Forgiveness is the economy of the heart... forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits, "Hannah More, English religious writer and philanthropist.
How generous are you when it comes to forgiveness? Though it’s very tempting to avenge those who have wronged you but, sometimes revenge doesn’t come quickly. It takes days, weeks, months and, sometimes, even years to bring our offenders to their knees. So think again. Is it worth holding onto the grudge for that long? And in order to return the harm done to us, we often end up harming ourselves. After all, negative emotions take a toll both on our mental and physical health.
IT professional Mahesh Mishra (name changed), 29, confesses that he isn’t a large-hearted person and doesn’t aspire to become one either. “I have many resentments against some of my family members like my father and younger brother. And this has always been the case since my childhood because my father has always treated me badly, even when I was a good kid. And, on the contrary, he’s been extremely fond of my brother, a troublemaker. I can never forget this and could never forgive my father deep down inside,” he recounts. Mahesh has no qualms calling himself “ruthless” as he believes in teaching a lesson to others who have rubbed him the wrong way, whether its a two-timing girlfriend, backstabbing friend or nasty colleague at work.
Why is it so hard?
Human behaviour suggests that people are "tuned" to retaliate when hurt by others. But there are other resistances that block our motivation to forgive. Automatic thoughts or beliefs impede us from forgiving others. We tell ourselves, "I won’t forgive because he/she never accepts responsibility for what he/she does" or "I would be a hypocrite if I forgave because I do not feel like forgiving" or "forgiving is only for weak people". The other person’s personality traits also decide whether we want to forgive that person or not. We argue that it is based personality or character traits, explains homeopathic physician and stress counsellor Dr Yatri Thacker. "I have encountered many such cases. It could be a wife who has been cheated by her husband, a sister who has always been compared to her younger beautiful, intelligent sister who gets attention all the time," she says.
Roots in childhood
Clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Varkha Chulani believes that a large part of forgiveness comes from philosophies that were learnt as children. "So if you have a very harsh and critical parent who keeps blaming you and teaches you that the best way to get ahead in life is to keep punishing and putting yourself down, how will you forgive? So people forgive others when they are easier on themselves. The stricter you are with yourself, the more uncompromising you are with others," says she.
Are women better at forgiving?
As women are nurturers and more understanding than men, we generally assume they are better at forgiving. Chulani, who doesn’t agree to this, says, "I don’t think there is any evidence to prove that forgiveness is different between genders. Women can be more forgiving in certain areas and men in others. The area of concern is where the differences may come. There are no hard and fast rules that it comes easier to one versus the other."
Mental and physical effects
Forgiveness is very crucial to one’s mental well-being. "How can one think about what one has to achieve or do, if he/she is constantly preoccupied with either settling scores and teaching someone a lesson? And that is what an unforgiving person does. He/she ruminates and doesn't let go and end up jeopardising his/her own goals,” Chulani warns.
Dr Thacker adds that continuous brooding and resentment can lead to psychosomatic disorders like migraine, skin diseases like urticaria, hyper or hypopigmentation, eczema, allergic rhinitis, irritable bowel syndrome etc. These can be were well treated with homeopathy and counselling.
Forgiving is a continuous process. Dr Yatri Thacker shares the following steps:
Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life at a given time.
Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how this combination has affected your life, health and wellbeing.
When you’re ready, actively choose to forgive the person who’s offended you.
Move away from your role as a victim and release the control the offending person and situation have had in your life. As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt.