You suffer only when you partner with your grief

How can anyone forgive when in grief and when still mourning the betrayal?
It is possibly true for all of us that we have all been, at some time or the other, let down by people whom we trusted and loved deeply. It is always numbing to discover such a let-down. You will feel beaten and betrayed. The after-taste of the episode will continue to haunt you for a long, long time. At all such times, remember this: People do what they do because they think they are right in doing it that way. So, there’s no point in either talking sense to them in such a time that they are gripped by their own stupor or in grieving over their behavior. The best approach is to take the one that Jesus took on the Cross – “Forgive them O! Lord, because they know not, what they do!”
You will perhaps argue that this is easier said than done. How can anyone move on when the heart aches, when the mind is lamenting why such a thing has happened in the first place?
I have learned that it is fine to be a fool sometimes in Life. A fool is one who doesn’t know anything. He or she is not worldy-wise. So, he or she, will continue to trust despite the evidence pointing to the contrary. The fact that you stand betrayed points to your having been a fool. So, simple. Continue being a fool. If you find forgiveness difficult, just continue being trusting or being vulnerable. A few more times people will continue to hurt you. But they will soon give up when they realize that you are refusing to get hurt. People love, in a sadistic sense, to see that their actions, in this case negatively, impact their target audience. When you subtly, through your, even if feigned, foolishness, deny them that pleasure, they will cease to persist with their designs.
The other case for ‘moving on’ and not ‘retaliating’ is that the world is already divided. By several zillion factors. If it is a close friend or relation, perhaps from the family, that has let you down, your sulking or wanting to avenge, is only going to divide your already fractured world further. It is only going to make the distances between you both grown wider, and often, render them unbridgeable. It takes two hands to clap. Suppose you don’t offer yours, there will be no thunder. And hence no issue. Or at least a complicated situation will not get further confounded with your participation.
Here’s an interesting story that came my way.
“In the forest there is a banana plant with its smooth wide leaves next to the thorny berry tree. The wind causes both to dance and to sway. The thorns of the berry tree rip the leaves of the banana plant. 

Who is to be blamed? The wind for causing them to sway?

Or the banana for growing close to the berry tree?

Or the berry tree for having thorns? 

The sage wonders, and realizes that if he did not exist, these notions of who to blame would not exist. Only humans blame and begrudge and resent, because we can imagine an alternate reality. 

The rest of Nature go about their own business.”

So, let go. Go about your own business as if nothing’s happened. In a betrayal, as in any other situation involving pain, you suffer only because you choose to partner with your grief. Choose instead to be a fool and go on trusting or choose to believe as if you do not exist. Know that there is no alternate reality. It is what it is. This the only way you can be happy, and untouched, in the wake of the pain that follows let-downs!

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Realizations of a “scumbag”

Don’t take what people have to say about you seriously. Better still, don’t take yourself seriously either!  
The other day someone I know called me a scumbag (per an online dictionary that I referred to, it is a noun and means ‘a contemptible or objectionable person’; ‘someone with poor judgment and no class’) in a closed-group message thread. I smiled at the charge. And decided not to respond.
Just three years ago, I had physically prevented this person from drinking and driving. He had then objected to me intruding on his privacy, personal preference (to drink and drive) and judgment (to know what is right for him). I had tried explaining to him that I only had his best interest in mind. But, in the same closed-group message thread, he had cried foul. Back then I was pained that I could not get him to see where I was coming from. I apologized for my behavior. But the matter never got resolved and, in fact, as he continues to see it, the “damage to our relationship is irrevocable”.
But this time, when in another context, this person referred again to the three-year-old episode and called me a scumbag I was unperturbed. I was neither pained. Nor was I keen to avenge his sentiment. And here’s why I chose to be so: after all, this person had a right to his view – if he found what I had done to him contemptible and objectionable, if he had found my judgment poor and for all those reasons, if he perhaps found me lacking in class and not worthy of his association, he definitely was entitled to his opinion. In essence, the best and the only thing I could do was to respect it.
Truly, the lesser importance you give to what others have to say about you, the more peaceful you will be. Developing this attitude need not mean that you must be thick-skinned, brazen and egotistic. It only means that you have learnt to respect an opinion which is divergent from yours, that you have stopped sweating the small stuff and that you realize the value in letting go and moving on!
The reason why we want to avenge people’s uncharitable (per our view, not theirs!) sentiments with a how-dare-you is that we place undue importance on ourselves. A how-dare-you is nothing but your ego erupting and manifesting itself as anger and intolerance – often even as physical violence – towards whoever you are disagreeing with.

