Human interactions can be tricky. When something is unfulfilled, often there is hurt, anger, frustration, and disappointment. There is a tendency to hold grudges. We may argue, “What else are we to do when people cross lines and hurt us?”
The last visit to my grandmother on her deathbed was an eye-opener for me. Her words still resonate, “This suffering has not taken me anywhere. I tormented myself with my grudge against your aunt. I should have forgiven her a long time ago.” Her relationship with my aunt had been rocky ever since my grandmother was denied help during a financial crisis. She made it clear that her bitterness gradually pushed her towards her own deathbed.
While contemplating my grandmother’s final message, I came across a quote that echoed her thoughts: “Forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.” This was what Gautam Buddha taught his disciples. Simply put, our ability to empathise with others and forgive them can heal us in turn.
Kishore Adhikari, professor of psychology at Christ University, agrees. “Holding grudges can result in extreme mood swings, creating excessive tension in relationships, even leading to depression,” he warns. “Forgiving creates positive thought processes, which transmit through our bodies and into our environment,” he added.
It is not just the mind that benefits from forgiving. It is also scientifically proven that a well-balanced emotion can minimise the risk of chronic illness. Consider this scientific research published by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in 2013, which involved MRI scans of people thinking about forgiveness. It was found that the thought process involved in forgiving activated the brain cells responsible for empathy and cognitive regulation of emotions.
I have felt the truth of these researches at a personal level. I remember breaking my mother’s favourite Italian dinner set while playing. It was brand new, and a gift from my father too. Knowing it was very valuable to her, I expected a sound thrashing from her. Nothing of that sort happened. “That is okay, but be more careful the next time,” was all she said. This did two things for me. Firstly, I forgave myself and understood that I was being trusted with another chance. Secondly, I was more responsible from then on.
My mother’s forgiving nature taught me that making a mistake was not the end of the road. She wasn’t a vipassana practitioner, but forgiveness was inherent in her. Clearly, my grandmother couldn’t manage the same. Instead, she expected my aunt to seek forgiveness, which proved to be fatal. Had she forgiven unconditionally, it might have made a difference in her life.
Are we still asking, “What are we to do?” The answer is simple. Forgive. True, it might be easier said than done. But making an attempt to forgive could bring us peace. Forgiveness creates a positive environment for all relationships, freeing us from the expectations we have of others. Given the benefits, we could be better human beings.