Forgiving someone is the best gift you can give yourself

Forgiveness means to accept people for who they are. Irrespective of their irrationality, of their attitude towards you and of their actions.
I recently met a business associate who had failed to fulfil his contractual obligation to my erstwhile (and now defunct) Firm.
It had been a messy relationship. He was paid a sum of money in lieu of his services that he never delivered. When my Firm demanded the money back, he stonewalled us and refused to even take my calls. I sent him a strongly worded email to which he never replied. So, it was in these circumstances that this person and I met at social event. He was courteous but he was both uncomfortable in my presence and, most certainly, unapologetic. Sensing his discomfort, I clasped his hands, and looking him in the eye said, “Let bygones be bygones. I know we have an issue pending. But I am not carrying any grudges any more. I am sorry if I have hurt you in any way over the episode we both wished had never happened.” That kind of lightened the atmosphere and we spent the rest of the evening drinking and chatting up! 
I am not even sitting in judgment of what I did as right or wrong. I simply forgave the person. Period.
I have learned from Life that nobody is bad. Nobody is out to fix anyone! People do what they do because they believe they are right in doing so. Or they think if they didn’t do so, something grave is going to happen to them. Or if they didn’t do what they are doing, they may not get what they expect from you. All irrational behavior by someone then is a manifestation of what they are thinking, their belief systems at that moment, which again is a reflection of the time that they are going through. Such behavior needs to be responded with compassion not hatred. These people need your understanding. They need your forgiveness, not your anger. Besides, if you think deeply about it, what purpose does anger serve? You burn in it, while the person at whom you are directing your rage is often totally nonplussed about how you are feeling.

To truly forgive means to give someone your deepest understanding. It means to let go of the need to judge, opine, analyze or justify and to simply accept the diversity in human Life. It also means to appreciate that people will think different, behave different from you, because they are different from you!  Besides, forgiving someone unburdens you of all the excess baggage of anger, hatred, grief and suffering that you will otherwise carry around. Forgiving someone who has hurt you is the best gift you can give yourself. Think about it. This awareness can make your Life beautiful!
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There’s no point in carrying issues, injuries, insults in Life

No insult or injury is worth carrying in Life, let alone to the grave.     

While all of humanity understands this simple truth and knows how vain it is to cling on to such sentiments, everyone struggles with letting go of insults, barbs and forgettable memories. The struggle is because of the ego within us speaking up, louder than our hearts: the “How dare he?” scream drowns the “It’s OK!” whisper.

Joe Frazier (1944 ~ 2011), the boxing heavyweight, was one who took his sporting rivalry with the great Muhammad Ali too personally, and carried it literally to his grave. For years, Frazier had voiced his bitterness over the way Ali had insulted him, over how Ali had called him “ugly,” “a gorilla,” and an “Uncle Tom.” His anger was never in fuller view than when Ali, stricken with Parkinson’s disease, lit the Olympic flame at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, and Frazier said he would have liked to have “pushed him in.” To be sure, Ali had said this of Frazier: “Joe Frazier is so ugly that when he cries, the tears turn around and go down the back of his head.” ESPN commentator and writer Mike Sielski opines, “The two are forever linked, thanks to their three timeless bouts — Frazier won only the first, and the third was a near-death experience for both of them — the contrasting styles with which they fought, and the vitriol they hurled at each other for so long.” Yet their rivalry was both meaningless and childish for all their greatness __ because in reality  they complimented each other. “Technically the loser of two of the three fights, [Frazier] seems not to understand that they ennobled him as much as they did Ali,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Halberstam, “that the only way we know of Ali’s greatness is because of Frazier’s equivalent greatness, that in the end there was no real difference between the two of them as fighters, and when sports fans and historians think back, they will think of the fights as classics, with no identifiable winner or loser. These are men who, like it or not, have become prisoners of each other and those three nights.” They did come close more than a few times to make up and get over their sentiments. Frazier and his nemesis have alternated between public apologies and public insults. One exchange came in 2001, says ESPN, after Ali told The New York Times he was sorry for what he said about Frazier before their first fight. At first, Frazier accepted the apology, but then … “He didn’t apologize to me — he apologized to the paper,” Frazier said in an issue of TV Guide. “I’m still waiting [for him] to say it to me.” Ali’s response: “If you see Frazier, you tell him he’s still a gorilla.” Joe Frazier died in November 2011, beaten, a financially and emotionally broken man, by liver cancer. Ali graciously attended his funeral, realizing, perhaps, when he said, “The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration,” that he had said too little, too late.

