The ability to forgive is divine. It requires a massive heart with the capacity of a bottomless ocean of generosity. We all make mistakes, we all wish we had chosen or acted differently. We are human after all and we all move within grey zones. What is wrong by others might be right by you and vice versa. I think there is a limit to the damage you can cause others, as well as a cutoff point to the times you can forgive people for their transgressions.
In many instances time heals everything. You come to understand how events come together for the best. In those cases when time passes and the healing process is still ongoing, forgiving becomes an excuse for others to find new ways to damage, hurt and insult you. In these instances, the proverbial turning the other cheek becomes an excuse to slap your face red to their hearts content and a source of entertainment. These instances show that forgiveness is not always the answer, unless it means leaving in order to let go.
There are so many phrases concerning forgiveness. Such as:
“whatever people do, be willing to forgive”.
“Forgive those who wronged you”.
“Forgive, but do not forget”.
The spiritually inclined say the forgiveness is for you not them. When you forgive you let go of the burden of the pain they caused you. I tried to follow the goodwill intended by these saying, but instead of feeling better, I always felt like I was allowing people to walk all over me.
Being human, sometimes an apology is insufficient. I have come across people who willingly apologise, and once granted forgiveness will just find another way to cause your ire and make you look like a fool, yet again. Nevertheless, sometimes forgiveness is the only way to cut your losses and move on. This is because you need to take personal responsibility for allowing yourself, in good faith I must say, to end up on the cross roads to nowhere and walking into whatever closed street life can throw at you. When you tend to end up back at that onerous cross road, you might as well change your outlook and deal with things as best as you can. Hence, forgiveness never granted me peace of mind. Closing the door shut usually did.
Still, everyone kept telling me that I should have an open heart and forgive others no matter what. They also told me to stop acting like a scorned, angry, bitter woman, who was incapable of dealing with the past, let alone focusing on the future. Undoubtedly the future is paramount, and to make the future you want, you have to make the most of your present.
So, in relation with the forgiveness agenda, I started searching for a bullet proof reason why forgiveness was crucial, even if it made me feel angrier at myself. It is a constant struggle to turn that anger into a driving force to pursue creative endeavours. Yet, I believed I had to make a better effort finding the light at the end of the dark, narrow, humid, vermin infested tunnel.
It was during spontaneous study of the Holy Quran that I found the answers to my quest. To my big surprise I was exonerated from the burden of forgiving when I read Surah Tawbah, which I thought would be about ghosts and other invisible spiritual beings. It felt so good to be vindicated. Moreover, I have always believed that when life throws bitter gourds at you, which is probably the least palatable vegetable you can think of, religious texts usually have an answer to your most troublesome concerns. I am far from the ideal Muslim believer, but my heart sang when I read these verses:
78. Know they not that Allah doth know their secret (thought) And their secret counsel
And that Allah knoweth well
All things unseen?
79. Those who slander such of the Believers as give themselves Freely to (deeds of) charity,
as well as such as can find
Nothing to give except
the fruits of their labor
And throw ridicule on them:
And they shall have a grievous penalty.
80. Whether thou ask
For their forgiveness,
Or not (their sin is unforgiveable):
If thou ask seventy times
For their forgiveness, Allah
Will not forgive them:
Because they have rejected Allah and his Messenger; and
Allah guideth not those who are perversely rebellious.
Yusuf Ali, Abdullah (2001) Surah Tawbah in The Meaning of the Holy Quran; (amana publications: Beltsville, Maryland, USA)
On an ending note, if you have the strength to do so, always forgive. Sometimes you have to be selective in who you grant forgiveness to. In certain cases it is better to sanitise the negative elements from your surroundings. In other instances, you should show patience because when the other party is making a consistent effort to stay in your life, their efforts should be appreciated. In my opinion it is reassuring to know I have the freedom of choice in these matters.