From Reflections May 2010

Question: You described a lack of forgiveness as one of the symptoms of anger. When someone hurts us, it can lead to feelings of anger and an inability to forgive.

Forgiveness seems easier to apply if the other person changes their behavior and possibly acknowledges their hurtful behavior. However, such a change may not happen immediately so how do we relinquish anger and forgive a person who may even continue to repeatedly hurt us in the present without feelings of remorse?

B.T.Swami: Forgiveness does not mean that we turn ourselves into a punching bag so that others can continuously throw blows at us, nor does it mean that we become a doormat for others to walk over and wipe their feet. People should certainly remove themselves from a position in which they function as the target of another’s attacks.

Forgiveness does not mean the following:

• We feel that the person or people who hurt us should be allowed to continue.
• We feel that what they have done was not really so bad after all.
• We suggest that we were actually wrong instead of the other person.
• We have forgotten the wrong.
• We are totally free of the pain.
• We are ready to act as if nothing has happened.
• We are ready to associate fully with the person.

Forgiveness does mean the following:

• We are not going to allow the person who hurt us to continue hurting us by constantly holding onto them or their actions. The more we hold onto the anger associated with the event, the more we allow the person to repeatedly assault us.
• We no longer want to keep living in the past.
• We are ready to live in the present by making healthy choices that are not clouded by past negative influences.
• We are ready to be loving always, not only when someone else acts favorably.

In other words, forgiveness is something we mainly do for ourselves so that we can personally free ourselves from various stagnations because  such stagnations can affect us physically, psychologically as well as spiritually.

If another person chooses to be continuously obnoxious, we do not want to allow their nonsense to impose itself upon us in any way. We want to be fully free to act in the spirit of love in spite of the environment or the person’s actions. The spirit of love entails knowing what is actually best for us as well as knowing what is best for the other person’s spiritual well-being.

When we hold unhealthy anger, it normally means that we want to retaliate or we want to see the person hurt. Consequently, we must ask ourselves, “How much harm or pain must the person experience before we can release them from our psyche?” Their feelings of remorse or lack of remorse should not really dictate or impose upon our own life.