There’s a lot of Frazier and Ali in each of us. We are prisoners of our experiences and emotions. We cling on to positions we have taken, opinions we have formed and events we have been through. We hurt within but are too proud to accept that we are hurting. Review your Life. What are you hurting from, hurting with? Let go. Go say sorry to someone that you had hurt in the past, today. Write a note to someone saying you forgave them. If you don’t want to do either, just say it to yourself. And the next time you meet that person, look her or him in the eye, smile and give that person a hug. Life’s not a boxing ring. Remember: all the greatness of our professional successes will be pale and insignificant in the face of advancing age, failing health and the certain death that awaits us all. 

Practice magnanimity: receive, embrace and transform hate into love

Don’t fight anyone, any situation in Life, by struggling, suffering and despairing. Feel deeply, practicing magnanimity, to understand the person, the situation, that is causing you distress. You will eventually prevail with love and compassion, than from fighting and engaging in a battle.
There are so many situations that you__and I__have encountered, and are perhaps even now facing, when people have been unkind to us. When they have schemed against us__in business, in families, at work, in the communities we live in__and have gained an upper hand by embracing falsehood and by using dishonest means. We have been devastated by the unfairness of people’s ways. And have become cold, numb and even turned cynical. We have lost trust in all of humanity perhaps too. We are suffering. Each one of us is. At times, it is not just individuals, but Life itself that has been ‘unfair’. A perfect Life has been thrown asunder by a health challenge or a devastating blow has been dealt to you by death snatching away someone that meant everything to you. You have never quite recovered from that tragedy. You are suffering. In either situation, the one caused by people around you, or the one in which Life dealt with you ‘unfairly’, practice magnanimity. Look at the person or situation deeply. Understand why that person is doing what she is doing. The truth is that a mother-in-law who is causing suffering to her daughter-in-law is actually suffering more. Her actions are actually a manifestation of her suffering. A boss who is trampling on his team member’s self-esteem, causing untold misery on the poor professional, is actually suffering more because of his own Life’s experiences. A rapist who outrages the modesty of a young teenager is actually representative of a mind suffering from a huge inferiority complex and craving for attention and love. The one who causes suffering is already suffering. Know that. And understand that if you respond with wanting to retaliate, avenge, fight, with I-will-teach-you-a-lesson attitude, you will only continue this chain of suffering.
Feeling deeply, practicing magnanimity, is what will break this chain. It may seem difficult and impossible. How can I be magnanimous in the face of deceit, dishonesty and a vulgar display of power, you may ask? I am not Gandhi, I am just a human being, you may argue. The truth is Gandhi was also a human being. A mere mortal. So was Jesus. But they did not suffer like you and I do. They ended their suffering by feeling deeply for those who perpetrated inhuman acts against them. When one side stops fighting, the other side HAS TO come on the path of love, awakening and peace. Hate cannot end hate. A fight cannot end a fight. Feeling can, magnanimity can.
The Buddha taught this to his disciple Rahula thus: “There are four great elements__earth, water, fire and air. Learn from them, Rahula. Whether people pour milk or fragrant liquids, deposit flowers or jewels, or pour urine, excrement, and mucus on the earth, the earth receives them without discrimination. Whether people throw into water things that are pure and pleasant or wash in it things of filth and stench, water quietly receives everything, without feelings of pride, attachment, grievance or being humiliated. Fire has the ability to receive and burn all things, including things of filth and stench, without grieving or feeling humiliated. Air has the ability to receive, carry away, and transform all odors, sweet or foul, without pride, attachment, grievance or feeling humiliated. Why? Because the earth, water, fire and air have the capacity to receive, embrace and transform. The earth can receive excrement and urine because it is immense. It transforms them into flowers, grass, and trees. Water has immense embracing capacity, is ever-flowing, and has the ability to receive and transform whatever it takes in. Fire has immense receptivity and the ability to burn and transform whatever people bring to it. Air has immense embracing capacity and the extraordinary faculty of mobility. If you cultivate your heart so that it is open, you can become immense like the earth, water, fire and air, and can embrace anyone or anything without suffering.”

