Learn the art of forgiving | Sunday Observer

Learn the art of forgiving

Forgiveness is the spiritual act of compassionately releasing resentments, anger or the desire to punish someone for an offence committed by them. A Stanford University research study shows that practicing forgiveness decreases stress, anger and psychosomatic symptoms. Forgiveness comes from your highest self, an expansion of vision. Ultimately, it does more for you than for anyone else because it liberates you from negativity and lets you move forward. However, forgiving someone may not make your anger dissolve totally, but it will give you the freedom of knowing you are so much more. Forgiveness refers to the actors, not to the act – not to the offence but to the wounded nature of the offender.

Compassion opens a hidden door to a secret world that exists beyond anger. The feelings of anger or forgiveness are not mutually exclusive. You can simultaneously experience varying degrees of both. By the way, it is quite natural to feel angry when someone does something wrong to you. However, revenge reduces you to your worst self, putting you on the same level with those spiteful people we claim to abhor. To thrive personally we should resist the lust for revenge. However, watching someone get away with something you possess may not be easy to bear.

Judith Orloff in Emotional Freedom explains how to practice forgiveness step by step. The first step is to identify the person you are angry with. Secondly, you should address your feelings honestly. For this purpose talking to your friends or an elderly person will help. If you cannot find someone to confide your problems, write down your feelings in a journal. Thirdly, begin to forgive. Always remember that compassion is a paradigm-shifting spiritual solution for transforming anger.


There is nothing instinctive or easy about forgiving, but the benefits are beyond measure. Graciella Martinez who lived in Cuba in the early days of Castro’s rise to power was devastated when her 15-year-old son was executed in her presence. She vowed revenge and wanted to get even with his assassins. For ten years she plotted and planned for retaliation. But when she remembered her son’s last words, “Don’t hate them” she decided to forgive the assassins. As hate had consumed all her energies, she wanted to free herself from the self-made prison. At a workshop on forgiveness she unfolded her story and said she found it extremely difficult to forgive her son’s killers. However, she learned the restorative and creative force of forgiveness in the process.

Alexander Pope wrote, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” He considered forgiveness as something divine. Very often we get offended by someone’s thoughtless remark, rejection or deliberate cruelty. On such occasions ,if we can pretend that we have not been hurt, we can forgive the offender.

Abigail Van Buren, a newspaper columnist once asked women readers if they had forgiven unfaithful husbands. He received an overwhelming number of replies. In fact, one woman said, “What a grand and glorious thing it is to rise above the hurt.” Others admitted that it was not easy to forgive their errant husbands. But they generally agreed that the rewards of forgiveness are numerous.


The popular saying “Forget and forgive” is somewhat misleading. Even when we forgive someone, we do not forget what they did to us. The woman who forgave her husband’s philandering will not forget his weakness for women. However, she does not want to mess up her family life because of his errant behaviour.

Even when you forgive an offender, there is usually a pause between the hurt and the time when trust and love can take root again. A young married couple in my neighbourhood lived very happily for a couple of years. One day the wife came to know that her husband was having an affair with another woman. After a bitter quarrel, the husband went away leaving his wife and two children. After a week he came back seeking her wife’s forgiveness. Although she had not forgotten what he had done, she forgave him for his unfaithfulness.

Whatever the offence, our ability to forgive cannot be rushed. We need time to confront our hurt and to face our wounds head-on. Then only , are we ready to forgive. We often hear of fights between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. But one smart daughter-in-law began to ignore her mother-in-law’s harsh criticism repeatedly. One day the mother-in-law told her daughter-in-law, “I don’t think you take me seriously.” The daughter-in-law calmly said, “I don’t take all your criticisms seriously, but I take you seriously.” That was the beginning of a new relationship between them.

Love’s power

Almost all of us, sometime or other, have been deeply hurt, knowingly or unknowingly, by someone we love. They may be our parents, lovers, spouses, children or friends we trusted and cared about. If we feel the treatment we received was completely unfair or undeserved, it may continue to fester and leave us with a permanent scar unless we forgive the offender. Fortunately, love’s power to forgive is stronger than hate’s power to take revenge. By forgiving wrongdoers we bring fairness into this unfair world. If we do not forgive, our wounds can turn into hate.

There are certain misconceptions about the art of forgiving. Does forgiving someone mean losing your dignity? It is a myth. As the hate habit is hard to break, you have to be extra patient. Being human, all of us have our own brand of frailties. Therefore, you cannot expect others to be made in your image. Look around the world where people ask for an eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth. All of them will perish. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “If we insist on an eye for an eye, the whole world will be blind.”

Young people may not meet totally good or totally bad people. What is important is that there is no reason to be ashamed of human errors. A declaration of forgiveness may appear to be na?ve, weak, utopian, and even outrageous. Many members of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church endured harassment, threats, beatings and house-bombings in the 1950s. They met Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for advice.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded them what Jesus Christ had said, “Love your enemy.” We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate. We get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. Those who forgive restore the self-worth to the offender. They experience such peace that they lose the urge to retaliate. Such people begin to live as freer persons, unshackled by the weight of the hurt.

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