Forgiving has never been easy for me. Being a Sagittarian (which is a fire sign) on one hand and the venomous Snake (my Chinese sign) on another, I would always place honour above forgiveness.
Recently, a friend mentioned that his prime learning from our two great epics –Ramayana and Mahabharata – is that one should stand up against dis-honor. Both the epics almost came across as scriptures professing honor (and by extension vengeance) instead of professing love. I was quick to resonate.
While a self-honoring disposition always led me towards aggression (righteous or otherwise), what redeemed me was my understanding of how energy moves and how energy gets stuck in the human energy system. My personal history made it clear to me that every time I harbored hatred towards my button-pushers I became a more miserable being.
However it is one thing to understand the importance of forgiveness cerebrally and another to go beyond the negative (retribution-seeking) sentiments that have hijacked our entire being. So I didn’t espouse forgiveness until I fully appreciated the nuances of holding on to honour.
I realized that not forgiving is like keeping the dead alive. Because the past is essentially past. Imagine the amount of fuel it takes to keep the dead alive. At the level of your biology, you quickly exhaust the daily supply of energies from the universe and are left with little to attend to the present moment. This happened to me. I was during a certain phase of life, so chock-full of resentment towards my own parents and my monotonous existence, that I could hardly muster up the courage to come out of bed. I would blame it on superficial reasons like having lost the will, but the fact remains that there was more to the story. My will couldn’t carry the weight of my resentments.
Carolyn Miss says that given the current pace of life, you can’t afford to spend more than 15 out of 100 units of energy in managing your past. I agree. I guess I reversed the ratio. I was left with 15 percent of energy to manage my present, my early twenties when I perhaps needed my enthusiasm the most.
And well all these resentments lived under the garb of honour and that makes the case for honour is tricky. Ego masks itself as honour – honour which gives us a false sense of dignity. Dignity, honour, self-respect could be fancy words, busy making a hidden case for resentment.
Honour is a third chakra trait and love belongs to the fourth chakra. After a lot of heart-burn, I told myself that I could do well for myself by forgiving and one-upping to the fourth chakra. I gradually realized that without dis-acknowledging my resentment, I had to learn to keep loving, if I can help it. I could. Not that I became lovey-dovey with my parents, but I continued doing acts of kindness and maintaining harmony. And also continued seeing things in context, seeing their deep concern for me in their boundary violations and being in gratitude for their concern.
Another aspect that nudged me forward is the concept of self-responsibility (karma). If I am the source of everything that happens to me then where is the question of holding somebody responsible? He who appears to be the culprit is actually a friend helping me feel my suppressed emotions and learn some valuable lessons in life. I realized that to think otherwise is delusion, no matter how much my vindictive self compels me to. I guess this one was the real game-changer for me – to be able to hold on to essential metaphysical truths from higher chakras rather than tribal instincts from my lower chakras. Today, while I am yet to fully sublimate my resentment towards my parents, I am in deep gratitude towards them for having gone through shit, to help me transmute my emotions.
So far so good. But now, some caveats. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone somebody’s misdeeds and let them recreate the issue. It simply means that you drop the energy of bitterness that’s polluting your inner world. You may communicate with the person or keep safe distance. But it doesn’t have to naturally equate with being a door-mat who gives the other person a clean chit to trample upon him or her once again.
Another important caveat: With bigger issues, one should not rush into forgiving. It doesn’t work that way. One can take one’s own sweet time to consciously move through the whole slew of emotions that bigger tragedies tend to beget. That way one gradually moves to a space where not much negativity is left. Done too fast, forgiveness can simply become a strategy to ward off the negative feelings that the tragedy gives rise to. Clutter gathers under the rug and manifests as a health or relationship challenge sometime later. John Welwood aptly refers to this phenomenon as ‘premature forgiveness’ borne from ‘spiritual bypassing’.
Expressing your emotions to the perceived culprit with child-like innocence can help too. It make things messier to begin with but can eventually lead to automatic forgiveness, if both parties stick to the messy conversation (with enough receptivity) for as long as it takes. Dr.Brad Blanton – the originator of Radical Honesty – shares that telling the truth about your emotions to the other person, is the quickest and most organic approach to becoming free of the trouble-some bitterness.
You could forgive the other person using a silent prayer from the comfort of your room, or you could do it inter-personally through verbalization of your feelings. But forgive you must. Either at the drop of a hat or while honouring your feelings step-by-step. After all, festering takes one nowhere. Worse, it just takes one to a place where one will find more and more occasions for festering.