Peace of forgiveness


Those who are teachers will agree that when we set out to teach, we also find ourselves learning. This was how I was led to reflect on ‘forgiveness’, its need and its wisdom.

During a value-education class, I came to know that two of the children had quarrelled and fallen out in Std. 3. They were in Std. 8 now and still not on speaking terms. That, young children could maintain a feud for so long was surprising, but more surprising was the fact that neither of them remembered what the misunderstanding was about. Happily, bringing this out in the open helped them to see their folly and become friends. This little incident made me realise what a difficult thing it is to forgive others for the hurt they inflict on us.

Who we are and how we act depend a great deal on what has happened to us. In that sense, each one of us is the sum-total of our memories, made up of acts of kindness as well as injustice. Unfortunately, injustice often leaves a greater impact and this succeeds in vitiating our personalities and clouding our outlook. Unless and until we learn to forgive, we will to continue to struggle and stagger under the burden of the past.

Forgiveness is widely confused with forgetting and reconciliation. This is chiefly why it is thought to be unacceptable and even impossible. In reality it is neither for it is not something we do for others; it is a gift we give ourselves. Gladys Staines, wife of Graham Staines, and Priyanka, daughter of Rajiv Gandhi, are prime examples of those who found in themselves the power and strength to forgive those who had hurt them
irreparably.

To know and feel that one has been harmed by another but to let go of the anger, resentment and the urge for retaliation calls for a high degree of emotional and ethical maturity. Such an action can only come from the realisation that nursing grudges can take us nowhere and will eventually warp us and turn us into bitter individuals.

When we clog our minds with the poison of anger, we invest our offenders with power. They enter our consciousness and make us think of them obsessively. They succeed in colouring our attitudes and our lives. It is not unusual, for instance, for a person to stop trusting others because of a single hurtful act. As one psychiatrist put it, ‘So many peoples’ identities and lives are plagued by wrongs done to them. They may not remember the sin itself, but they allow it to ruin every day of their lives. They are unable to move forward, a prisoner of acts done long ago.’

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