Actually, you need not place so much importance on yourself. I have learnt this the hard way – from my own experience. There will be times in Life when people will not be willing to understand you or appreciate what you have to say. In such times, the best response is to not respond, not clarify, certainly not avenge and to simply let go and move on. You can never control what people say or do. You cannot make them understand you if all they want is to interpret what you say. Respect their right to have an opinion even if you disagree with the opinion. Forgive them if you can. If you can’t do either, just remember this: whether you are called a scumbag or a cheat, whether you are called a liar or an opportunist, at the end of the day, you know who you really are. As long as you are true to yourself, and are happy being who you are, don’t sweat over what others have to say! 

When you are hurting, take a 30,000ft view of your Life

Sometimes people mess around with you for no reason. Sometimes they do it intentionally. Whatever be their motives, the fact that you have been messed around with cannot be reversed. In either case, just shrug off the situation and move on. Even if you can’t forget what has happened, move on – and, if possible, forgive the people involved!
The other day, our client, an organization that we were conducting a workshop for, had provided us a car with a driver. It was a badly maintained car and the driver seemed particularly disinterested in his job. During the course of our ride, when we stopped at an eatery, we invited the driver to lunch with us. He politely declined saying he had “finished” his lunch. After our lunch, when we got into the car, we found it smelling of food. Apparently, he had had his lunch in the car; worse, to my dismay, he had used a document bag I had carried along as a prop for him to open his lunch box and set out the dishes. A lot of food had spilled on my bag and had stained it all over. When I confronted him, the driver mumbled a meek, remorseless, apology and volunteered half-heartedly to clean my bag for me.
Initially I was furious. The driver’s bad etiquette pissed me off no doubt. I was even more put off by his lack of empathy. He had messed up my bag – the least he could do was to genuinely feel sorry. But no, the driver was in no mood for this. For some time I was grumpy with him and the situation. He had no right or reason to do this to any guest/passenger, I thought. My wife, seeing my sense of exasperation, stepped in and urged me to move on. I had barely begun to reason with the driver, but I saw my wife’s point and soon dismissed the idea as a complete waste of time.
The next morning as I attempted to clean up my bag, I could not escape the learnings and perspectives the entire episode offered.
The driver and the food-spill are but metaphors for people and situations we find ourselves in. On many an occasion we are pissed on and passed over. It hurts more when there’s no provocation from our side. When you are focused on your work and someone comes to disrupt it or rides roughshod over you, you feel vulnerable. Not because you don’t know that you can retaliate but you feel so numb – why would anybody want to expect anyone to be insensitive and unkind to them? – that you don’t know what to do or how to respond. The best response, so that you protect your inner peace, is to forgive, even if you can’t forget, and simply move on. This applies as much in small, mundane, everyday skirmishes with rank strangers as it does with pre-meditated attempts to cause you anguish by people close to you. When you don’t move on, and instead demand justice or seek understanding from insensitive folks, you are only allowing yourself to be hurt more; to be trampled upon more. Because insensitive people are not bothered about how you are feeling. They may not have set out to hurt you but if you are hurt, it hardly bothers them. So, why waste your time with them and on them?

Also, people, events, situations are just the way they are meant to be in your Life. When I reflected, I concluded that the food-spill in the car was just meant to be. In the larger scheme of my Life, I reckoned, the food-spill and the irritation it caused should hardly matter. Because I am dealing with a far messier situation – I am in the throes of a bankruptcy, working harder each day to put our business and our Firm back on track. Besides, the driver’s insensitivity pales in significance in front of my mother’s – she called me a cheat because of my inability to return money I had borrowed from her. Similarly, when you reflect on your Life, you will find that the misery you feel over people’s actions and attitudes are hardly relevant in the context of your Life’s larger design. When something is hurting you and you are obsessed with that hurt, zoom out and look at the bigger picture. Take a 30,000ft view of your Life. You will realize soon that you can reason with someone when reason works. But you cannot reason with someone who doesn’t see reason. So, be smart. Protect your inner peace. In such situations, with such people, simply forgive and move on!

