Pissed on and passed over? – Never confuse being compassionate and being firm

Forgiving someone for a transgression and yet being firm on the issue need not be mutually exclusive.

A young manager I know is in a quandary. His boss has been harassing him at work – to the extent that the young man went into depression. His colleagues advised him to report the boss’ behavior and to seek a new role within the organization. The manager got himself assigned to a new project within the company over some months but he has chosen not to complain about his ex-boss. Over coffee the other day he asked me if was right or wrong in a. forgiving his boss and moving on and b. not reporting his boss’ behavior to his company’s HR leadership on grounds of breaching an organizational value – ‘respect for the individual’. “I am not sure I can be forgiving and also report him,” he confessed.

As I have learnt from Life, you can – and often must – do both. There’s a warm and compassionate side to each of us. We are, by nature, willing to forgive people for their transgressions. But often times our softer side is viewed and interpreted as our weakness by people who trample upon our emotions or deny us our freedom or even basic, fundamental, human courtesies. In such situations, it is absolutely fine to stand up for yourself, look the someone who is bullying or harassing you in the eye, and say that you will not take this treatment anymore. Besides, in this particular manager’s story, it is important that his boss’ behavior is reported. Because it conflicts with an organizational value and if left unchecked it may cause serious emotional injury to other employees and also impair the organization’s culture.

Important, when you are forgiving someone, you are gifting yourself freedom from the trauma that following any pain that has been inflicted on you. Forgiveness frees you of suffering. But fighting for the injustice meted out to you in the first place, that’s issue-based. So if you choose to stay firm, and unrelenting, on not allowing such an issue to arise again, either to you, or to anyone in the future, there is no conflict whatsoever.


I have learned this from Swami Sathya Sai Baba: “In any relationship between two people, one may well be a cow and the other, a bull. There’s nothing wrong in being either. Each has a role to fulfil and each has something to offer the other. But at any time that the bull starts taking advantage of the cow’s benevolence, mistaking it for meekness, the cow will be well within its rights to assume the ‘avatar’ of the bull. In taking a stance, in your own interest, there is no right or wrong. Just be true to yourself – do what you believe must be done in any context. The cow need not perpetrate any acrimony, aggression or animosity. But the cow shouldn’t suffer any of these either.”

In essence, while to make a mistake is human, and to forgive such a mistake too is human, to suffer in silence and sorrow is both unjust and inhuman. It is the biggest hurdle to inner peace and joy. So, don’t confuse being compassionate and being firm. They need not be exclusive. Simply, no matter who it is, don’t let anyone take you for granted, trample upon your self-esteem, piss on you and pass you over. Remember: if you don’t stand up for yourself – chances are, perhaps, nobody else will!


There’s a lot of Life left after a crisis. A lot of Life!

You can surely use a crisis in your Life to make it meaningful.

Some years ago, I was traveling by the Rajdhani Express from Surat to Mumbai. The passenger sitting next to me was keen to have a conversation with me. I was least interested in chatting with anyone and preferred to go back to reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, which was nearing its unputdownable climax. But the man was irritatingly persistent. I finally put down the book and looked in my neighbor’s direction. He started the conversation gleefully. I soon discovered that he had an inspiring story to share. He, I learned, is a very successful diamond trader. His wife and only child had died in the Indian Airlines (now Air India) IC 113 plane crash at Ahmedabad airport in October 1988. He showed me pictures of his deceased wife and son. He told me how difficult it was initially for him to cope with his sudden, devastating loss.

“I loved my wife and son dearly. For many months after their death, I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming their names. I would be alone in my palatial bungalow. And my screams would echo back to me. It was eerie,” he said.

“How did you move on? Did you remarry,” I asked, considering that he was in his mid-forties when I met him.

“I chose not to remarry. I moved on, however, because I soon realized suffering and grieving was foolish. It was not going to bring back my family alive to me. I realized that while I loved them a lot, I was hardly spending time with them. I was busy making money. Now, I have lots of money. But no family to go back to. So, I have made it my mission in Life to awaken people to the importance of spending time with their families, and not just on their careers. Which is what I want to tell you too. Please make time for people who you love. Spend quality time with your wife and children. Life is very unpredictable and impermanent. Make sure you have meaningful memories when you are finally alone,” he explained.

That man on the train was serving me a wake-up call back then. I was still running the rat race then and was imagining that earning-a-living was more important than living. His wisdom, as it turned out eventually, was more unputdownable than The Da Vinci Code! For he had understood not just Life but its value. He had managed to make his Life – and his trauma, his crisis – meaningful.


When I think back to that train journey and conversation, I feel it has helped me make my own Life meaningful, purposeful, especially in the wake of the bankruptcy that we are enduring as Firm and as a family. If today Vaani and I invest our every waking hour in inspiring happiness among all those are willing to pause and reflect, the seed for this sense of Higher Purpose has was perhaps sown in that conversation. To be sure, we are far away from having solved our problems, but we do realize that our crisis happening to us is part of a larger design, of what is to happen through us.

Clearly, when a crisis first hits you, you may think you can’t go on. You will imagine that, it is all over, you are finished. And so, when you are in the throes of a crisis, you may not believe that there is a lot of Life after a crisis and that the rest of your Life can really be meaningful. But if you move on and don’t allow yourself to be held hostage by the crisis, the Purpose behind why you have to go through whatever you are going through will soon unravel itself. Then you too will wake up to the opportunity and Life that there is after a crisis!  

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