Let alone a misunderstanding, what if people don’t want to understand you?

Choose to be amused, curious, bewildered about people’s behavior – and not bitter!

“Why can’t some people understand us? No matter what we say or do, why is there only an effort to misunderstand by them,” asked a reader on FB Messenger yesterday.

My answer: “Such is Life. That’s just the way some people are.”

Indeed. I see no other explanation for the way some people behave. In fact, personally, I have even reached a stage when I don’t even want to understand – or explain – why some people behave the way they do. Ultimately, everyone does what they think is right. If they thought otherwise, they would not be doing what they are doing! Simple.

The other day, members of my estranged, fractious, family were trying to reach me for a reason. I was preoccupied for a while and so I did not respond immediately to any of them. But the number of messages they pounded me with on WhatsApp, SMS, FB Messenger, e-mail, the number of calls they made, and the tone of their messages indicated that they felt I was deliberately avoiding them. We haven’t been in touch for several years now. Nothing much has changed in the equation among us. But to assume, within an hour of sending someone a message, or after calling them, that they are avoiding you, I believe is being, unfortunately, judgmental.

I wasn’t angry with the tone my family employed. I was amused. And I guess that’s a good way to deal with people that don’t understand you or perhaps that don’t want to understand you. Respond with amusement, not anger. If you look at it objectively, people know what they are doing. If they are saying something nasty about you, or to you, or if they are doing something irrational, illogical, unkind and unjust to you, they are doing it only because they want to do it. I have realized that you can’t stop someone who’s determined to do what they want to do. So, I just let them be. I live in the comfort that the opinions they hold of me, the way they choose to express themselves to me and their actions cannot affect my inner peace.


Actually, it is equally fascinating to see how different people look at the same situation or at the same person differently. This variety makes for an interesting study of human behavior. I am eternally curious to see how people imagine or think up plots, sub-plots, theories and conspiracies in plain, mundane situations. Without such colorful imagination, I believe, Life will be boring. So, I have learnt to let people’s machinations and manipulations, their interpretations and misuderstandings, keep me entertained. I don’t crave for being understood anymore. If they are choosing to be the way they are, it is only appropriate that I remain the way I must really be – unruffled, curious, bewildered, and never bitter!  

You carry a hurt only as long as you think about it

By letting go of your hurt, transform it into forgiveness!
Bollywood actor Tabu’s new movie Fitoor (Abhishek Kapoor) is releasing this week. She apparently plays a bitter, vengeful character. The New Indian Express’ Anita Britto asked Tabu, as part of a pre-release interview, if, in real Life, she was as vindictive as her onscreen character. “When hurt and deeply betrayed, only revenge can give you happiness. The great concept of forgiveness is not easy. It is great if you can forgive, but you are in a place to forgive only when you don’t feel hurt,” replied Tabu.
While I don’t agree that revenge can give anyone happiness, I do believe that forgiveness happens when there is no hurt.

It is important to understand why you feel hurt when someone lets you down or causes you pain, injury and grief. Of course any form of pain – physical or emotional – will hurt. But a hurt festers in you because you allow it to. The truth is that you hurt only when you allow someone’s action to stay with you, in your thoughts. When you let go of your anger, of your suffering, while the source (or impact) of pain – as a person or event – may remain, you will not hurt anymore.

You can reach this level of evolution if you understand the futility of hurting and being vengeful. What is the point with either? Someone has wronged you. And they have done it only because they saw it as right. Your getting even with them will only make you suffer more. It is not going to make them any better or realize that they have wronged you. Instead, they are going to retaliate. And then the process of vengeance is will go on and on, never ending.
Osho used to tell a story that so beautifully illustrated the need to replace hatred and vengeance with love and forgiveness.
One of the greatest Sufi mystics was Rabiya al-Adabiya, a woman who was known for her very eccentric behavior. But in all her eccentric behavior there was a great insight.
Once, another Sufi mystic, Hasan, was staying with Rabiya. Because he was going to stay with Rabiya, he had not brought his own copy of the holy Koran. He thought he could borrow Rabiya’s holy Koran.
In the morning he asked Rabiya for the holy Koranand she gave him her copy. He could not believe his eyes when he opened the Koran. He saw something which no Muslim could accept: in many places Rabiya had corrected it. It is the greatest sin as far as Islam is concerned; the Koranis the word of God according to them. How can you change it? How can you even think that you can make God’s teaching better? Not only had she changed it, she had even cut out a few words, a few lines – she had removed them.
Hasan said to her, “Rabiya, somebody has destroyed your Koran!”
Rabiya said, “Don’t be stupid, nobody can touch my Koran. What you are looking at is my doing.”
Hasan asked, “But how could you do such a thing?”
She replied, “I had to do it, there was no way out. For example, look here: the Koran says, ‘When you see the devil, hate him.’ Since I have become awakened I cannot find any hate within me. Even if the devil stands in front of me I can only shower him with my love, because I don’t have anything else left. It does not matter whether God stands in front of me, or the devil; both will receive the same love. All that I have is love; hate has disappeared. The moment hate disappeared from me I had to make changes in my copy of the holy Koran. If you have not changed your Koran, that simply means you have not arrived in the space where only love remains.”
I have not read the Koran. I am not even sure if this story is true. But I believe that its essence is unputdownable. The story reminds us to replace hurt and hatred with love. For ourselves and for those that let us down. You carry a hurt as long as you think about the person that caused it as someone who has wronged you. Instead think of that someone as one who is lost in Life. Who knows not what he or she is doing. And then watch your anger, your hurt, transform into something beautiful and liberating – forgiveness!

