I was having dinner with one of my dearest friends today. We were discussing several things and the atmosphere was nice, until he mentioned something and the atmosphere became heavy…
A while ago, I had a quarrel with that same friend and I stopped communicating with him for a while because I felt very hurt and angry. After a couple of months, I decided to reconnect with him since I believed that our friendship is more important than any misunderstanding. However, after discussing that issue again today, he mentioned that “it looks like I will have to atone for this mistake for the rest of my life since I feel that you will never forgive me”. Although I tried to save the rest of the evening, I still felt bad for what happened because when I decided to reconnect with my friend I also decided to forgive him for the way he hurt me back then. but it seems that I wasn’t able to completely get over the hurt and what is more interesting is that, apparently, my friend did not forgive himself either!
Forgiveness is truly difficult. Why? Because most of us humans like to feel victimized. It is part of the psychology we have been raised with and was ingrained into our psyche from an early age. We see it everywhere as a way of seeking love and attention. For example, when a child is hurt, they get more attention and love from their parents and those around them. We learned to use it to feed our ego by seeking compensations from the person(s) that caused the harm to us or from other people that may feel sorry for us. But when we forgive, it means that we let go of the this negative debt and stop getting compensation for our hurt feelings.
Forgiveness causes a dilemma to the ego because it believes that if we freed the person who hurt us from their debt to us then we no longer can seek sympathy anymore. The ego then thinks “If I don’t have this or that person to blame then whom will I blame to get the attention I want?”. The answer “I can blame myself, the world, God or all of them together”. The more; the merrier! As long as the ego feels victimized by someone (even if that someone is ourselves) the ego will feel good. It is essential to understand that the ego is just a primitive part of us. It is not doing this out of malice. It is doing what keeps it happy depending on what it knows and what it was taught to do
Having said that, I don’t mean that if we don’t forgive ourselves or those who hurt us then we are bad people. Not at all. I have always thought that it would be unfair to ask someone who was abused or tortured to forgive the person(s) who inflicted that pain on them.
Until last year, I personally was thinking that I will never forgive some of my family members who were abusive and made my life hell back in Saudi. But after reaching certain understanding (I will speak about my spiritual changes in future posts), now I know that my ego was feeding on that hurt. It kept giving me reasons to continue hating them, hating Islam and God. It gave me reasons to be angry and hurtful.
However, thankfully not too late, I realized that the disadvantages of holding onto pain and hurt is much more than of letting go. Because all the negative feelings I was holding against those family members were not hurting them, but they were destroying me. They were holding me back from living my life like heavy chains. They were blocking my future path like huge rocks. The anger and hatred inside of me were like a foul liquid bubbling in a heated cauldron. They poisoned my body, imprisoned my soul and made my life stink with depression, self-loathing and fear. I went through multiple difficulties to gain my freedom from those people only to find myself imprisoned inside my feelings toward them! I was physically free but not emotionally! The net results? I was not (and will never be) free as long as I have those negative feelings inside of me. How helpful you think that was for me? Not very helpful.
But now, I am glad to say that I am working on these negative feeling and I am proud to say that my efforts are paying off slowly but nicely. I still cant say whether I am able to completely forgive or not, but I am working to free myself from the effect of being hurt. It is not about those who hurt me anymore; it is about me. I owe them nothing, neither I want from them anything. But I owe myself to set it free and let it be happy and live the moment and the future in peace. I think if I can reach that, then I will be free and the end results will be forgiveness in my heart without even trying to achieve it.
There are certainly people who had very bad experiences in their life and they are struggling to get over them. To those people I sincerely pray they will find their way to peace. However, in most cases, the hurt inflicted on us may not be significant at the beginning (as compared to abuse and torture for example). But the more we nurture our feelings of anger and pride, the more our hurt will get out of proportion until we finally find ourselves prisoners to our negative feelings and our ego’s need of attention, which is never satisfied.
The latter was my case with my friend. However, I am fortunate to have a great relationship with him. I am also fortunate to have him care about my feelings and work to mend our friendship. Yet, my ego still tries to find a way to demand more pitiful satisfaction. So to my friend I say “I am sorry. I appreciate you and your friendship very much and I will work on keeping my ego at bay”.
Finally, to anyone reading this post. I hope you will realize that forgiveness (to yourself and others) is about you not anyone else. When you let go of any negativity inside of you, you will feel happier and live better. If the person that hurt you cares about you, then you may be able to talk to them and clear some of your negative feelings. But if it is someone who doesn’t care about you or whom you will not meet again, then your negative feelings will only fester if you don’t deal with them and they will not hurt anyone but you.
I wish you all a life full of peace, love and forgiveness…
The leaping koala 🙂
P.S: This addition came after answering a comment written by one of my friends in my personal website. I thought it is important to add it to the main text
“It is important to understand that forgiveness doesn’t mean admitting that the person(s) who needs to be forgiven didn’t hurt us or that it will erase their harmful deed. To the contrary, forgiveness means that we freely and honestly accept that we were wronged and that we need to deal with the negative outcome within ourselves. Because if we hold into the hurt, it only means we are trying to remind ourselves that we were hurt, possibly because we are trying to convince ourselves (which we probably loath) that we don’t deserve this hurt.” It is also important to understand that our ego’s need of feeling victimized is very hard to admit since it means we will have to admit that our little self is seeking attention and work on the need of letting go.