In our day-to-day life, we quite often observe that our relationships with people who hurt us deeply, one-time or habitually, turn sour as it becomes hard for us to forgive. It is unavoidable that we come across some people who, knowingly or unknowingly, come into our way to success; put on hold and forget about us; neglect our support provided when they were going through tough times; and eventually cut off the relationship.
In close relationships, it becomes even harder to forgive when our loved ones make such mistakes. But we can control our reactions in order to maintain a healthy and good relationship. However, our ability to influence the behaviours of others is pretty limited…
When our feelings are hurt by others, we tend to judge and symbolise them as objects of hate and anger, and not as normal people. The longer we cultivate our anger and alienation toward them, the more deeper the hatred settles in our heart and starts to poison our mind. Our hatred turns into a cancer if we don’t forgive…
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” ~ Nelson Mandela, freedom fighter and former president of South Africa.
The Need for Forgiveness
Once upon a time there was a school teacher who decided to teach a lesson of forgiveness to her young students. She asked them to bring some potatoes in their bags the following day, and when they brought potatoes in their bags, she told them not to remove the potatoes from the bag and carry them wherever they go. They did as asked by their teacher, unaware of what is going on. After some days they came to the teacher complaining that they are unable to carry the potatoes in their bag because they have rotten and stinking very badly.
She smiled and explained to them that if we are unable to breathe due to the stinking potatoes we carry, how could our relationships breathe if we choose to carry our grudges forever? “So you should learn to forgive people for their mistakes,” the teacher advised.
We, the “grown up people”, should also learn from this lesson. It is always our choice whether to forgive or resent. It is very easy to blow things way out of proportion because we think too much about what went wrong instead of making it right. Forgiveness does not mean justifying people’s reactions or accepting it as right. It means laying aside our judgement and accepting people for who and what they are…
Let’s go through a real story of two people named Jo Berry and Patrick Magee which embodies broad-mindedness, compassion and forgiveness:
Jo Berry’s father was a member of the British Parliament. He was killed in an IRA bombing in 1984. Jo was 27-years-old at that time. Jo knew well that blaming someone would make her more bitter. She knew that she wanted to find a way to bring something positive out of the death of her beloved father.
Berry tells that she started a journey with no map but with a trust that step-by-step she would find her way. In November 2000, she met Patrick Magee, the man responsible for her father’s death. He had been released from prison as part of the Good Friday Peace Agreement.
When Jo looks back at that day, she remembers being scared. Would she regret meeting him? Then the door opened, Patrick arrived and they sat and talked for more than three hours. This visit had such intensity that Jo never felt before in her life. Finally, Patrick said: “I have never met anyone like you before. I don’t know what to say. I want to hear your pain.”
Although there were many difficulties, Jo and Patrick continued their meetings and became friends. This brought a profound change in their lives. Jo came to realise that if she had lived Patrick’s life, she might have done what he did. Patrick finally understood how many innocent victims were destroyed by the violence.
This friendship proved a healing factor for both Jo and Patrick. They now travel around the world telling their stories. A play, The Bomb, has been written about them. Jo often does workshops after the play is performed, especially for young people.
To forgive may be divine, but it’s definitely not easy. When someone has hurt you deeply, it can be extremely difficult to let go of your grudge. But forgiveness is possible and it can prove to be beneficial on both physical as well as mental level. Lack of forgiveness is one of the main causes of many of our problems. Even our marital issues and relationship troubles take place due to lack of forgiveness. So it’s no wonder that relationships break down. Having a spirit of forgiveness means to be honestly open to one another even with their wrongdoings and mistakes. If we can forgive, there is nothing that cannot be healed. So why carry the “rotten potatoes” everywhere?
Let’s try to follow these steps in order to heal our relationships:
- Relax Yourself: To calm down, just seclude yourself for a while, take couple of deep breaths and think about something that makes you happy and feel pleasurable like a beautiful scene, a person you love etc. It will help you feel better.
- Don’t wait for a confession from anyone: Sometimes when a person who has hurt you, intentionally or unintentionally, may not have any plans to express regret. So, waiting for him/her to apologise may lead you to wait for a terribly long time which will result in frustration and nothing else. Also, forgiveness does not necessarily mean a reunion with that person who has hurt you.
- Don’t let the offender control your mind: Thinking of revenge all the time gives power to the person responsible for your pain. So learn to look for love, beauty and kindness around you instead of focusing on your wounds.
- Try to be in other person’s shoes: It may also be a good idea to reconcile your relationships. Relations break down due to misunderstandings. If you try to find out the reasons behind why the other person acted in a certain way, you may come up with some unpredictable conclusions like: he/she might have acted out of ignorance, fear or even love.
- Identify the benefits of forgiveness: It has been observed that people who forgive easily, possess more energy, sleep well, have a good appetite and lead a happy life.
“Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to go beyond what you are.” ~ Dr. Cherie Carter-Scott (author)