Forgiveness – The most elusive virtue of all?

I’m currently reading a wonderful book titled The Happy and Harmonious Family. Its author, Acharya Mahapragya, makes the meaningful point that it is within the family that individuals absorb the traits and values that shape who we eventually become. It follows that we should not take our responsibilities as parents lightly.


In this day and age many, if not most, parents in the Western World, concern themselves with training their children to be high achievers in a consumerist society. In plain words, we teach our kids that the more money they make (determined by their adherence to academic achievements and their ability to sell themselves in a competitive world), the more material goods they can gather to themselves, with the implication that this will make them happy. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Happiness is the fruit of inner peace, not of competition, materialism and the self-centredness that lies at the heart of our society. And the family is the primary unit of society. If families fail in their quest for harmony, then society fails also. That leaves us with a world in which the very earth itself is desecrated for what it can ‘supply’, and in which atrocities like rape, murder, theft and abuse abound.


Now what does this have to do with forgiveness? Mahapragya emphasises the value of tolerance, of which one of the deepest roots is forgiveness. We cannot live in harmony while we hold onto grudges against those we perceive have wronged us. Nor can we experience that inner peace, which is so necessary for the development of familial and societal harmony, if we are unable to forgive ourselves. The latter is something that has held a particular poignancy for me these past weeks, as I’ve come to realise that not only have I recently hurt others with my anger, but I have harmed myself equally. To forgive myself has been excruciatingly difficult. To forgive the others has been the lesser task, though by no means easy. I have worn two years worth of hostility and blame that rightly does not belong to me. The true target should have been someone else but perhaps I’ve been easy prey simply because I’m normally calm and reasonable, and honestly don’t believe in shouting matches or retaliation. I’ve believed that in an intellectual sense and have mostly succeeded, though not without a huge toll on my stress levels and therefore my health.


Enter my own beast unleashed. As with anyone, I have my breaking point, and break down I did. Spectacularly! My light-bulb moment arrived when I understood that I needed to take my intellectual understandings and beliefs directly into my heart and soul. It took the shock of looking at the beast in the mirror – myself – and coming to terms with the fact that an ugly creature resided within. I needed to face it down; and face it down I did. My soul took over, telling me that I’m able to soothe and calm that monster, to feed it good spiritual nutrition, and while it may ever reside within me, it is only one small aspect of myself. One of the best strategies for keeping these monsters quiet is to find our spiritual strengths, develop and nurture them till they come to the fore, almost automatically, when our monsters try to raise their ugly heads.


I didn’t realise this post was destined to become so esoteric but there is no better way for me to express my truth.


I also see that while I’ve forgiven myself and forgiven (deeply and permanently) those who’ve hurt me during these past years, these dear ones have not forgiven me. And that’s okay. For now. But it saddens me to know it will continue to harm them during their own life journeys and who knows how deep that pain may be? Where and how will it end? I know that I must let it go…and that perhaps, is my next lesson in life. The lessons never end. When they do, our journey is over.


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