By Vidagdha Madhav Das

Tolerance, fortitude and forgiveness – these qualities are born of a person with divine destiny, O Bharata. (Bhagavad Gita 16.3)

If we are going through emotions of hurt, pain, bitterness, fear, resentment or anguish, we need to take the sweet medicine of forgiveness. Yes! Forgiveness is something we do for our own benefit so that we can personally free ourselves from the stagnations – both physical and psychological. It has nothing to do with the other person’s feelings of remorse or lack of remorse. It takes place within our own mind – creating an escape route for the negative energy that is circulating due to the pain and hurt.

Let’s be clear. Forgiveness is not a magic pill. Just because we tell our self or someone that we ‘forgive that person’ for his/her actions or behavior doesn’t mean that our emotional pain and memory will be magically erased. We cannot suddenly begin to act as if nothing has happened and continue to associate with that person fully. The ill-feelings or memories may continue to linger and resurface whenever we come across that person or environment. However, each time they resurface, forgiveness is to whisper a different message to ourselves. Here is where the knowledge of the Bhagavad Gita can help us!

Bhagavad Gita teaches that the quality of forgiveness is inherent in the life of a person who understands the spiritual truths. One sees every situation as an opportunity to grow spiritually. Spiritual growth is based upon our ability to thank God in all circumstances – even in adversities and reversals. And because every soul is a part of God, one learns to see all the souls with compassion, understanding and forgiveness.

Forgiveness, however, does not mean that we turn ourselves into a punching bag allowing others to continuously throw blows at us, nor does it mean that we become a doormat for others to walk over and wipe their feet. If another person chooses to be continuously obnoxious, we cannot allow their nonsense to impose itself upon us in any way. We should certainly remove ourselves from a position where we function as target of another’s attacks.

Forgiveness does mean the following:

  1. We are not going to allow the person who hurt us to continue hurting us by constantly holding onto them or their actions. The more we hold onto the anger associated with the event, the more we allow the person to repeatedly assault us.
  2. We no longer want to keep living in the past.
  3. We are ready to live in the present by making healthy choices that are not clouded by past negative influences.
  4. We are ready to be loving always, not only when someone else acts favorably. The spirit of love is to know what is actually best for us as well as what is best for the other person’s spiritual well-being.

Here are four ways that forgiveness benefits us at all levels – physically, emotionally and spiritually as well.

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Forgiveness calms us

When we hold unhealthy anger, it is like holding a burning hot charcoal in our hand or keeping the toxic poison of hatred and ill-intentions within our mind. We want to hold on waiting to retaliate and hurt the object of our abuse. In the course of doing so, we torture ourselves for days, weeks and sometimes even years. Bhagavad Gita (16.21) says, “Anger is the gateway to hell. Everyone sane man should give it up, for it leads to the degradation of the soul.” Health research also proves that such feelings deteriorate our own life. Forgiveness, therefore, helps us to become peaceful and gives rise to a myriad of psycho-physical benefits like less anxiety, freedom from depression, better immune system and good heart health.

Forgiveness opens the door for healthier relationships

Unless we begin to understand another’s person position or point of view, we cannot forgive that person. We do not have to agree with it, we just need to understand it. We need to walk in their shoes for a short time. This is difficult because we are not them! We do not possess their characteristics or background. But by learning to understand their side, we open the door of empathy. We may develop realistic expectations and build bridges for healthier relationships. “Without forgiveness no relationships can be satisfying; no relationships can survive,” says Radhanath Swami, a spiritual leader and community builder.

To hear the podcast of Radhanath Swami on “Forgiveness- the basis of all relationships”, click here.

Forgiveness creates great inner strength

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong,” said Mahatma Gandhi. To be able to forgive someone who has harmed us is a very powerful quality. It takes great strength, compassion and understanding. These qualities build the strength of our character and help us realize that we too are human and have faults. We learn to see everyone with a mature vision and not expect perfection. We accept the fact that each person is on their path of evolution. We gain freedom from the tendency to make judgment of others.

Forgiveness paves the path for spiritual happiness

Forgiveness requires spirituality on some level. Bhagavad Gita (2.66) says, “One who is not connected with the Supreme cannot have a steady mind, without which there is no possibility of peace. And how can there be happiness without peace?” When we view a painful event from a spiritual perspective, we choose to forgive the instrument of our suffering happily – seeing it as a blessing of God and a reaction to our past misdeeds. To make such a choice requires faith and spiritual understanding which comes by hearing from a genuine spiritual master also known as guru.

Is there anyone out in your life yet to be forgiven? Look inside your heart and set yourself free from the burden. It is not just uttering words, but to be enacted with feeling. Only YOU can make the choice of forgiveness!

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