There is no denying seeking forgiveness and the act of forgiving have a great cleansing effect on the mind and soul. It relieves a lot of burden, provided the forgiver and forgiven act in genuine good faith. Let us take the case of my friend Rathin.
I often visited my friend Rathin. In his ancestral home, there a room with attached bath and kitchen had been allocated to Rathin. It was known in the friendly circle as Rathin’s den. Some even called it a penthouse suite. Except that property was only a three storied building.
Rathin had a messy divorce, which became official recently. All of us his friends, often gathered at Rathin’s penthouse for moral support, philosophical discussion and occasional drinks. The suite had its privacy. Broader and greater family had accepted it, when they renovated the place keeping in mind Rathin’s impending nuptial. Too bad things did not last.
Friends knew Rathin was hurting. He never expressed it in so many words. But his changed mannerisms was noticed by many. So much so, his mother had pleaded with his friends, “take care of my son, you boys. Come and cheer him up. I cannot see my happy go lucky boy, so sad.”
Today, Rathin all of a sudden said, “I have decided to seek forgiveness from Neelima, and move on. This cannot go on for ever. Let us visit her this afternoon. Come with me.”
“Rathin, this is a very personal matter between the two of you, should I really be there? Second, what if Neelima is not ready to forgive you? What if she is still angry and hurt?”
“Sudhi, you will come as a moral support. You have no stake. Whether Neelima forgives me or not, I have to do my bit.”
Neelima opened the door. She did not look her stern self, like she did during divorce hearings, but she did not look a happy person either. After a bit of casual chit chat, as much as was possible, given the circumstance, Neelima asked “What brings you here Rathin? We are physically, legally, and socially separated! What more do you want from me?”
“Neelima, I am here to seek your forgiveness for our failed marriage. I know we are legally and socially apart. I want to be free of my mental agony. Only you can fee me, Neelima. Even if you don’t, please give me an opportunity to say what I have to. I cannot go on like this anymore.”
I don’t know what Neelima felt, my eyes welled up. I heard Neelima said, “Rathin you could have said all these much earlier. I hold no grudge against you. But you caused me so much pain and humiliation, Rathin. I am mentally not ready to forget and forgive you. May be later, but not now.”
As we came out, I asked Rathin,
“Let us celebrate your freedom from mental prison with a drink!”
“Not today Sudhi, not today. After a long time I feel so relieved of my mental shackles. I want to bow my head in front my god and go to sleep. Yes it is a long time I had a good sleep.”
I did not insist and let my friend have his peace. But the following questions came to my mind:
- Gandhiji said, “an eye for an eye makes the world go blind.” Inherent in the statement is that instead of paying back our tormentors in the same coin, we should try to get back at him differently. In Gandhi ji’s case he would probably work towards transformation of the tormentor. Gandhi ji, adviced European leaders to entertain Hitler and hope for his transformation. No one paid much heed and found the idea to be impractical. This raises the following questions:
- Is this practical for running a society and government?
- How long can an individual or society wait for a person to be transformed?
- What if the tormentor does not care to be transformed or
- he does not even feel that he is doing something wrong?
- Society needs to be governed with a sense of balance between retributive justive and an act of forgiveness? Even lord Krishna, forgave hundred mistakes of Shishupal. Thereafter he slayed him. The act of forgiveness cannot go on unchecked. At some point, heavy hand of the law needs to be enforced.
- It is imperative to understand that an act of forgiveness involves two people, one who seeks forgiveness and the second who is forgiving.
- What if the person, who is being forgiven, does not care? or,
- the other person is not in a position to forgive?
- Who can rightfully forgive a person who has caused a great harm to a large number of people? Take for example a terrorist bomb. Can any government forgive such a person? An individual maimed by an act of terrorism may decide on his personal capacity to forgive for his own relief, but many other people whose life had changed permanently may not decide to do so.
- It must be remembered, that forgiveness is not mercy or pardon. Forgiveness does not mean, one who is being forgiven does not have to pay the penalty for his deeds. For example Gandhi family has forgiven killers of Rajiv Gandhi. What about punishment to killers? Does forgiveness means, duration of punishment be reduced? I hope not.
- Forgiveness at a deeper level brings a closure to the perpetrators and to the victim. After the act of forgiveness, both parties go on with their lives with as much clean slate as possible. The act may bring peace internally.
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