Try responding to a person or situation you are currently grappling with in your Life, with the attitude of the four great elements__earth, water, fire and air. This does not mean that you merely accept, and resign to, a situation that is causing you grief or unhappiness. It means invoking your immense capacity to be magnanimous, to feel deeply, understand and, therefore, transform your current plight into an opportunity for abundant happiness. In fighting, you continue to be unhappy. And suffer. In feeling deeply and embracing with understanding why some people behave the way they do, you become bliss.

Don’t be a fly on a window pane

To get out of a situation that you dislike or despise, first examine how and why you got into it in the first place. What got you in can often get you out.  
Very often we find ourselves in places and contexts that we hate. It could be in a relationship or with regard to your career or your health or your money situation. You may just not be happy being where you are – or being with someone! The normal response is to get frustrated and bitter with yourself, with people around you and with the situation. This isn’t going to help. You have to get out of the situation by going out the same way that you got in. A simple analogy is to consider the plight of a smoker – he or she often detests the idea of chain-smoking. In private, she or he will confess that they feel lousy every time they light up. Yet they keep suffering because the only way they can stop feeling that way is by quitting smoking. They got into smoking from not smoking. They have to get out of smoking by not smoking. Simple. Period. If you recall seeing a fly on a glass pane you will understand this better. The poor fly does not know how to go past the closed window’s glass pane, into the garden, and so, pathetically, it keeps knocking itself on the glass pane until it loses its energy and falls dead on the window sill. Poor fly. All it had to do was to turn around and go out the same way it came in – through an open door or window. Now, a fly can be forgiven for being stupid. Not you and me! We have been endowed with an intelligence that demands that we don’t battle situations mindlessly.
This approach applies to all our daily emotions too – anger, hatred, fear, jealousy, anxiety, worry. Every day living is full of situations that force us to experience some or many of these emotions daily. At times, especially when we are making an effort to transform ourselves, the very thought that we allowed these emotions to take root and rule us, makes us feel disgusted. There’s no point getting angry over having gotten angry. Go to the cause of your anger. Go to the cause of why you fear someone or something. Go to the cause of your worry. When you can go to the root and uproot that cause you can be free of whatever you despise and whatever holds you hostage.   

Forgiveness leads you to inner peace

When you want to forgive someone simply forgive. Don’t judge whether the person is worthy or not. What matters is whether you feel forgiveness at your very core.  
Think about it. When does the context of forgiveness arise? Forgiveness becomes relevant when someone has acted in an irrational, resentful, violent and/or a hurtful way with you. Your hurt is causing you to feel miserable about the episode and you want to see that the person responsible for this is admonished, made accountable or even punished. This is what anyone will normally want done. But as long as the act of reprimand or retribution is not complete you will continue to grieve, you will continue to suffer. In some cases, the person who hurts you may realize her mistake and seek your forgiveness. It’s possible then that you may or may not forgive her. If you choose not to, you will still be carrying the angst of the injury, the hurt in you. But, if in any situation, you choose to forgive, you will be liberated – instantaneously.
Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, the Rajiv Assassination, Nalini Murugan
Picture Courtesy: Internet
There’s so much attention on the people responsible for former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassins, with the Indian Supreme Court, commuting the death sentences of some more of them to Life terms recently. This development, in the context of forgiveness, brings the focus back to what happened in March 2008. Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, Rajiv’s daughter, visited Nalini Murugan, one of those convicted in the assassination conspiracy, in Vellore jail in Tamil Nadu. According to what TIME magazine reported then: “The two women both wept when they met. Toward the end of their meeting, they compared stories about their children’s births (both have had caesareans) and even swapped small gifts, though neither revealed what they were. Nalini, whose initial death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment a few years ago after intervention by Sonia Gandhi, the president of the ruling Congress Party, apparently found Priyanka’s visit Life-changing. Nalini told her brother P. S. Bhagyanathan that she feels as if “all my sins have been washed off by Priyanka’s visit… I feel she has pardoned me by calling on me at the prison… I am indebted to her all my life.” Whether Priyanka explicitly offered forgiveness will probably remain between them. In her statement, Priyanka said that “meeting with Nalini was my way of coming to peace with [the] violence and loss that I have experienced.” Perhaps Priyanka was not trying to forgive so much as she was trying not to hate — and their meeting was a very private gesture that, after becoming public (through a media leak), has come to appear heartbreakingly heroic. “I don’t believe in anger, hatred, and violence,” Priyanka said simply in her statement. “And I refuse to allow it to overpower my life.”