Mukesh Singh is a metaphor for all remorseless people who surround us

Ignore people who have hurt you and show no remorse. There’s no point in lamenting their behavior. Forgive them if you can, and even if you can’t forgive or forget, simply move on…  

Mukesh Singh
Picture Courtesy: BBC World/Leslee Udwin/Internet
I finally watched Leslee Udwin’s controversial – and now banned – documentary India’s Daughter that tells the horrific story of the gang rape (and subsequent death) of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh on December 16, 2012. What struck me most was the remorselessness of Mukesh Singh, one of the convicts on death row. He is one of the six who is convicted of rape and murder – he has since appealed against his conviction in the Supreme Court. He tells Udwin in the film: “When being raped, she shouldn’t fight back. She should just be silent and allow the rape.” As he says this, Mukesh’s face is expressionless, dead-pan and his tone is cold, showing no signs of either guilt or repentance. Of course, there’s a huge debate going on out there whether it is right to allow such an unrepentant and heinous view as Mukesh’s – which seeks to justify violence against women – publicly or not. Each side of this debate has its own argument. For now, the Indian government has banned the documentary. But my personal opinion is that it ought not have been banned – people must know how people who commit such crimes actually think. The film only portrays, brutally honestly, the mind of a rapist and murderer.
But if you pause to reflect and consider another perspective, Mukesh Singh is also a metaphor. He personifies anyone who tries to justify their unjust actions. And there are several people like that around us – in our families, among our friends, at our workplaces and in public, in society. These are people who continue to do what they do, often at the cost of other people’s rights, emotions and liberties, and, in almost as cold-blooded a fashion as Mukesh does in Udwin’s film, they justify that their actions are right. They believe vehemently that they did what they thought appeared to be right to them. So, there’s no question of them feeling guilty or repentant at all. And so they go on – often, mercilessly and remorselessly, trampling on people, emotionally, and at times, even physically. Now, here’s a view you may want to consider: what’s right and what’s wrong is always subjective. What appears right to you may not be so to me. And what’s wrong to me may appear right to you. Look at Mukesh – the way he looks at women is very different from the way all of us look at them. But Mukesh couldn’t care less. To him his view is the right one. So, he may as well go to the gallows, than repent – let alone reform. So, people who cause pain and suffering to others do so only because they firmly believe what they are doing is right. Period. No amount of our efforts to make them see reason, or reform them, is bound to bear fruit unless something within them changes; until their conscience awakens.

The tragic truth we must all live with is that our society and our lives abound with people like Mukesh. The best way to deal with them, if they are in your personal circle of influence, is to simply let them be. Don’t try to educate them. No education will be possible until there are both ready and willing to unlearn and learn. Don’t try to reform them. They won’t awaken unless they realize the futility of the path they have chosen. Don’t try to avenge them. This will only make you bitter – for they are likely to fight you to the end. It is best to leave such people to a higher energy, to a cosmic retribution, if you will. As for you, if you at all have one of these people in your Life, well, simply forgive them if you can. And if you can’t forgive or forget them, leave them alone and move on. This is the only way to protect your inner peace.

Forgive, even if you can’t forget, let go and move on!

