The first stage of forgiveness is hurt. Someone has been unfair to me and I cannot forget it. I feel hurt. The hurt keeps on throbbing within me. My ego is hurt.
A woman met a holy man and confessed that she resented a prominent sister of the community. The holy man said to her, “Go to her immediately. Don’t try to justify yourself. Tell her that you have had unkind thoughts about her. Be humble and ask for forgiveness.”
The woman said, “I can’t forget the hurt she had inflicted on me.” But the person who holds a grudge injures himself more than the one against whom the grudge is held. Hurt leads to hate, which is the second stage. I cannot forget how much I have been hurt and I cannot send out thoughts of goodwill to my enemy. In some cases, I hate the person so much that I want him to suffer, as much as I am suffering.
Madam Chiang Kai Shek, we read, hated the Japanese. Her mother was a pious woman. Madam Chiang Kai Shek said to her, “Why don’t you pray to God that Japan may drown in the waters of the ocean?” Her mother, of course, said to her, “My child, how can I offer such an evil prayer?”
Hatred was painted by an artist as an old man shriveled up and pale as death, clutching in his jaws lighted torches and serpents, and cruelly tearing out his own heart with black, decayed teeth.
Explaining the picture, the artist said, “Hatred is an old man because it is as ancient as mankind, pale because he who hates, torments himself and lives a tragic life, with claws because it is so unmerciful, with torches and serpents because it creates discord, and it tears out its heart because it is self-destructive.”
In the third stage, God’s grace descends on me and I begin to see the person who has hurt me in a new light and begin to understand his difficulty. I feel healed. I am free again.
A girl came to a holy man and said, “I know not why, but I am unable to sit in silence and pray or meditate. I feel restless. I used to be so happy … I think it has something to do with one whom, at one time, I regarded as a friend. But she was very cruel to me, and I said that I would never forgive her, never talk to her. I am sorry I said it, but since then there has been no peace in my heart.”
The holy man said, “It is better to break a bad vow than to keep it. Go to her and seek her forgiveness.” The next morning, she went to her friend and confessed her uncharitable attitude and asked her forgiveness.
The one whose forgiveness was sought burst into tears. She said, “You have come to ask for forgiveness. It is I who should be asking for forgiveness, for I am ashamed of my wrong attitude.” The two friends were reconciled.
The fourth stage is of coming together. I am anxious to make friends with the person who hurt me. I invite him into my life. I share my love with him and we both move to a new and healed relationship.
The writer is a contributor to the Times of India. [Courtesy: ToI]