Forgiveness is one of those things that is easily said than done. We always hear people say that you need to forgive people who have hurt you or have done wrong to you in any way, but it somehow seems impossible.
One of the things that I have learnt in my own life is that forgiveness is not something that can be done, but something which happens on its own through understanding.
When I look back at my life and all the people that I have come across, it is surprising that there was nobody that I had any enmity with except for two people. To me, my parents were my greatest enemies.
Why were my parents my greatest enemies? I’ll get into the details of it in a bit, but before that, it is important to understand the reason why we feel anger, resentment, and hatred towards a person. Forgiveness can never be possible unless we understand the reason why we are angry or hateful towards somebody in the first place.
We are hateful towards a certain person, not because of a certain wrong act on their part, but because somehow we wanted to do a certain thing and the person stopped us from doing it.
If you make a list of all the people whom you find difficult to forgive, you will notice that the reason you are unable to forgive them is not because of a certain wrong act that they committed against you, but because you wanted to do a certain thing and these people somehow became an obstacle on your path.
Let me elaborate on this a little more with my own example. I grew up in a Christian family and ever since I was a child, my parents drilled into me certain concepts, ideas, and theories about life according to the Christian belief system. As a child, I was very obedient to my parents because I felt that whatever they were teaching me would help me when I grow up.
I was so obedient that I would listen and believe everything that my parents told me without asking a single question. As a matter of fact, as children, we are somehow naturally inclined towards believing that asking a question is wrong because that goes against religious teachings and certain family values that have been followed for generations. That is how it was in my case at least. Probably, in western countries, children are not condemned for asking questions as much as it was done in India where I was born and grew up.
Fortunately, things started to seem fishy as I grew older and a time came when all my illusions were shattered.
I would do a certain thing and get a totally different result. I realised that I was living life based on certain belief systems, concepts, and ideas which do not really apply when dealing with life.
My entire childhood seemed like a lie. I felt that my freedom was interfered with at an age where I wasn’t even able to think for myself. That was it! Since that day, my parents became my greatest enemies.
For many years, I lived with my parents and I wouldn’t communicate with them the same way I used to as a child. In fact, even if they spoke to me kindly, I would respond with anger.
It was only later when I gained a certain understanding into my own life that I realised that it wasn’t my parent’s fault as much as I thought it was. I realised that it wasn’t their intention to stop me from having my own individuality, but somehow, they too were taught the same thing by their own parents.
I remember when I first told my mother that I wasn’t going to be attending Church or praying together with the family, she was very disappointed. In fact, whenever it was time for prayer, I would leave the house.
At first, my parents were shocked to see this sort of behaviour from me, but after a month or so, they just accepted the fact that I had reached a point where nobody can convince me anymore.
You will find it surprising, but a few months after I had stopped attending mass and praying with the family together, my mother stopped as well. When I asked her why she stopped, she said to me that it was all a lie. She told me that she had no other option but to teach me what she felt was right.
That day, I had the greatest insight of my life. I realised that in this world, nobody is our enemy. In fact, if you observe people closely, everybody is going through a certain struggle in life. My parents were going through a certain struggle which they themselves weren’t aware of.
It took me a few years after this event, but I was eventually able to forgive my parents and get rid of the load I was carrying all my life.
Here are few things that I have learnt about forgiveness:
Forgiveness is never done, but something which happens:
For many years I tried my best to forgive my parents, but I just couldn’t. We are all told to forgive our enemies, but let me tell you that it is impossible to forgive anybody in this world simply because forgiveness is not something that you can do. Forgiveness simply happens.
Forgiveness happens when understanding dawns upon you. So, the first thing is: don’t try to forgive anybody, because it is impossible. What you need to do instead is try to gain an understanding of the situation.
Remember that whatever wrong anybody has done to you is never aimed towards you. Let’s take a very common example. Say, for example, your partner cheated on you. You loved your partner, you did everything for them, and they turned against you when you needed them the most.
Now you can’t forgive your partner just like that. It is impossible. Why? Because you need to understand the situation first.
You need to understand that in your place if it was anybody else, your partner would do the same thing. When a person does anything wrong, it is never aimed towards you. In fact, you are just an excuse for the other person to behave a certain way.
