Forgiveness can Transform Your Life
Vijayalakshmi Pandit, the Sister of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was in deep sorrow when her husband died in 1944. According to the then Indian Law, a widow without a son was not entitled to the share of the family property of the husband. Vijayalakshmi had three daughters only and hence she and her daughters were in a pathetic situation. She was bitter towards her husband’s family, who were eager to take advantage of this law for their benefits. This was a humiliating situation and her heart was filled with sorrow and hatred.
Vijayalakshmi was soon to attend a conference in America. Before leaving for America she went to pay respect to Gandhiji and say goodbye. During the conversation, Gandhiji enquired about the problems with her relatives. Despite knowing the intensity of her resentment and hostile feelings, he advised her to go to her husband’s family and say goodbye before leaving for America. But she refused to do so since they were not showing any sympathy to her and even trying to harm her. But Gandhiji said; “No one can harm you except yourself”. He appealed her to remove the bitterness in her heart; otherwise, it would cause injury to her. He asked; “Will you find happiness outside when there is bitterness in your heart”?
Still, she was hesitant. After a few days’ mental struggle and dilemma she finally decided to accept Gandhiji’s advice. She gave a visit to her husband’s family. It really gave feelings of relief to everybody including Vijayalakshmi. She told them her plans and asked for their good wishes. She later confessed that the effect of this was miraculous; she felt as if a huge burden had been lifted and she was wonderfully free to herself. She broke herself from the shackles of her own agony and anger.
This was the beginning of a significant change in her and she tried to follow Gandhiji’s advice in life. She even proclaimed that this was the best advice she ever had in her life. Forgiveness caused a miraculous transformation in her life since a great healing took place within.
The Real Power of Forgiveness
It was Leo Tolstoy, one of the greatest writers of all times, who aptly expressed the power of forgiveness by these wise words; ‘Let us forgive each other, only then we will live in peace’. When you forgive a person who has done harm to you, the subsequent result is miraculous, immense and immediate. You will soon be relieved of the deep negative emotions of anger, resentment, hatred, and hostility against that person. Your conscious and subconscious minds will be free of the toxic emotions. You will understand that the real enemy was not that person who had hurt you but your venomous thoughts and feelings against him. So far, you were making your life so miserable by re-experiencing and recreating the wounds you received years ago. You were replaying it over and over in your mind as if it is happening at present. Forgiveness sets you free of the heavy load of the bitter past and bitter persons.
If you really want to be free and relaxed, stop nursing your feelings of hurt, hatred, anger, grudge, and resentment. Your thoughts and emotions will create harmful biochemical changes in your systems and this may lead to highly serious health hazards. Moreover, when you are focusing on your past hurts, wounds and painful experiences, you are unable to concentrate on the present moment and plan for the future success. That is why Lewis Smeder, the famous American author, and theologian wisely points out; ‘To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you’.
Great Examples of Forgiving in History
The greatest example of forgiving is shown by Jesus Christ. When he was crucified in between the two thieves and was undergoing extreme suffering and pain on the cross, Jesus Prayed; Father forgive them for they know not what they do; (Luke 23:33-34): Jesus tells us all; ‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you..” (Mathew 5:44)
Pope John Paul II
In 1981, while traveling in an open car, Pope John Paul II was shot four times in an assassinations attempt by a man called Mehmet Ali Agea. Pope was seriously wounded and underwent an emergency surgery. His life was saved miraculously.
Two years later pope visited Agea in his prison cell and told him that he had forgiven him and gave him a friendly handshake. He gave a great message of inspiration to the humanity by forgiving the person who had attempted to assassinate him brutally.
The South African Leader, Nelson Mandela was released from jail in 1990, after 27 years of imprisonment. In all the reception rallies he addressed, he advised his people to forgive each other. Mandela told; ‘We especially need to forgive each other, because when you intend to forgive you heal part of the pain, but when you forgive you heal completely’. When he became South Africa’s president, he used to remind people of the need for forgiveness and this helped to avoid violence and maintain peace in the country.
After the end of the American Civil War, President Lincoln showed courage to forgive the rebels, in spite of the opposition from his own party. He offered the Amnesty proclamation and appealed his people to forgive each other; ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up nation’s wounds’. These words were written in golden letters in the annals of American history.
According to Mahatma Gandhi forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. So it is beyond doubt that Abraham Lincoln was showing his mental strength by forgiving the rebels and setting forth a new path of mutual love instead of resentments.
Sr.Rani Maria’s family
Samander Singh, the killer of Blessed Sr. Rani Maria was having sleepless nights in jail. He was very much upset and the sister’s constant murmur ‘Jesus Jesus’ at the time of her death was still echoing in his ears. The splashing of blood was still before his eyes. As days passed, he was full of sorrow and regret.
Sr. Maria’s younger sister Soni who was also a nun, came to meet him and said; ‘I have forgiven’. She even tied a thread band ‘Rakhi’ on his wrist to denote brotherly affection as per the custom of Hindu religion.
Many years later, when he was released from jail he was a totally transformed man. He went all the way to Kerala to meet Rani Maria’s mom to express his deep sorrow and seek pardon. When he kissed her hands, tears rolled down. That true Christian mom kissed him on his head and said; “You are now my son and God has forgiven”
Holistic Healing Powers of Forgiveness
Several researchers have found that forgiveness can bring rich rewards physically, mentally and spiritually.
