(Disclaimer : Below is a written account of my personal understanding and opinions, it does not reflect upon others understanding and opinions of the same topic)
Much has been written about the subject of forgiveness. Almost all of them say that it is the beginning of your personal healing. But, how does anyone actually forgive? Some people who can freely forgive others, but yet others find it hard to forgive. Young children can forgive and forget at the drop of a hat. Our animal friends can forgive just as easily too. But, us adults are so complicated, we have so many historical meaning and attachments tied to the act, or the person who committed the act that sometimes forgiving is not an easy task. However, most agree that forgiving is a personal act that no one can enforce on anyone.
Alexander Pope said that “to err is human, to forgive divine.” Volumes of writings found on the web all say that forgiveness does not mean that what he/she did is OK, but it is the act of letting go of whatever negative feelings you have for the person who committed the act that has hurt you so much, and to set up your own personal boundaries with that person so that the pattern does not repeat itself again. As much web surfing as I had done to find the real meaning of forgiveness, and find out how to actually do it and actually put it into practice; none of it actually felt right. I still could not staunch that surge of emotions at the mere sight of the “offending” person in question.
This one day of clarity happen as I chanced a upon an article written about “loving without knowing how to love” as preached by this Vietnamese Buddhist monk who currently resides in France. Thich Nhat Hanh said “to love another is to fully understand his or her suffering”, I understood this as understanding someone’s past and present, and what he/she is going through. He further goes on to say that due to being caught up with our day to day lives, we never fully understand anyone’s suffering, and hence missed out on the fact that what everyone needed was just understanding.
After I took all that I had read to heart, and adding to all the other psychological theories swirling in my head about conditioning, social learning theory, etc; I think I finally understand what forgiveness is and how to do it correctly now. When I come in from the perspective of the motivations of the offensive act, I start to see how and why this offensive person may have come to act that way. The anger in me came from the fact that I wanted to see this person suffer the retribution for his/her act of gross injustice; and I wanted to be the person to deliver it if possible. But, when I saw the real motivation behind the act, the anger ceased, and I started feeling sorry for this person’s inability to reflect upon his/her own actions. And, I decided to let their own karma take care of it, after all they are responsible for their own actions and path taken. All I needed to do was to define the personal boundaries and made sure that he/she does not cross it.
I shall end this writing with a quote from the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh – “Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love.”
I had a mini “Ah-Ha” moment the other day when I was thinking about a parent child relationship. I think most people go through life without realizing this little fact, most just take it for granted. Our attitude in any parent-child relationship (I am referring the the blood-type relationship of a parent and child, adoption included, NOT referring to the Parent-Child-Adult relationship of Transactional Analysis), is one that is almost akin to “god given right”, as in “I am the parent you jolly well listen to me and act accordingly.” That appears to be the norm in almost any culture. Parents, have literally forgotten to ponder about the fact that do you really think you actually have power over your child? Apply that in a broader sense to anyone who is seen as an Authoritarian, or Authoritative figure, do you really think you actually hold the “power” over your subjects to be able to get him/her/them to do anything?
The answer in both cases unfortunately is “No”. He/she who has what appears to be “power” has only been given that “power” because those below you have willingly surrendered their own personal power to you so that you may do your job to serve them, or guide them, with their best interest at heart. In the parent-child case, the child surrendered his/her personal autonomy to you so that you may bring, guide, feed, and protect, etc, your child. Of course, the child may not know that due to his/her underdeveloped cognitive capacities. In the case of an Authoritarian, or Authoritative figure; your power exists for as long as the people under you lets you have it. If everyone under you prefers to die, or run away to somewhere else (or in some cases overthrow you), over doing your bidding, pretty soon you will be a lonesome person with no more power over anyone else except yourself. Your power to create fear over others so that you can continue maintaining the facade of having power has a limited lifespan.
Therefore people who are in positions of “power” (parents included) be mindful about the reasons you hold that power. “Power” comes with a certain level of responsibility. That responsibility is to act with honor on behalf of your charges under you.