Priyanka’s effort to reach out, and to be human, in the face of such a traumatic personal loss, is as awakening now as it was then. That she chose to do what she did, without investing to evaluate whether Nalini deserved any forgiveness, if at all, or not, is inspiring.
We must remember that when we forgive someone, we let go of all the pent up, wasteful emotions like anger and hatred, within us. We forgive someone for our own sake first. And through our inner cleansing and peace, we help the one we forgive too to move on in Life. Forgiveness frees the person who is forgiving and therefore is not dependent on whether the person receiving it is deserving or not. If you understand this perspective, you will never carry any resentment, any hurt, any suffering in you – ever. And you will be at peace!

Be vulnerable, be open, be peaceful

The best way to deal with your detractors is to not resist them. Let them do what they must. You be vulnerable, be open. Let Life take care of the rest.
This approach really ensures that you stay focussed, conserve your energies and don’t let any negativity consume you. But this approach is rarely taken.
Whenever someone wrongs you, the first reaction is: ‘How dare she or he do this to me?’. You rush to respond with rage and simply end up staying agitated. The more you cling on to anger, hatred and hurt, the more you will burn in them. If somebody is doing something to you, which you think is against your interests, please know and accept that she or he is doing it because they think it is right for them to do it! The viewpoints are different. That’s all. Perhaps, if you explained your viewpoint or if the other person in question considered your viewpoint upon review, things will be different. For the present however, you feel you have been wronged. And someone feels they are right. Further you are seething with rage, wallowing in self-pity, looking at the whole world as being dark, hellish and full of hideous people. Know also that you are the one who’s burning. The perpetrator of your grief is possibly happy, unperturbed by his or her action. That makes you even more angry. And you now seek revenge. What is the point? You cause pain to that person in retaliation. She or he responds with more acrimony. And then it’s your turn again. So, the ping-pong battle goes on, on and on. And all through this tenure you are burning. You are unable to concentrate on your work. Even anger or self-pity or staying grumpy or being cynical is an addiction. As ruinous as any other physically debilitating habit! You don’t even realize that you are destroying yourself in the process.
To break away from this destructive cycle of negative emotions, something has to give. And it has to be your desire to cling on. Give that up! Wisdom lies in the fact that you unshackle yourself from this rage, from this hatred, from this injury and become free. It takes two people to cause any enmity. And you can decimate that cause by refusing to enjoin in it! Let go of all animosity within you. Give up your need to be right all the time. Give up your need to get even. This is the only way – to be vulnerable and open – to inner peace, to be free and to perhaps win the battle – without even fighting!

Halt the cycle of hatred

When someone hates you and so hurts you remember that person needs your understanding and help, not hatred in return.

It is normal, when someone offends you or hurts you, to try and get even with that person. After all a hurt is always difficult to deal with, forget getting over! But there’s another way to look at the situation and the person. Hating and hurting require a lot of negative energy. So, if someone is causing all that hurt that you are experiencing know that the person is full of negative energy. Thich Naht Hahn, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, says this very beautifully: “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”

I have learned from experience that hating or hurting in return never helps. It only keeps the cycle of negativity alive. To expunge the negativity someone has to break that cycle. And that person can well be you! Whenever I feel hurt or offended, I send a silent prayer to the person who has caused it. I also try and reach out to the person and see if we can talk things over. But sometimes the differences are so deep and immediately irreconcilable that a conversation may not be possible or help. In such situations, you can let go of the hatred brewing inside you by sending the person positive energy and prayer. Whenever I have done this, I have found my anger and my hurt dissipating. I feel peaceful. Simply, it is not relevant who started it or who is to blame. What is important is to recognize that clinging on to suffering is futile. It helps no one. While it may be ideal for both parties to cleanse themselves, if this not possible for whatever reason, at least one person – you – breaking free from the negativity is indeed a good step forward!
The essence of intelligent living is to be able to rise above hurt, hatred and suffering. And to live free, to live fully – a meaningful and blissful Life!