When you end up having to fight someone or something, or plain injustice, don’t let emotion rule you. Being angry and emotional will only ruin your inner peace.
This morning’s Chennai Times reports Tamil lyricist Thamarai’s on-going protest against her husband Thiyagu. The couple have been estranged for a few months and Thamarai’s been on a sit-in protest with her son Samaran outside Thiyagu’s office for the last few days. She’s been demanding that her husband apologize to her and, possibly, reunite with her. The media has been full of stories of her protest. Today’s Chennai Times leads with this heading, a quote from Thamarai, for a story by Janani Karthik: “I need the 20 years I spent with my husband back.” 
Samaran and Thamarai sit in protest
Picture Courtesy: Internet
I felt sorry for Thamarai. Not just because she is having to grapple with a personal challenge. But also because someone as intelligent and as deeply soulful (her work in Tamil cinema in recent years is unputdownable) as she is, has lost her equanimity and is responding in such a futile manner to the situation. I am not even speaking in favor of or against either Thamarai or Thiyagu. I don’t know them. If we were to go by Thamarai’s version, Thiyagu left home in November last year and has been refusing to resume ties with her ever since. Clearly, it shows that the couple have stopped relating to each other. When there’s no relating between two people, what is the point in berating the relationship – that too in public? I feel sorry for Thamarai that she does not realize that her relationship with Thiyagu is dead. It’s over. Even if they come back together, it will be more for a social need than for experiencing the joy of being together. Also, by demanding something which cannot happen – wanting back the 20 years she spent with him – Thamarai is only causing herself more grief and agony. Which, although she claims otherwise, will affect her craft – something that is the bliss factor in her Life, something that she undoubtedly is a master of. In trying to shame Thiyagu and in trying to win the sympathy of her professional circle and of her fans, she’s simply on a mission to destroy her inner peace. In the context of a marital dispute, there are laws and the country’s family courts are more than equipped to sort out such an issue. In the context of her inner peace, she is only ruining it further by resisting what has already happened to her and failing to accept that her marriage with Thiaygu is, obviously, over! My advice, unsolicited obviously, to Thamarai is this: forgive, even if you can’t forget, simply let go and move on!

There’s a huge learning we can draw from l’affaire Thamarai. Very often in Life we may end up feeling let down, trampled upon, pissed on and passed over. We will want to avenge the person or the act or both. Every cell in our body will want revenge. After all, who can accept or tolerate injustice? This is when we must realize that the best way to win a battle is to not fight – emotionally – at all. Emotions only make any matter worse. By all means fight, but don’t respond emotionally. Chose a legal or sometimes a practical, strategic approach. Think through what you want. And act with a plan. Don’t react. In a dispute such as Thamarai’s and Thiyagu’s, public shaming will get neither party anywhere. Definitely not to feeling peaceful. Remember that people always do what they do because they feel they are right. In trying to tell someone that they are wrong, when they believe they are right, you may well end up burning a lot of your precious positive energy. You build up negativity and stress in you and, eventually, turn depressive. Instead if you approach the situation with peace, calm and – if possible, forgiveness, you will be able to operate with more clarity. When you are able to see the situation – and your Life – more clearly, you may really not want anything other than your inner peace. Most important, you may not want to fight at all. That’s when you will realize that there’s great value in forgiving someone, even if you can’t necessarily forget what they did to you!  

Don’t suffer! Either speak up and/or forgive and move on…

We sometimes don’t realize we have this phenomenal ability to forgive and move on. So we end up suffering people and situations – often endlessly!  
Two days ago, I met a young lady who was very disturbed emotionally. Her’s is an arranged marriage. Her husband of five years, she says, had let her down over an issue raised by his mother – her mother-in-law. He had apparently abused her (his wife) and held her accountable for “insulting” his mother. This incident is over two years old and even as this young lady has been struggling with this emotional hurt, her husband has been diagnosed with cancer. Interestingly, she’s been by his side, dutifully nursing him and helping him cope with all the pain and depression. She told me while she was doing whatever she could to help her husband, she was still unable to get over her hurt over the past and move on. “I simply am unable to forgive him for what he did to me. Agreed, my mother-in-law made a mountain out a molehill, but I can’t understand why my husband vented his fury at me. I felt trampled upon and felt like dirt. Now, when I sit by his side all night helping him deal with his pain and nightmares, I am also suffering within. I feel so much anger for him. Instead of letting it all out, I am having to control it and look after him. This makes me feel worse,” the lady told me, breaking down a few times as she shared her predicament.
I told her that she was making matters worse for her by carrying so much hurt and anger within her. She either has to express her anger – which is to tell her husband how she feels about being treated the way she was or she has to forgive him and move on. It will be ideal if she can do both. Her suffering, I told her, was coming from repressing her feelings. Since her husband is in a fragile state himself, the only way forward for her – and him – at the moment, is for her to be by his side. And since this is not the time to rake up a past hurt and discuss it, she must forgive him and pour her heart into caring for him. (Well, she has the option to leave him at this time. But she, rightly so, does not want to exercise this option.)

