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!