My maid told me she wouldn’t be coming to work for a couple of days. She wanted to go and look up her sister-in-law who was in hospital. Apparently that lady was suffering from cancer, and had her leg amputated.
But this lady also made an observation, which set me thinking. She told me in her younger days, the sick lady had been a terror. She is the wife of my maid’s brother. She told me that lady had never allowed the sisters to visit the brother and would abuse the sisters. She was never cordial with the in-laws. And now she was suffering.
Her children have refused to care for her, so she in a hospital undergoing treatment. My maid felt sorry for her and decided to look her up. I realized, she has forgiven her and so was willing to let the past remain there.
This act of forgiveness requires a lot of inner strength. Someone has treated you badly and you would have resented the behavior. But later when you wish to forgive, you release not only your negative emotions, you also attain peace. But if the slight was sufficiently grave, then forgiveness requires lots of guts. It calls for tremendous inner strength and fortitude.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as, “to grant free pardon and give up all claim on account of an offence or debt”. By forgiving one actually frees oneself from pain. Negative feelings like hatred and revenge only lead to ill health and loss of peace of mind.
Forgiveness is propagated by all religions. In fact all religions urge the followers to learn to forgive. When you harbor ill-will towards the person who has caused you harm, your mind is cluttered with negative feelings. Forgiveness is given to the living as well as the dead. This action releases the person from the past and enables him/her to move forward with a light heart.
But for a person to be able to forgive, the offender must apologize. This will enable the victim to offer forgiveness, it is easier for him/her to consider forgiving. Have you seen children, they forgive so easily? They do not harbor any ill-will towards anyone for long. All you have to say is sorry, and they smile. Their slight is forgotten and the offender is forgiven. But it is very difficult to get children to say sorry!
Is it so easy to forgive? One can forgive small transgressions, but something like rape, murder and financial ruin? Surely the emotion will be revenge? Christianity advocates to turn the other cheek when one is slapped on one cheek. But if violation has occurred, can you bring yourself to forgive?
I have come across people who have forgiven the murderer of their family members. Even a mother has forgiven the rapist and murderer of her only daughter. She said it released her from the past and made it possible for her to grieve for her daughter fully. She decided to follow her religious teachings and found it in her heart to forgive the culprit.
When one carries the negative feelings, it is like the offender has control over you. You are somehow linked with the offender as all your thoughts revolve around this person and his/her act. But when you forgive, you break that link. You are no longer under that person’s control, you are in control of your feelings. The offender is powerless to impose on you and in this fashion you defeat that person.
A young girl who was raped came in for counseling. Her counselor tried to help her get over her block, she was unable to do so. But it was then suggested, if she could forgive her offender, she would find peace. This story was narrated to me by the counselor, but I do not not if the patient returned. Would she have found it in her heart to forgive her rapist? The nightmares were there, but could she bring herself to forgive?
And if one has to learn to forgive such an offender, it will require a lot of personal grit. One should be clear and do it with complete faith and trust. When you pray to the Lord and ask to be forgiven for yours sins, you expect the Lord to forgive you. It gives you tremendous sense of salvation. Same way if someone were to ask for your forgiveness, you too should find it in you to do so. A person who forgives an offender of a great crime, will be great him/herself.