FORGIVENESS

I have been struggling to understand the concept of forgiveness.

You can only forgive someone if you feel that they have treated you badly in some way.  You then make a conscious decision to forgive that person for whatever it is that they have done to you.  You can pay lip-service to them by saying ‘I forgive you for……’ but how much of this is true sentiment and how much is hot air!

Let us say, for example, that I was set-up and ended up being punished; punished because I criticised an exploit that was self-destructive in someone else; someone I care about.  They expertly, and with great cunning, turn the tables on me and I end up being the one criticised and berated from all sides!  I feel sad and betrayed.  OK.  Do I go to bed and forgive that person and wake up in the morning with it buried and forgotten?

No.  When you forgive somebody, you are saying ‘you hurt me, you were wrong, but I am going to forgive you anyway’!  In doing this, surely I am being judgemental?

Instead of ‘forgiving’ I am told that, to live a happier life, you need to change your mind-set so that you feel compassion for the perpetrator.  You look at them and analyse why it is that they did what they did.  Perhaps they did it out of their own fear or out of their own pain – perhaps they knew that what they did was stupid; perhaps they were having a miserable day; perhaps they just can’t stand criticism…..for whatever reason, that person is carrying anger or pain and needs ‘compassion’, not ‘forgiveness’.  Perhaps the unhappy soul was just using the instinctive old fighting tactic, ‘attack is the best form of defence’!  So we ditch forgiveness in favour of compassion!  Wouldn’t my long-time hero HH The Dalai Lama be proud of me?

Do I bear grudges?  I certainly used to.  I now try to let things go more quickly.  I heard a saying, “bearing a grudge against someone allows the perpetrator to live in your head rent-free”!  This is so true.  I carried around someone in my head for several years and the whole experience was extremely tiring and constantly drained me.  I eventually sat in a private space and said out loud, “Mr X, you treated us very badly but I now choose to let this memory go.  I will no longer carry this anger towards you around with me.  You must lead a very sad life and I hope you find happiness around the next corner”!  It’s amazing how much healthier I felt after I made this affirmation.

The world is full of givers and takers.  The givers are always happy to give to all those who present themselves; not only do they give material support, but they are happy to provide emotional assistance and love that others sometimes desperately search for.  The takers are always waiting for the next hand-out; again not only materialistic hand-outs; they seek emotional crutches and drain you dry if you let them.  There is a fine line between genuine needy people and those who are ‘energy vampires’.  There is a fine line between being a controlled giver and one who opens themselves up to be used and abused.

I am sure we all have examples of acquaintances that, after an hour in their company, leave you feeling tired and drained; lacking in energy and ready for bed (or a stiff drink)!  Is it kind to indulge these people or should we have the willpower to fight the urge to give of ourselves over and over again?  I met with someone recently who bled me dry.  I was unaware of the pressure this person had placed on me until I got in the car to drive home.  I was suddenly hit with an overwhelming fatigue; unable even to become enthusiastic about preparing dinner (an unheard of state of mind for me when food is concerned)!

Do I bear grudges?  I certainly used to.  I now try to let things go more quickly.  I heard a saying, “bearing a grudge against someone allows the perpetrator to live in your head rent-free”!  This is so true.  I carried around someone in my head for several years and the whole experience was extremely tiring and constantly drained me.  I eventually sat in a private space and said out loud, “Mr X, you treated us very badly but I now choose to let this memory go.  I will no longer carry this anger towards you around with me”!  It’s amazing how much healthier I felt after I made this affirmation.

So this is my next lesson; changing the anger and hurt into compassion!  Not so easy but I am sure it will be worth the effort.