude and asked her forgiveness. The girl whose forgiveness was sought burst into tears. She said, “You have come to ask for forgiveness. It is I who should be asking for forgiveness, for I am ashamed of my bad behaviour.”
The two friends were reconciled.
When both parties are ready to forgive, the road blocks are removed and the path of life becomes a spacious, two-lane highway.
Peace and harmony belong to those who are quick to forgive.
This was first published in the May 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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