John Hopkins Psychiatrist Karen Swartz found that forgiveness can do away with the risk of heart attack, reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure and even pain. The toxic and destructive emotions of anger, grudge and resentment can trigger the ‘fight or flight’ reactions in your physiological systems; resulting in the release of a host of hormones, increase in the heart rate and blood pressure and changes in the immune response. These chain reactions and changes will considerably increase the risk of heart attack and diabetes and reduce immunity to a great extent.
Clinical psychologist of East Tennessee State University, Joseph Neuman found in her long research that many heart patients were extremely bitter, angry and depressed and it affected their health and ability to heal. Dr. Neuman said that forgiveness could save their lives.
Dr. Bernie Seigal, Professor at Yale University and a well-known writer, found that forgiveness lowers cortisol and boosts immune function. He even witnessed miraculous healing in cancer patients who decided to forgive and start loving.
Dr. Amit Good, Professor of Medicine, at Mayo clinic at Minnesota, found that forgiveness equips people to withstand adversity and making emotionally healthy. It lowers the level of anxiety, depression, and stress. It helps us sleep better and reduce the use of sedatives.
When you forgive, the toxic and detrimental emotions like anger, grudge, and resentment will immediately disappear from your mind and you will be set free of a heavy burden which was draining your life energy. You will begin to feel empathy, compassion, and love for the person who has hurt you. Studies have shown that forgiveness can enhance your self-esteem, confidence and emotional intelligence considerably.
One of the greatest benefits of forgiveness is that it can lead you to healthier and warm personal and social relations. As the famous American author and co-pastor, Victoria Osleen rightly pointed out; ‘Choosing forgiveness opens the door of your heart and makes way for a miracle in your life’.
It was the famous English poet, Alexander Pope who aptly stated; ‘To err is human, to forgive is divine’. Forgiveness is an inherent human virtue. It is the central component of all religions in this world. When you remove all negative feelings and emotions against the individual who has hurt you through the act of forgiving, your mind and soul will be cleansed and purified. Then, you will be surprised to experience the real glow of your soul. Your consciousness will expand and extend to merge with the cosmic consciousness. Forgiving is really the beginning of a spiritual journey.
How to forgive?
Forgiveness is a paradigm shift from anger and vengeance to love and understanding, from hatred and hostility to empathy and compassion, from self-pity and depression to self-knowledge and mental peace. But for many, forgiving is not an easy thing. So, first of all, visualize the abundant advantages and rich rewards you are achieving out of the divine act forgiving. Then identify the person to whom you are revengeful. Start addressing your strong negative feelings and emotions against him/her. Then try to empathize with his circumstances and feelings which might have forced him to harm you at that time.
Remember that to err is only human, but forgiving is divine. Hence, when you forgive the person who had hurt you, you are really growing and rising much higher mentally and spiritually than the person you are forgiving and you are reaping a host of benefits. Focus your thoughts on the positive changes you are going to experience in your life and decide to forgive. You have to stop nursing your hurts and reliving the bitter past. You can even write a letter of forgiveness, but you need not send it. You can burn it imagining that all the ill feelings against that person are put on fire. That will give you a great psychological relief.
Hereafter, your foe is your favorite friend. Meet him and treat him accordingly. Then you will definitely start experiencing a great positive change in your life, the feeling of abundant joy, because, as Martin Luther King stated; ‘Forgiveness is pure happiness’.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. JOHN MUZHUTHETTU is a Human Resource Consultant, National Trainer, and Counselor. Formerly he was the Deputy Chief Engineer, Kerala State Electricity Board and is still working as an external faculty of HRD Programmes of KSEB. He is also a faculty of Department of Management Studies, Mar Augusthinose College, Ramapuram, under M.G.University, Kerala. He is the PG course co-ordinator of MHRM.
He is a columnist in several Magazines, like ‘Business Deepika’, ‘Creative Business’, ‘Donbosco’ etc. His articles have been published in many magazines and journals. His several speeches have been aired by All India Radio. His interviews on various subjects have been telecasted by Power Vision TV. He is the author of five best-selling books:
- ‘Stress-Manassasthra- Aathmeeya Pariharangel’. (Current Books, Thrissur) 4th Edition
- Vijayiyude Vyakthithwam (Current Books, Thrissur)
- Jeevitham Santhushtamakan, Nithya Yauvanam Nedan.(css,Thiruvalla)2ndEdition
- Emotional Intelligence-Jeevithavijayathinu (CSS, Thiruvalla)
- Vijayarahsyangal (Current Books, Thrissur)
As a trainer, he has conducted more than a thousand seminars and workshops for teachers, parents, students, executives and others, on several subjects like Stress Management, Time Management, Personality Development, Emotional Intelligence and Spiritual intelligence for Excellence, Communicative Skills, Assertiveness, Motivation, Study Skills, Effective Parenting, Counselling Skills etc. He is an external training faculty of Power Engineers Training and Research Centre of KSEB. He is an external faculty of IMG Cochin. He is also the Secretary of Upasana Cultural Centre, Thodupuzha.
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