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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Understand. Forgive. Love.

It is considered natural to rise in defense or take offense when someone offends you. But another response is possible: Give forgiveness, love and understanding to people that offend you.

Does this sound difficult? Well, it really is not. Consider this: in the first place, you are offended because you allowedyourself to be offended. In that state when the offensive emotion has penetrated the deep recesses of your mind, agitation begins to brew. When you are agitated, you cannot think with clarity. Forgiveness, love and understanding, therefore seem impossible and impractical at this time. But what if you refuse to get offended? Sure enough, there’s a way. Try these three easy steps: 1. Don’t respond mindlessly, belligerently. Be aware of the so-called offensive remarks coming your way. And like a turtle would withdraw into its shell so that it remains secure, withdraw all defense mechanisms. 2. Respect the right of the other person to have an opinion, any opinion, that is different from you. 3. Smile. Accept the reality. Kill the urge to think ‘how-dare-you?’ and respond instead with an ‘aha!’feeling in you. Wish the person who’s trying to offend you all success. Convert the problem situation into a game. Play it! What if the offender was on Reality TV with you and the game was ‘Who-Barks-Least-Wins?’ And the prize money was worth millions. Play the game in that spirit. Like in any sport, practice makes perfect. So it is in this. Very soon, after a few attempts, you will reach a stage where you will be a World Champ and the peace, joy and bliss, that will follow will be worth more than all the money there is in the world!

Don’t shed a tear for those who insist on misunderstanding you!

Sometimes in Life people may choose to consistently, continuously, systematically misunderstand, misinterpret and not relate to you. When these relationships are with people that you are close to or with immediate family, the situation gets confounded and it becomes very difficult to accept the reality.
Our biggest grief is not that we are being misunderstood but that close people, whom we imagined as our own, are the ones misunderstanding us. Relax. You are not alone. It happens to all of us at some time or the other in our lives. It has happened and continues to happen to me too! I can relate to your sense of anguish if you have been in a similar situation. You then try to redeem your image not with an external audience, which still is a social or professional requirement and so is understandable if it takes time or some machinations to be successful with, but within your closed circle, where ideally you must be accepted for who you are and not for what you are perceived as!
Don’t despair. Hear this story that a spiritual thinker once told us.
There once was a blind man. And he lived in difficult circumstances. His family did not quite appreciate his blindness. They felt he was a blot on the family’s otherwise ‘happy and beautiful’ existence. One day, the God of Luck, arrived in front of the blind man. And said to him, that he could ask any number of wishes that he wanted – and they would be immediately granted. The blind man said he was humbled that the God of Luck had visited him. He expressed his gratitude and said he had no wishes of his own. The God of Luck insisted though that he ask something. The blind man said, that while he didn’t want anything for himself, he did want the God of Luck to grant whatever each of his family members wanted! The God of Luck was perplexed. And wanted to know why this man did not want to avail of his lottery. The man replied, “Sir, look at me. I have no wants. All my needs are met. I have made peace with my blindness long, long ago. I am happy despite being blind. It is my family members who grieve over my blindness. My sister often says she is embarrassed that she has a blind brother. My mother thinks that I am useless because I am blind. And so, each of them has a different grief. And all of them grieve over my blindness. So, I ask that you too teach them to be happy despite their circumstances. I have no image to protect or to redeem. And I love the world I live in and can’t see. I am not sure I want to see the world I live in and then discover that I don’t love it at all!”

Big lesson there for all of us who are grieving, wishing, pining that people close to us understand us than misunderstand us. Our grief drives us to trying several methods, often with no avail, for rebuilding our credibility among those that have chosen to doubt our integrity and suspect our intentions. The truth is they are not true to us. And not the other way round. Because true friends, true family, will believe despite evidence to the contrary. It is the flippant lot that will insist on misunderstanding no matter what evidence you place, in your favor, before them! There’s no point shedding a tear for such people!

Everyone is just another you

All life is equal. Understanding this truth and practising it makes living meaningful.
We often see people seeking alms or small change on the street. The immediate tendency is to despise their presence. We find their shabby looks and the act of begging repulsive. We begin to wonder why our governments can’t provide for such people and demand to know why can’t begging be abolished? Recognize that you and I are beggars too. Don’t we beg understanding from people, favors from bosses/people in positions of influence or authority? Don’t we appeal to a Higher Source, when all else fails, begging for mercy, compassion, forgiveness? Don’t we beg another chance in surrender, acknowledging our mistakes, sins and promise better, wiser conduct?
This reality struck me a few years ago when I was returning after ‘pleading’ (you can call it begging too!) in vain with a banker for a loan that could have saved my sinking Firm from bankruptcy. I decided to stop at a grocery store to pick up supplies and as I was pulling out my car from the parking lot, a man, in tatters, came up to my window seeking support. The look on his face, the hope in his eyes, awakened me to the irony of the moment. What was different between me and him? Here I was, in a position to give, but most likely would end up being a non-giver__like my banker! And here he was, hoping to receive, praying feverishly, just as the way I was hoping and praying in front of my banker!
The degrees to which events, circumstances, affect and alter our lives, may be different; but Life’s very just and an equal opportunity player, if you will! We can’t change every circumstance we will encounter but we can change the way we approach them. So, don’t rush to label or slot people. See yourself in them. You will then see your God in them. Mother Teresa saw it that way when she said: “Each one of them is Jesus in disguise.” You don’t need to give alms if you don’t wish to, but surely you can give your understanding or say a prayer to someone who is just another you.

