The power of forgiveness

30 Oct 2020

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You must have heard the saying ‘To err is human, to forgive divine’. But have you ever thought how important it is to forgive that it is called a divine power?

We all commit mistakes sometimes or cause harm to others, consciously or unconsciously, but few of us think of seeking forgiveness of others. Yet when someone wrongs us, we feel hurt and the feeling lasts, at least until the person who has hurt us apologises. Asking for forgiveness means accepting your own faults and that is harder than it sounds, which is why seeking forgiveness can be difficult. Forgiving others can be just as difficult. When we are hurt

by someone, the feeling of having been wronged continues to hurt us and we tend to hold a grudge against that person that is hard to overcome. This is why forgiveness is akin to divine power.

Forgiveness is defined as “the cessation of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, disagreement or mistake”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as “to grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offence or debt”. Forgiveness can be said to be an act of giving up the past suffering and be willing to move ahead.

Let me tell you a story to make it clear. Adil and Farhan were the best of pals; most people would call them soulmates as it was very rare to see one without the other. They lived in the same neighbourhood, went to the same school and would often do their homework together. But then something happened and they drifted apart. They were not even ready to acknowledge the other’s presence. Not only their classmates and family, but also their teachers were astonished to see them behave this way toward each other. Some tried to bring them together again but the gulf widened.

Their Urdu teacher, Miss Saba, who was fond of both Adil and Farhan, took the task upon herself to reunite them. She called them separately to her room to discuss the matter and realised that a casual remark by one had begun a spate of angry words from both sides. Although both boys were aware that it was not a serious thing, they were consumed by their egos. They didn’t want the other one to consider him weak, as most people wrongly think that forgiveness is a sign of weakness. Both wanted the other to apologise but neither was ready to forgive.

Miss Saba explained to both of them the pros and cons of forgiveness and of holding a grudge. She told them that forgiving someone does not show that you are weak, rather it shows your strength. She narrated Mahatma Gandhi’s saying, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” It is because when we hurt someone, often we are not conscious of what we are doing or have done, but when we forgive someone we are fully aware of our action. When we forgive, it is our personal decision to not allow the anger and hurt to control our life. In fact, we are controlling our emotions.

You may ask why you should forgive someone who has wronged you in the past. As Miss Saba told Adil and Farhan, we forgive in order to free ourselves and move forward in our life. It is not easy but when we truly forgive someone, our anger and hurt transforms into healing and peace. It helps us overcome feelings of depression, anxiety and rage, as well as improve our relationships and our self-worth.

We must understand that while when we forgive someone we make a conscious decision to let go of a grudge, it does not mean that we have to forget what they did to us but we can take it as a learning experience. It is said, ‘forgive but don’t give them a second chance and use what they have done as experience.’ But if both the parties mutually agree to join hands again, there’s nothing better, especially if they had been good friends previously.

You have a right to feel hurt and angry when someone wrongs you. But hanging on to these feelings of resentment and feeling like a victim brings negativity which is hard to move past. You need to move on with your life and for this it is important to forgive the person who has wronged you. If you feel too strongly about it and you can’t overcome your feelings on your own, it would be good to talk to your parents or a trusted friend or an elder about your feelings, and they will find a way to help you.

No matter how bad you feel, do not hold the grudge for too long, Miss Saba told Adil and Farhan. Sometimes people miss the opportunity to reconcile with a friend or a relative until it’s too late and wait endlessly for an apology that they feel they are owed. So, if you forgive whoever has wronged, you will make a difference for yourself; in other words, forgive so that you can move on with your life.

If someone has hurt or betrayed you, it is difficult to forget; you continue to blame the other person for the wrong behaviour. But take a moment and think whether you had a hand in increasing the conflict, did you keep on repeating to yourself and others about the way you were maltreated and portray yourself as a victim? It is possible that perhaps unconsciously you did something and the other person only reacted to it and ended up hurting you so badly. For instance, maybe you were in a sour mood for some reason and did not reply to your friend’s greeting as usual and he said something as a reaction to your mood.

Miss Saba learnt that this is exactly what had happened in Adil and Farhan’s case. What had actually happened was that Adil had forgotten his homework copy at home and the teacher had scolded him. He was in a bad mood because of that and when Farhan asked him something, he snubbed him. Farhan was taken aback by his attitude and retorted sharply, without realising that Adil might be upset about something. And Adil, too, took out his frustration of been scolded in front of the class by snubbing Farhan. Miss Saba told them that they both had acted irrationally and since both were guilty, they must say sorry to each other and forgive each other and be united as friends.

Miss Saba also told them that along with the reward of letting go of a painful past, there are powerful health benefits of forgiveness. Scientists believe that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments. What happens is that when you hold on to grudges and resentment, it upsets the chemical balance of the body, causing stress, depression and anxiety. Not only that, holding on to past pain is also harmful for your physical health, resulting in high blood pressure, risks of heart disease and decline in mental health. Forgiveness is associated with reducing stress, restoring positive thoughts, feelings and behaviour as well as improving sleep quality.

Remember, forgiveness is a precious gift you give to others and yourself.

Published in Dawn, Young World, October 30th, 2020