Her story may seem unique. But it is not. Many of us suffer from not being able to speak our minds when we must. And many of us also suffer from our inability to forgive and move on. It may not always be possible for us to forget whatever has happened in Life, but we can surely forgive others for what they have done to us. Here’s the nub: when someone does something to you that you do not appreciate, simply tell them so on their face. If you can’t speak up – send that person a text, an email or a WhatsApp message or a facebook messenger note. Then forgive that person and move on. If you have failed to speak your mind and communicate your feelings because you see no point in even discussing the issue with this person, at least forgive this person for his or her transgression and move on. The more you cling on to a hurt, an insult, an abuse, a betrayal, the more you will suffer. Interestingly, unless you “allow” someone to hurt you emotionally, you will never suffer. If you treat people with the view that everyone is entitled to their opinions and behaviors, you will never be emotionally disturbed no matter what people do to you. However, since not all of us can claim to be so evolved and mature, the best way is to speak up or move on or, in a best case scenario, do both. Never suffer anyone or anything grieving that you “wish” you were treated better. It is this wishing, your wishing, that is causing your suffering. And never the person or the event that has upset you.

Nothing can ever be undone in Life

Never say or do anything in Life that cannot be taken back or undone. And you can take back and undo nothing!
This really means we must employ discretion at all times and never let anything be said or do anything that we will regret later. Scathing opinions are easy to roll off our tongues. Or, often times, we react in rage and anger, making choices and decisions that change things between us and other people – forever.
Some years ago, I used to be very trigger-happy. I had to say things as they occurred to me. And in one relationship, at least, I was keen that some decorum was maintained between me and the other person. So, I would hold a mirror. I would say the truth as it was. But this only made the relationship worse. The other person never understood anything – and never certainly understood me. So, here I was, to this person, for several years on the trot, irreverent, loud-mouthed, unfit and loathsome. It hurt me a lot that I was seen that way. So I resisted even more aggressively. Then, one day, in May 2009, we had a big, big, showdown. It was so intense, I would wake up with a nightmare thinking about it for weeks after that incident. It struck me, as I introspected deeply, that I had caused the distance between us to grow because of my insistence that the relationship be mended. I decided to give up that desire. And I withdrew into a shell. I have stayed there for a long, long time. Now, in the past few days, this person wants to revisit the relationship. The scars are there – very visible and so they remain unforgettable. I can’t forget what has been said about me or my family, I can’t ever forget how we have been treated at a very personal, human level. It’s true that I have evolved, so I have forgiven this person and I have moved on. But because the scars remain, and the wounds have been deep, I have given up hope that things can ever be improved between us. The fact that, once said and done, nothing can ever be undone in Life – especially in emotional, relationship contexts, only helps me continue to value my inner peace and forces me to stay where I am, in my shell!
When people anger us, they cause us to react in a similar manner. In our anger we say or do many things. These are further interpreted – they are never really understood – by those causing the situation in the first place. Then more anger gets expressed. More opinions are made and more negative energy is hurled at each other. Over time, a Great Wall, is built. And people begin to live on either side choosing to often wish the worst for those on the other side. Then, through a natural process of growth and evolution two realizations dawn: 1. That clinging on anger and hatred is futile. 2. That this is a big world and we are all small people. That our smallness is even more starkly evident with our “petty” disputes with people. But it is too late. Because a lot has been said and done, and because it can’t be undone, Life has to go on with the Great Wall growing longer, and often higher, with the passage of time.
I have learnt from Life that it’s always best to pause, to ask, in any potentially emotional and explosive situation, if what we are about to say or do is likely to do good to all concerned, if what we have to say is the truth and what we really believe in, if what we are choosing is what we always wanted. This kind of reasoning does not always help you get instantaneous clarity on issues but helps you with enough so that you can postpone making a choice or expressing an opinion immediately. Always a more reflective, informed stance on Life-situations, even if takes longer, benefits everyone concerned. At the core of our lives is the way people express and experience each other. Maybe, just maybe, if some thought can be exercised before saying or doing something, then there will be no need to seek to undo anything!?