(I thought I should make this clarification since the comments I have been getting are all stressing on the forgive and forget aspect, which I have not talked about. This post is not about forgiveness per se but about letting go of hurts and the thoughts of retribution. It also does not pertain to heinous crimes and violence)
We so often do and say things that we might never do if we paused to think about the consequences. Many a time, we repent our actions in hindsight, at times almost immediately after the words are out or deed is done. We wish we could take them back instantly!
But can we ever undo a wrong? No matter how hard we try to make amends for such actions, the damage can never be undone, at least not completely. It is like trying to stick a broken mirror back to its original wholeness.
We think it is our duty to correct people to conform to what we consider is right. We wait for opportunities, when we can get back at them with complete justification to hammer our beliefs and thoughts into their heads. We self-righteously believe that we have to show them the mistake of their ways and make them repentant and surrender to our righteousness. Half the time, we base these actions on what we believe to be right or wrong of course, with ourselves in the beneficiary’s role. Looking at the other side rarely occurs to us in our enraged state.
Curiously sometimes the hurt is just notional or a perceived one, where nothing more than our egos have been hurt. And yet we carry it around for years, nursing it, nurturing and feeding it till it becomes a big entity, which threatens not only to consume us but also displace other pleasant and more important thoughts from our minds and life.
We discuss the hurt in detail, thrash out the events leading up to it with friends and well-wishers, our own outrage at the time the event happened and the following suffering — thereby giving it life all over again. And believe me, such tales assume bigger proportions with every fresh recounting.
We plot, we plan, we scheme and deliver the punch when we think the time is ripe. At times, such an action actually gives us some measure of satisfaction. We are after all only giving back what we got in the first place, aren’t we? The hurt could sometimes be several years and even decades old and the perpetrators might have become subdued or changed for the better in other ways. Sometimes the objects of our hatred and anger are not even present in our midst. Sometimes they might even be dead, and yet we refuse to throw out the baggage we are lugging around.
We don’t waste a single opportunity to make them feel guilty. We go ahead and give ‘tit for tat.’ Do we realise that one hurt can never heal another?
We often say that we want to see the one who is perpetrating harm on us to suffer too so that we may have the satisfaction of seeing them suffer. If we only paused to think, we would realise how absurd and evil such thoughts are. Can we really feel happy at someone’s suffering? Can their suffering right the wrong they did to us? Yes, if they were to realise that their suffering is the result of their misdoing, then there is some measure of satisfaction. It then gives us the power to ‘forgive’ them. But otherwise, isn’t it totally a malicious thought? More pertinently, will your own happiness come back when we see them suffer?
When we return a hurt for a hurt, it only multiplies the pain. Where one person had been hurt before, now two are hurting. And both are miserable. There is no enduring satisfaction in inflicting a hurt or seeing someone suffer.
Too, when we return a hurt for a hurt, we lose the moral advantage. Also, we free our minds from its preoccupation to plot revenge. Maybe there is some merit to martyrdom, after all?
My young friend Harshal aka Grond gave me this book titled ‘Who ordered this truckload of dung?’ by Ajahn Brahm. It is a delightful handbook of practical Buddhist wisdom which we can use in daily life. I want to share a nugget from the book here:
Someone calls you an idiot. Then you start thinking, ‘How can they call me an idiot? They have no right to call me an idiot! How rude to call me an idiot! I’ll get them back for calling me an idiot!’ And you suddenly realize that you have let them call you an idiot another four times.
Every time you remember what they said, you let them call you an idiot yet again. Therein lies the problem.
If someone calls you an idiot and you immediately let it go, then it doesn’t bother you. There is the solution.
Why let other people to control your inner happiness?
What wonderful advice! But can we follow it?
My friend used to ask me what kind of punishment I would ask for if God ever offered to punish those who had hurt me. And I invariably replied that I would not ask Him to punish them because that would not make my hurts go away or give back my past to me. I never meant it as a conceited or a noble reply but said it with complete conviction every time she asked me. I still feel that way.
This is not to say that I have learnt to move on after forgiving, but I certainly don’t want to visit similar things on those who perpetrated the hurt. And I hope one day soon to reach where I can let go of it the moment I get hurt.
How about you?
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