If it was anybody else in your place, your partner would have behaved in a similar way. The reason you find it difficult to forgive is because you think that a wrong act has been committed against you, but really, if you look deeply into the situation, you just happened to be part of the event by accident.
The Play of Existence:
I like how the Hindu’s refer to life as Leela. Leela means play. It makes me laugh at how silly that sounds but life is indeed a play, and we are all actors. If you can look at life as a play, then suddenly, nothing in the world is serious. You take everything as fun, and really, just look at your entire life and you will realise that nothing is serious.
The reason why everything looks so serious is because you think of yourself to be someone great. This is how the ego functions. When somebody hurts you, they are not really hurting you, but they are simply exposing a wound which was already there deep inside of you waiting to be exposed given the right opportunity. That wound is your ego. If there was no wound inside you, it would be impossible for the other person to hurt you.
When this understanding dawns upon you, then forgiveness is no longer a doing, but a happening.
Realising this, you can finally live a life of freedom where you don’t have to forgive anybody simply because you understand that nobody is against you in any way.
After realising my own foolishness, I never went and forgave my parents. In fact, to me, it seemed unnecessary to even say to them that I had forgiven them because there was no guilt, frustration, or resentment against them in my heart.
Always remember that you forgive someone only when you are angry at them. If there is no anger in your heart, the question of forgiveness never arises. Who is going to forgive whom? The same ego which is angry towards a certain person will try to repress itself and forgive the other person.
In fact, if you notice carefully, when you forgive someone, on the inside you feel a certain pride about yourself. You consider yourself to be virtuous because you could forgive the other person.
When you forgive another person, you are indirectly trying to put him down. You want to other person to know that you are virtuous. You want the other person to feel guilty, and that is exactly what happens. When you forgive another person, you do not do it so in order that the other person can feel better. Almost always, you forgive so that the other person feels ashamed of himself.
You forgive another person so that you can teach them a lesson. You forgive so that you can show them how pathetic they are. This is how the ego functions.
Therefore, even in forgiveness, a certain ego exists. If you are aware, you will be able to make a clear distinction between what it means to forgive someone, and what it means for forgiveness to naturally happen.
Nobody can interfere in your life:
The other thing I learnt is that you can become free the moment you choose to and nobody can stop you from doing what you want in any way.
Your worst enemies are people whom you think have somehow interfered with your growth, but that is not true from what I have experienced. As I see it, nobody is an interference to an individual’s growth.
Remember, in life, there are always two ways to look at everything. It doesn’t matter what the event, circumstance or situation is, but there is always a dual perspective.
For the most part of my life, I was looking at things from a certain perspective which made me feel like I was a victim, but the moment I switched my perspective and tried to look at my situation from a different angle, I realised that I was not a victim, but this particular incident had to happen the way it did for me to learn a few important lessons in life.
Therefore in life, there is no such thing as a wrong and a right perspective.
When a person says that life is full of sorrow the person is not wrong. In fact, life is full of sorrow if you look at it from that person’s perspective.
Similarly, another person may say that life is beautiful, and he is right as well. If you look at life through his perception, you will find that life is beautiful. Now who is right and who is wrong? Both are right.
At any given point in life, you can either choose to see yourself as a victim or a victor. You will be right irrespective of what you choose to see yourself as. The question you need to ask yourself is: “Which perspective helps me to live a happier, fulfilling, and blissful life?” Once you have decided that, you can make a clear choice without hesitation.
To sum it all up, just understand that life is not something to be taken seriously. In fact, life is not only a play but also a joke. It is not just you who are a joke, but everybody else is a joke. The surprising thing is that you can treat people with love and respect only when you are not serious.
When everything looks like a joke, then where will anger arise from? In fact, everything becomes very simple and easy. Only when things become easy can you judge rightly. Right now, all your perceptions, judgement and views about people are wrong because you yourself are so complicated.
Get out of this complicated pattern that you’ve got yourself stuck into and live life fully. Do not think in terms of forgiveness. Do not ask questions such as, “How should I Forgive?”, “Why should I forgive?”, “Why is it so difficult?”
Questions like these make you go round and round in circles. To solve any problem in life, no answers are required, but instead, a simple understanding is all that is required.
Once you understand life, then suddenly, all questions disappear. What remains then is a simple and precise understanding which is clear and unclouded, just as the sky on a perfect summer.