The only way to heal is to share, be open and not worry about being vulnerable!

You are not alone. Everyone has problems. So, stop obsessing over your problems and start living.
Our daughter has enrolled for a Creative Dance Movement Therapy Program. She intends to make a career out of practicing dance movement therapy. We asked her how her Program was coming along. Over some soup and pasta, she explained to us how the Program’s instructor insisted that they employ the therapy techniques on themselves first. She said: “It was a therapeutic, healing experience. As each of my class fellows shared their Life stories, I realized that we are not the only ones facing problems. Everyone is. And the only way to heal yourself is to be open, to share what you feel and to not worry about being vulnerable.”
I am delighted our daughter at 20-something has understood the futility of keeping things bottled up. I learnt this only when I was 35. Sadly, many people still don’t get it.
All our suffering comes from wanting our lives to be different from what it is now. And because it is not always possible to change what is, we spend our lives pretending that everything’s normal. For instance, people carry on with broken marriages because they worry about social approval, people live beyond their means because they want to maintain a public profile, people don’t speak their mind because they want to be nice to their oppressors and people are refusing to forgive themselves for what they have said and done only because they are still clinging on to anger and guilt. Here’s the nub: As long as we live, we will face problems. Some of the problems will cripple us physically, some will drain us emotionally. In either context, we must be willing to let go of past experiences, hurts, insults and opinions, and, in many cases, even people – we must simply move on. Anything and anyone that makes us unhappy must be avoided – like plague, even if it is our own thoughts, or even if it is someone with whom we have a biological connect! The past serves only one purpose: it teaches us lessons from what we have been through. Beyond the lesson, we have must have no attachment to a past event, person or experience.

If you are clinging on to someone or something and are suffering, then open up and share. When you share, you may be vulnerable. But you will also heal. You fear being vulnerable only because you think people will take advantage of you. If they do, that’s a learning too – that you can’t count on such people. Believe me, I have been wearing my Life on my sleeve for over 15 years now. And so far, none has exploited my vulnerability. Because, contrary to what we all think, this is a wonderful world, with beautiful, compassionate people! 

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. 

Forgiveness is an evolutionary process

While forgiveness is the ‘right’ thing to do, everyone struggles with it. You can avoid the struggle by considering the value forgiving someone brings you – it frees you from all the suffering.
I read a recent interview that author Chetan Bhagat gave ‘Bombay Times’. He talks about the turbulent relationship he has had with his father to Priya Gupta: “I felt he was not fair to my mother. Maybe, it was a result of his own inner frustrations, but he would not give her freedom and I had to write ‘2 States’ a) to understand where my father was coming from and b) to forgive him. It was difficult for me to forgive him, but ‘2 States’ helped me forgive my father. He lives in Delhi and I rarely meet him. I last met him at a family function two years back. Even if (I have) not forgiven (him) completely, there is no anger in me today and at least I have reached a stage of indifference. I am still working on it.” I can relate to what Bhagat is experiencing. I have been through exactly the same feelings in a few of my close relationships – forgiving is indeed difficult. But when you do forgive someone, it sets you – and them –  free!
What we need to understand about forgiveness is that it is not necessarily something that can always happen in a nanosecond. In most cases, it happens over time and through “waves of awareness”. The need for forgiveness arises primarily when you have been wronged or you feel you have been wronged. Since the issue begins with who’s right and who’s wrong it really is about gamesmanship between two, often unrelenting, egos. Then there’s enormous hurt to deal with – you keep wondering why you have been treated this way by the other person. Your asking why only makes the situation worse. Whatever has happened has happened; someone’s hurt you. Asking why, and seeking remedy or an apology or even an explanation – none of which is normally forthcoming – causes all your suffering. To really forgive someone you must cross all these barriers. You can do that only when you are “aware” that Life is too short to carry the burden of anger, hurt and grief. You, of course, know this truth about Life, but when you are hurt, you are simply not conscious about it. This awareness takes time evolving. But you can make a beginning by understanding that forgiving someone does not mean condoning their actions, behaviors or mistakes. It really means that you recognize and accept that they are human too and are therefore prone to making mistakes. Next, when you forgive, forgive unconditionally. Don’t sit in judgment of whether someone deserves to be forgiven or not. What is important is that you need to forgive for youto stop suffering, for yourhurt to heal. Third, when, despite your forgiving, you find that someone is not sorry, don’t agonize. That’s their problem. Remember that when you have an expectation over someone else’s behavior, you will be the one to suffer when your expectation is not met. So, why invite agony? Finally, forgiveness does not mean you will be comfortable in the person’s presence or when you think about that person. This is particularly relevant to remember in close relationships where you cannot avoid interactions completely. What forgiveness does is it takes away the sting, it draws out your anger and, as Bhagat explains, it helps you to stay unmoved and indifferent.  
I have learnt from Life that every instance that involves someone hurting me has only led me to grow wiser and stronger. Until I learnt to forgive I would be bitter from such experiences. I now realize that while some episodes cannot be forgotten, forgiving is best in everyone’s interest. It have found that it makes me feel lighter and stay positive.
Today, as any other, is a good day to forgive anyone who’s hurt you or even yourself for what you may have done. Think of forgiveness as an evolutionary process. And go through it. Taste the freedom it brings you. It’s bliss.