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Saturday, 10 September 2016

What We Talk About When We Talk About Forgiveness



Life, even in all its simplicity is a song that we take years to absorb fully. Its predicaments are rarely answered in a straight yes or no nor are its colors ever visible as mere black and white. Its shades are grayer than they look on the surface and only the ones it chooses to test have the good or bad fortune to discover their knowledge. In the context of recalling life's many small and big struggles I recall how someone once said somewhere that many things start anew with forgiveness. But starting life anew is not the real reason why I choose to talk to you about forgiveness today. Something that we won't be talking about for the first time. Believe me, there are reasons which make me come back to the subject. This time the reason is a sincere hope of the truth, hope of honoring it and respecting it notwithstanding the distractions and difficulties involved.


It is hard to forgive when we think and proclaim that forgiving is not our thing. It becomes even harder to find that forgiveness for persons and things and memories with whom we connect deeply and the same person becomes the reason of too much pain. My childhood friend nurtured strong resentment for someone who she thought had betrayed her. She sort of disdainfully declared that forgiving isn’t quite her thing. She is my friend and we understand each other on many levels and I even know where she is coming from here. But being her friend, I also have a duty to see that she doesn’t commit herself to things unfair. Not for a moment do I wish to lecture her about the right and wrong of things. Who am I after all. Neither have I suffered the pain that she claims to have suffered nor are my expectations shattered here. But what I must remind her and everyone similarly placed is that life’s tragedies are not always someone’s doing. Life sucks and it does regardless of us having the worst or the best people around. And we simply cannot fill the unanswered questions in life, no matter how hurtful they are, with the paint of someone’s perceived guilt. 

When we choose to walk the path of love we expose ourselves to blissful and agonizing possibilities alike. And it isn’t always the other person’s fault that things don’t work out. This sort of leads to a perceptional error of what truly is the implication of any relationship. It might be the same for every stakeholder yet one or only a few of them might consider themselves on a testing tide. This, in my opinion, is many times the foundation of so many misjudgments. And it is often after we misjudge that we make the most terrible choice of not forgiving someone.

What is forgiveness after all? Underneath the ornamental adages and solemn verses often employed to explain its meaning, forgiveness is simply the act of being able to understand. Just ask yourself if you lack this ability or do you possess it. I want you to ask this question because what really concerns me is the alarmingly large number of times there is a mistaken discernment of truth under which these decisions to forgive or not forgive are taken.

Anyone who knows the colossal power of circumstances knows what it can have you do. It can break through the most foolproof barrier of logic and rationales. So even if I may, on a rigid interpretation of things, hold him accountable, I'd still be very careful as to what punishment I sentence him to. Sometimes our acts may hurt despite that hurt never being our real intention. We can't afford to forget the difference. That difference may at times be hazy but it makes all the difference between what is fair and what is outright injustice.

But my friend’s was a heart pining in love and loss. Sometimes for a pining heart, drops of joy are squeezed away and that can trick the mind and turn the most ostensible truth into a lie. I cannot ignore how the man, my friend’s perceived tormentor is equally a victim of the circumstances. But that's a truth which is way beyond my friend's reach. Such truths are never meant to reveal themselves and we spend our lives thinking that what we have been allowed to see is the whole thing.

It is therefore sometimes a common notion that we are alright in not forgiving, thinking that we have enough reasons to choose how we choose. But are we careful enough to judge the basis of that choice? To weigh it in the scales of right and wrong? In simple words, when we decide not to forgive someone do we ask ourselves whether we know how even a short walk in his shoes feels like. What if he is blameless? Maybe not to an unconcerned onlooker but to one who is ready to understand the ‘why’ of things. Truth is, forgiveness is not as much the issue here as is the tragic perception of what’s faulty in someone’s acts. To that misconception there is the most unspeakable consequence.

We need to remember that when we decide to declare someone guilty and unworthy of forgiveness we must be absolutely certain that he deserves it. We must make sure that there is nothing to mitigate his culpability. That there is nothing hidden in the dark which we never saw, which we never could have seen, things that make an exception. The next time you decide to pull up your wits and declare that ‘I can’t forgive’ think again. There might just be a thorn in the shoe that person wears, one that makes him bleed all the same, the blood whose marks you won’t ever see.








14 comments:

  1. One can forgive if the person involved tries to make amends by going an extra mile. Otherwise it is impossible to really forgive.

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    1. Agree Uppalji. Totally agree. But what if the person is not wrong by choice. What if his failings are consequences of circumstances. I believe in that case it would be the duty of both to walk that extra mile.

      Thank you for sharing your views. Always value them Ma'm.

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  2. It is very difficult to forgive someone in the real sense, I think. Personally, I forgive, yes, I do. But, I NEVER forget...

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    1. It's all about understanding Mani. Especially in cases where there's more to than meets the eye. Think about it.

      Thanks for reading.3

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  3. Anupam, I do not know if you have read that short story 'Panch Parmeshwar' by the legendary Hindi writer Premchand. Together, the tears of the forgiver and the one forgiven should be able to cleanse the most stubborn cinders. We all come come to forgive or be forgiven at some point or other in our lives. However, sometimes it may take a lifetime to forgive someone.

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    1. Just the idea of what you have written melts my heart, the tears of the forgiver and the forgiven. Could not agree with you more Umaji. Maybe knowing the truth, one that often eludes our tempted minds, would do away with the whole forgiving act itself.

      And yes I'm going to read Panch Parmeshwar. Long ago I'd given up reading Hindi fiction. It's about time.

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  4. There were years in the past where i thought forgivenes did not exist in my world! But everything in this world including your write-up and my beliefs are perceptions. Every person defines his/her actions depending on the perceptions they believe in, so no one is right or wrong in true sense. Just like my right is someone's left!
    So I believe if someone has hurt me, forgive and move-on. This makes my life easier and less stressfull.

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    1. Rashmi,

      What you have said is so true. And why only forgiveness, the logic of perception holds good for most things in life. Everything is relative. True.

      But what I've tried to remind ourselves through the essay here is whether or not it should be one consideration in our minds to find out whether the perception is not misguided. Sometimes the realization of that can make all the difference.

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  5. I agree with your conclusion. One must have patience to get all the facts.

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  6. We all forgive, eventually, don't we? Maybe not in the fullness of its purity. If we didn't forgive constantly, there would have been so much more strife on the earth, I think.

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  7. I agree with you. However forgiving is easier said than done.

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