Shravan and Vineet, childhood neighbours, lived in Cuttack, Orissa. They were the best of friends, attended the same school and had common tuition classes. Both had just finished with their 12th Standard board examinations, and had 2 months’ time to kill before the results would be announced. The lads, along with a few friends, sought consent from their parents, to proceed on vacation to Goa. Promising their folks that they would behave well and take good care of themselves, the blokes left for a 7 day trip.
While at Goa, they hired a car, as it was too expensive to rent a cab daily. Vineet had recently passed his driving test and volunteered to drive. The retreat was amazing, and the chaps had a jolly good time for the first five days. But a tragedy happened on day six!
The friends rested in their rooms and sipped on alcohol the entire day. They had initially decided to visit a casino in the evening. While Shravan and Vineet were still keen, the others chickened out as they were tired. Shravan too suggested they drop the idea, since Vineet was heavily drunk, and argued that it could be unsafe. But Vineet would not hear any of that. He forced Shravan to come along, and assured that he would drive slowly. They left the hotel at 6:30 pm and reached the venue at 7:30 pm. They had a blast at the casino, but Vineet kept drinking like there was no tomorrow! Shravan suggested that they hire a taxi on their return, but Vineet was adamant that he would drive, and promised a safe journey back to the hotel!
Unfortunately on the way back, Vineet lost control of the car. He pressed the accelerator instead of the footbrake; and the car rammed into a lorry resulting in a terrible accident. Both Vineet and Shravan bled profusely. They were admitted into a nearby hospital. While Vineet got away with a few fractures in his leg, Shravan was in terrible shape. The doctors were frantically trying to reach his parents, since they needed permission to perform surgery. While the parents gave the go ahead on phone, they immediately flew down to Goa. More bad news followed on their arrival. The complications were such that the doctors had no choice but to amputate his right leg below the knees.
Shravan’s parents were inconsolable. Vineet could not face them, and cried profusely. He felt heavy-hearted and guilty about the mishap. His parents flew down to Goa as well. They had a terrible showdown and exchange of harsh words with Shravan’s parents. The matter reached such a level that the families once very close to each other, were no more in talking terms. Shravan was shifted to a speciality hospital in Mumbai, and a Jaipur foot was designed and made as per the specifications of his left feet.
It had been 3 months since both the pals had spoken with each other. Vineet sent a few WhatsApp messages to Shravan, but they were unanswered. He was sorry and requested forgiveness through various messages, but it broke no ice with Shravan or his family.
A few months later, Shravan received a courier. On reading the contents within the packet, Shravan started weeping copiously. It was Vineet’s elder sister’s wedding invitation card, along with a rakhi stating “Shravan, despite whatever has happened; I hope and wish that you attend my wedding – Love Raveena didi”. Since Shravan had no sister, Raveena tied him a rakhi every Raksha Bandhan!
Raveena was getting married to a large industrialist, and her marriage was a grand affair. Shravan entered the venue along with his parents. Vineet’s parents welcomed the family, and thanked them for fulfilling Raveena’s wish. On seeing Shravan, Vineet ran towards him, and gave him a tight hug, once again requesting for forgiveness. It was an emotional moment for both the families, and all the past wounds were forgotten. Bygones were bygones, and the families bonded as though nothing had happened. Shravan finally forgave his best friend, and all was well.
This story at first glance might appear as an extreme example, and many of us can only aspire to hold the reservoir of forgiveness that Shravan and his family seemed to possess. But we can learn from them. Forgiveness is surely not easy. If it were easy, everyone would be choosing it. When suffering is persistent and extreme, the ability to contemplate forgiveness is implausible. “But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment. An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind” – Mohandas K Gandhi.
If we want a life minus burdens, without the excess baggage caused due to blame and anger, it is important to forgive those who have wronged us and move on. Life is too short to be angry! We control our own destiny and to let others impact our happiness is just crazy talk. We must learn to release the past and to forgive ourselves. Once we’ve learned how to forgive ourselves, we will be able to ask forgiveness from others for the ways we’ve harmed them out of our ignorance and suffering. “When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.”- Bernard Meltzer
Letting go, forgiving and surrendering is one of the many challenges we face in life, and is truly a practiced art. Once we learn to let go, we open ourselves up to a sleeping reservoir of our own personal power and possibilities. Letting go allows for fresh perspectives, relationships and events to come into our lives and we begin to live to our true potential. Forgiveness is the practice of letting go of the idea that the past should have been different. It is one of the primary foundational pillars of being extraordinary leaders such as Jesus Christ, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. There are always multiple sides and perspectives to a story. We must try and give others’ the benefit of the doubt and assume they really meant well. Forgiveness is not about trying to make the wrong right, but allowing God to make the wrong right. “How people treat you is their karma, how you react is yours” – Wayne Dyer
We may ask, “What if the person I’m forgiving doesn’t change?” Getting another person to change his or her actions, behaviour or words shouldn’t be the reason for forgiveness. We must think of forgiveness in terms of how it can change our life — by bringing us peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can take away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.
The bible is filled with many scriptures on forgiveness. Some of the important ones are:
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”. – Matthew 6:14-15
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you”. – Colossians 3:13
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave you”. – Ephesians 4:32
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times? “Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” – Matthew 18: 21-22
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” – Luke 6:37
There are many benefits of forgiveness. In his book Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman reveals that forgiving someone we’ve held a grudge against reverses the biological reaction. It lowers our blood pressure and heart rate, the levels of stress hormones, and lessens pain and depression. Many people also feel less hurt, and report a substantial drop in physical symptoms of trauma like poor appetite and sleeplessness. Forgiveness also leads to a strong immune system, and a higher self-esteem.
I leave you with a quote written by Mahatma Gandhi – “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” Let us look deep inside and evaluate – how strong are we? Alexander Pope said – “To err is human, to forgive divine.” On a daily basis we can choose between forgiveness and punishment. In all situations, we can react with either love or hatred. The decision is on our hands. So what would you like to choose? Think about it…