Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness but because you deserve peace.—- Buddha
When I was younger, I used to get hurt easily. I used to carry that hurt in my heart for the longest time and suffer. I never realized that by not forgetting or forgiving, the only person whom I was punishing was ME. I used to replay the hurtful incidence again and again in my mind and get hurt all over again. I never took any action and suffered in silence. Thanks to a phenomenon called maturity, I realized that there is no point in keeping grievances and I should learn the art to forgive and forget.
Forgiving is not as easy as the umpteen articles on the internet claim to be. Those articles behave as if ‘forgive and let go’ is as easy as floating a paper boat on the water. It takes time, patience, practice, resilience and perseverance to forgive a person or forget trauma. It is not easy and it never happens overnight but once it happens you realize how relieved you are.
When I was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, my urologist said that one of the psychological reasons was that I have been holding grudges inside me. Therefore, he said that the first step for my healing was to get rid of the grudges.
Did you know holding grudges can actually tighten your pelvic floor muscle and cause numerous diseases? Holding grudges for long time can also lead to mental disorders, various auto-immune diseases, migraine, psoriasis, digestive disorders and even cancer.
It is almost four years since the diagnosis and I am trying to get rid of all the hurt and pain that I was holding within. Gradually, I am becoming a more relaxed person, my anger is going down and I have become calmer and happier. Well, there are still days or months when I feel extremely blue but then there are also days when I feel euphoric. Forgiving others is still a WIP and I am gradually doing better.
Let me list down the things I am doing to forgive others and let go:
Making myself a priority: All my life I have played a second lead or perhaps a junior artist in the movie called ‘my life’. I used to feel that I deserve to be abused. I believed that I don’t deserve love, empathy, kindness or compassion. I always made myself stand in the firing line. However, now I have made myself a priority and I do not let anyone hurt me as easily as they could earlier. I have learnt that if I do not protect myself, nobody else is going to protect me. So, the moment I see something is hurting me or has the potential to hurt me, I remove myself from that situation.
Remove Toxic People: There are few people who are toxic and neither they nor you realize until it is too late. I have started avoiding these toxic people like plague. I have removed these people from my calling list, unfollowed/unfriended/blocked (depending on their level of toxicity) them on social media, stopped meeting them, and all of a sudden I see that the toxicity in my life has reduced drastically. Prevention is better than cure.
List of people who wronged me: We all have a list of people who hurt us. It can start with parents, siblings, relatives, teachers, classmates, bosses, co-workers, ex-partner, spouse, in-laws, neighbors, government, the system etc. Depending on the person who hurt you the most it is better to make a list in descending order. With the person who hurt the most being on top of the list and the one who hurt least at the bottom.
Putting yourself in the shoes of the other person: Once you make the list, start with the person who hurt you the least and try to understand why he/she did that. Put yourself in that person’s shoes and try to understand the reason. Then try to empathize and in most cases, you will see a reason behind their particular behavior. Be kind to that person and without extra effort you will be able to forgive. Tick off that person from the list and move on to the next person.
For example I used to have grudge against a teacher who used to call me ‘blacky’ for my dark skin. But now I realize that I was indeed a black girl in a class full of fair Sikkimese kids. That lady did not have the sensitivity to realize that she was being racist. She was doing it in a matter-of-fact way to distinguish me from the others.
Talk to the person who hurt you: Communication is indeed the key. You would be surprised to know that it becomes so much easier once you talk to that person. However, instead of saying ‘you hurt me’ always say ‘I felt hurt when you did…’ trust me in most cases the person would seek forgiveness from you and the toxicity would melt.
For a long time, I had grudge against a cousin, I had never discussed it before but recently during a family gathering I told her, and to my surprise, she said that she had no idea that her behavior hurt me so much. She not only apologized but today we have become extremely close to each other and not a single day goes when we do not talk.
Redeem Yourself: At times the other person hurts us because they had felt hurt by us. Both of you keep on holding grudges for years. In those cases, it is best to discuss and if you have done wrong to them it is best to seek forgiveness honestly.
I felt hurt by a college friend who was extremely nasty towards me, for years we didn’t speak and hated each other. Then a common friend died and we met during the funeral. We spoke to each other after ages and then I realized that she felt equally hurt by me. She was from a village and was not good in English and I was this convent-educated bully who made fun of her English. When I had made fun of her English, I had honestly done it in a light-hearted manner never realizing how much she felt hurt. I felt terribly ashamed and asked her to forgive me. Today, we count each other as BFFs.
Accept that some people are Evil: Once you start doing the above exercise, you will see that many of them did not hurt you deliberately; many did it under pressure or circumstances. Once you understand their reason it would be easier to forgive. However, there are few people who deliberately hurt you. Some people are EVIL, TOXIC and SADISTS who actually find pleasure in hurting others. Like the Uncle who touched you inappropriately when you were a kid, or the boyfriend who slept with your best friend, or the husband who thrashed you because you forgot to put salt in the daal, or the mother-in-law who made you work from dawn to dusk or the colleague who stole your presentation, or the boss who screamed at you in front of others for no fault of yours. The list is endless. These people are like tough stains and it is not easy to forgive them easily.
Avoid them: The best thing is to avoid them like a plague. Keep no contact with them and try not to think about them. If you find yourself thinking about them or what they did to you then pinch yourself hard and divert your attention to something else. Once you stop staying in touch, gradually with time the pain would heal and you would be able to forgive them. They wouldn’t matter anymore.
However, thanks to social media and our primitive stalking instincts we often never avoid them and start getting freshly wounded. I used to frequently visit my ex’s profile and get freshly hurt when I used to see him happily married with a child. I was not being able to forget or forgive him. Then I deliberately stopped visiting his profile and almost did a ‘carrot and stick’ thing. Gradually I stopped the desire to stalk him and started feeling good.
Those who hurt others are unhappy souls: If a person is deliberately hurting others then that person is mentally sick. You can never change them. It is best to accept them the way they are. These people are devil’s incarnations and they are here just to hurt others. The best is to protect yourself from them like the way you would protect yourself from a fire. If you can avoid these people good if not then try not to get hurt easily. Ignore them, put earplugs, tell yourself that this person is sick and most importantly try not to retaliate. Draw a boundary and don’t let them cross that. Cry, pour your heart out, write it down, draw, do whatever makes you feel better. If things get beyond control seek help from police/counselors/friends or family.
Speak Up: It may sound contradictory because above I asked you not to retaliate. Try to control your anger and don’t retaliate when you are also angry but then not speaking up ever is also not good. If you see a wrong, speak up. Be calm when you do this. It may help you release some pent-up emotions.
Pray for them: These people need your prayers. All religion tells us the same. So pray for these people. Be kind and compassionate. Practice empathy. Try and avoid quarrels and conflict as much as possible. Toxic people will instigate you because they thrive on this but try to avoid it. There is no end to blame games.
Let Karma finds its way: Forgiving is the best thing but at times revenge sounds sweet. But don’t try to take revenge yourself. Let Karma find its way. Karma is a bitch and has spared nobody. Trust in Karma and relax.