By: Surjit Singh Flora
To enjoy life peacefully, a very important aspect is to learn to forgive.
Forgiveness is to let go that which no longer serves us, freeing us to heal and move forward with ease and lightness. But for many of us, forgiving is a very hard thing to do.
The simplest things in life are often the best gifts. But they may also not be that simple.
The best gift people can give to each other are the gifts of forgiveness, peace, love, respect, and a smile, as we forget all the wrongs, we believe have been done to us.
Have we thought about giving ourselves the gift of forgiveness this year?
The way I learnt it was back when we came to Canada in 1989. At the time I didn’t speak or understand any English and was living at my aunt’s house with her family and my family being together. It started small, but over time it had an insidious effect. My aunt started teasing us, which slowly turned to insult, then bullying behaviour: we are useless here, we will be struggling, doing factory labour work… and on, and on. It started as just a joke but later turned into real verbal bullying.
At first, I thought it was nothing serious. No big deal. I thought she might realize and will change one day.
But slowly I started feeling depressed and began to brood about it. That eventually turned to actual, physical headaches every day. I felt like as if I was in hell. My mother was trying to help me, but as the bullying was not stopping, we decided that the only solution was to move to another place. And we did finally move out and get our own apartment — and then I had no more problems with bullying. But I also never showed my face to my aunt for a good five years after that. So much so that she noticed and began to complain to my mom and elder sisters.
One day we met at a family event, and she demonstrated to me, “What have I done wrong?” I explained to her, “Aunty, I love you and will always have respect for you and your opinions. But in this case, I am finding it very hard to dismiss the nasty comments you made about me and my family. I found I could not let such remarks go. They were hurtful, cruel… and though you aimed them to me and my family, I was the one you hurt. I hope that was unintentional.” She realized her part and felt bad and said, “Sorry!” Anyways, it will remain as an awful memory.
The road to forgiveness, it was hard. But I learnt to forgive her, with patience. It took time. When I thought of her, the urge to avoid her — worse, to get back at her, and treat her in kind — was strong. But I worked hard to get it off my chest and forgive her, and then I felt much better. True, I may never be able to forget what she did to me. But when I eventually learnt to forgive, it released the burden, and the floodgates of my negative emotions!
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or minimizing the pain we feel, nor is it about excusing others. Forgiveness means making a conscious and deliberate decision to let go of our feelings of resentment or revenge, regardless of whether the person who has upset us deserves it.
So, are you ready to be free and ready to move ahead into the future?
We have to let go of our mistakes and forgive ourselves and forgive others just as God forgives us. Completely and with no reservations!
Have a wonderful life and peace!
Surjit Singh Flora is a veteran journalist and freelance writer based in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.
Politics are coming between my partner and me. We have very different views. I tell him, over and over, that I respect him as a person even though I disagree with his political positions. It is not working. He is angry with me for not seeing the world his way. Help! What do I do?
You can start by forgiving your partner for insisting that you change your political views. This will not suffice to quell the conflict. Once you forgive, and your exasperation lessens, try to have a heart-to-heart talk. Be honest, and gentle, as you communicate your frustration with his insistence. Try to reach reconciliation by talking out specific ways in which both of you can respect each other as persons even with political differences. It will take time and effort, but may work.
For additional information, see Forgiveness for Couples.
I have been engaging in relaxation training to overcome my anger toward a family member. It seems to be working, but at times my anger wells up and makes me uncomfortable. My question is this: Is relaxation training sufficient or not to overcoming anger?
Relaxation training may be sufficient if the injustice you experienced is not severe. If, on the other hand, it was a severe injustice, then relaxation by itself may only quell symptoms and not be a cure for your resentment. Resentment, or deep and abiding anger, is not necessarily cured by relaxing because, once you are finished relaxing, the anger can return. When you forgive, the resentment can be cured.
For additional information, see How to Forgive.
I am growing impatient. I have asked my partner for forgiveness and it is not forthcoming. I have been waiting for weeks. Do you have some advice for me?
The advice I can give at this point is patience. Forgiving is the other person’s decision and that person may need more time. Also, the person may not be convinced of your apology. Have you done what you can to make up for the injustice? This may help lower the other’s anger and lead to forgiveness for you.
For additional information, see Learning to Forgive Others.
Syrian children have watched their parents die or have assisted in carrying out their parents’ bodies. What would you advise for these children?
We first have to realize that forgiveness belongs to those who rationally conclude that they have been wronged. Even if others say, “You have no right to forgive because there is no injustice here,” this does not mean that the children now are frozen in their decisions to forgive. Some, perhaps the majority, of children who have such a traumatic experience, may develop severe resentment. This resentment could destroy their lives in the future, even in the distant future because the damaging effects of resentment may not be manifested for years. So, if there is the poison of resentment and if the children, as they grow up, decide to forgive, they should do so. A question is whether they are able to identify specific people to forgive or whether they will end up forgiving a system and which system that will be.
For additional information, see Healing Hearts, Building Peace.