Giving up your craving to be understood delivers peace

Seeking to be understood by people who refuse to understand you is a sure way to make yourself feel miserable.
When you crave for understanding from people, it is actually your ego which is rearing its ugly head. Craving is desire. When you desire to be understood you are actually saying: “How dare someone draw a different inference from what I intend?” or “How can someone speak to ME like that?” or “I have done so much for this person and yet this person is so ungrateful!”. 
You don’t need to kill that craving in you. All you need to know is that each person is entitled to his or her own opinions and behavior. Quite naturally, it is an extremely painful process to allow people to be the way they are. Especially when you are having to live and work with them. Then the only option to consider is if you really want to live and work with that someone. If you have to, you must stop complaining about that person – that’s the only way you can be at peace with yourself in such a context. If you don’t have to live with that someone, simple, disassociate. You may well wonder, how can you disassociate from a parent, sibling, spouse or dear friend? I have faced such a situation a few times in Life. And the best way to disassociate, I have learnt, is to just keep quiet. Try and work out a physical dissociation but in any case, choose to be disengaged and quiet. In the face of all provocation, don’t respond. Your silence may be seen as your weakness – but it is your greatest weapon in reality. And it is not a weapon that can destruct. It actually arrests any further damage. Disassociation does not mean you must sulk. You can be still engaged at a courtesy or social level. A hi and a bye never does anyone any harm. But you don’t need to engage in such a way that you have to crave to be understood. Nor will there be a situation warranting an understanding when there is no engagement! Think about it – it works! At least, it has worked for me.
When you operate with this logic, your ego will not run amok and you will not suffer. When you don’t operate from your egoistic core, you will tame any craving. When the mind ceases to crave, it finds peace. And peace always delivers joy!

Accept people for who they are – don’t judge them for what they say!

Change the way you look at people and Life. Fundamentally, it is NOT necessary that all people should understand you.
Don’t expect people to understand you, appreciate you or accept you. Chances are they won’t. And know that it is perfectly fine for them to be that way. A large part of our emotional stress comes when we crave for understanding, appreciation and acceptance. When we offer an opinion or perspective, at home, at work, wherever, we believe it to be a given that our point of view must be understood. In fact, we demand it. We also expect it and feel good when people appreciate our efforts__from something as immaterial as plain praise to a sense of gratitude that people display for actions we may have taken in their interest. And, of course, everyone wants to be recognized and treated with respect and dignity__a social acceptance of sorts__by everyone else. When these expectations are not met, we feel let down. We grieve. And we carry the heavy burden of a certain longing, a sorrow, of a misplaced craving.
There’s a way to set down this burden. Approach people with the awareness that just as you are entitled to your opinion, others are too. Second, have NO expectations from people. You do your part in a relationship well and live with that satisfaction. Don’t expect appreciation or acceptance. Simple. This attitude helps in keeping everyday living uncomplicated and peaceful. Because peace in daily Life is the biggest casualty in the wake of such expectation.
There’s a story from the Life of Adi Sankara (788 CE ~ 820 CE) that I remember. Adi Sankara was always clad in a loin cloth or a dhoti at best. One day a few urchins on the street that he was passing through, who did not know who he was, pelted stones at him and chided him for being “poor” and “robe-less”. Adi Sankara’s disciples were angry and set out to admonish the young boys on the street. But Sankara stopped them and asked them to carry on. One of the disciples was furious that his Master be abused like this and secondly he simply could not comprehend why his Master advocated restraint when all that the boys needed was a sound thrashing. So he asked his Master to explain why he choose to ignore the barbs and the stones. Sankara replied: “To pelt stones at anyone and call people names is the privilege of those young boys and they have exercised it. To accept their stones and barbs or not is our privilege. I have exercised our right not to accept that privilege by choosing not to react and to simply move on!”
Beautiful isn’t it? If we can cultivate this attitude and embed it in the way we approach everyday Life, our inner peace will never get disturbed. This attitude also comes in handy when people accuse you of being hypocritical. I am sometimes asked if I ‘really practice all that I preach’? And at some other times I am told that what ‘I preach’ is NOT ‘applicable in practical everyday Life’. I don’t react. I simply smile and move on. Because I have learnt to have no expectations of understanding, appreciation and acceptance from people. Also, in reality, what I do here, through my daily posts, is to share my learnings from my experiments and experiences with everyday living. I don’t preach. I share in the belief that what worked for me, may help validate someone else’s experience or clarify a point of view in them or, if they choose to disagree with my view, will at least help them be clear about what they don’t want to or must not do in Life! So, what’s the point countering a charge of hypocrisy? People believe people are hypocritical because they don’t believe people in the first place. This is particularly true when people are being judgmental and call someone a hypocrite without wanting to know the full story. And that brings us back to the subject of understanding – or the lack of it in everyday Life! So, the best way to live in peace is to appreciate and accept people for who they are – than for what they say – and to not expect anything from anyone.