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Let’s admit it – forgiving is for the lame and powerless, isn’t it? The vast majority would believe this narrative as that’s what movie-after-movie from Hollywood to Bollywood teach us. Revenge is the only way to show our strength and every other way is lame. In fact, we ended with phrases like “revenge is best served hot” to undermine the idea of forgiveness further; whoever came up with that.
But those of us who have taken revenge or witnessed someone taking revenge, have you seen them at peace? Chances are - no. The idea of revenge doesn’t quell what was done but aggravate it. The knowledge seekers of the world – starting from multiple generations ago knew this, and that is why they preached forgiveness.
All the Holy Books of the world, the Bible, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita and others talk about forgiveness as one of the essential tenets of human life, and yet that is what we ignore. Because, sadly, even the Holy Books don’t seem to rhyme well with the idea of machoism, so they would also be considered as something close to lame. Sadly.
But if we can provide scientific evidence to show that forgiveness heals the forgiver, then would it cut ice? I guess so because science is closer to machoism than anything else. Right? Or maybe not. But let’s try to peel off the underlying emotions supporting revenge versus the ones supporting forgiveness. That would be a good start.
Before getting to know more about forgiveness, the question that arises is whom do we forgive? Us or others. When I first heard this question, it sounded awkward to me since there was no way I could forgive me. I haven’t done anything against me to be forgiven by me. That’s what I thought, but over the years, I see the merit in forgiving ourselves.
When you feel emotions like guilt, sadness, hatred, you are actually at odds with yourself. Let’s take an example. Your daughter or son has to appear for her/his exams, but you are busy reading a newspaper. You think there is enough time to drop him/her to school. Despite your wife’s and daughter’s/son’s repeated requests, you ask them to chill and wait. You know things are in control.
Anyway, as you leave from home, you encounter unexpected traffic on the way. A truck had turned turtle, and now your son/daughter is indeed late. By the time you wriggled through the traffic and reached the school, your child has already lost an hour of the exam time. You see, his/her anxiety, fear and the urge to get in the exam hall and start the paper. You know somehow you were responsible for what your child is going through. How do you feel at that time?
Horrible? Or even guilt, correct? In this situation, you wouldn’t expect your child or wife to forgive you willingly. In fact, you wouldn’t even think about asking their forgiveness since you are drowning in your guilt already. You are feeling torn with guilt. So, then question is, who needs to forgive you? You or someone other than you?
Is it someone other? Maybe, but first and foremost it has to be you. You need to forgive yourself as you did not intend this to happen to your child. You wouldn’t have ever thought of causing this to your child. Without you forgiving you, even if your child forgives you (which I suspect kids would automatically do for their parents) and your wife forgives you, you wouldn’t be out of guilt still. The chances are that you would be wallowing in the sea of guilt unabated. That’s why you need to forgive yourself so that you can learn from the episode, love yourself, and be a responsible person going forward. Do you see that? Have a read once again to get the message.
Now, if you understood this part then you know forgiving others is just as good as forgiving yourself. When forgiveness becomes a habit, you realize that it is one of the most potent forces out there and more macho than anything you ever knew.
Now, for the scientifically inclined, the absence of forgiveness leads to emotions like guilt, anxiety, depression, anger, resentment, and hurt. These emotions are closely related to lower serotonin levels in the brain than usual. The continued feeling of these emotions could trigger the release of cortisol or stress hormones into our body, further aggravating our health. Stress, further, comes with its own set of choicest ills like high blood pressure or heart attack.
So, there you go, that’s what science says. Of course, it is not like if you don’t forgive today, you will die of a heart attack tomorrow. The message is that you cause health trauma on yourself, just because you chose not to forgive. Why would you not want the freedom that forgiveness gives? Why would anyone want revenge and even after revenge stay stuck in negativity for life?
The entire episode of non-forgiveness just defies logic, and yet people hang the idea of revenge with pride on their front door. Why? You are in the best place to answer that for yourself. But do answer that question and it will open up a life of freedom.
Well, most of the people I have encountered have issues with forgiveness because it is akin to accepting the injustice done to them. But nothing was farther from the truth. Many times forgiving allowed empathy to flow in, and we were suddenly experiencing ourselves in the other person’s shoes. By acting in understanding, your response to the other person is kinder. Now, the other person gets and feels your kindness, and guess what, he or she too reciprocates.
So, by forgiving you not only freed yourself but also won the kindness of another person. All by just forgiving. How can this not be the thing to do?
As I mentioned before, a movie on revenge would do a lot more at the box office than a movie on forgiveness. So, don’t expect the directors and producers of this world to stop trumpeting the idea of revenge, but you need to know where entertainment ends and where real life begins. When it comes to real life, forgiveness is the champion. And as you practice forgiveness, you allow many more to follow in your footsteps.
As you allow more people to follow your idea of forgiveness, you may inspire some producer to make your life story. And guess what, we may end up having a movie on forgiveness, after all. 😊