It is easy to talk about the desirability of forgiving your enemies. But, in practise it can be difficult to both forgive and forget. This post is inspired by a reader asking how they might overcome a ‘grudge’ against someone. I don’t feel particularly qualified to answer this question, but, I will suggest a few ideas that might help; maybe readers may have a few more.
1. Intention is the most important Step
To the reader who asked the question, I would say the most important step is the desire to give up the grudge. If we see the desirability of forgiving and moving on then it definitely becomes possible. Whatever we focus on becomes achievable. But, if we have no willingness to give up hostility towards other people it will never happen. – If we dearly cherish our own negativity we can’t expect an angel to come and take away all our hostility. I would suggest that it is important to keep reminding yourself of your wish to be free from this negative grudge. Even if it is difficult to achieve, keep reminding yourself of the goal.
2. Forgiveness = Happiness
If you hold ill will towards another, this hatred and enmity will inevitably cloud your own happiness. It is not possible to hate and be truly satisfied. Why should you allow your enemies to spoil your own peace of mind and inner joy? Try this exercise; when you are aware of ill will towards others, try to feel it is like a black spot on your own heart. By hating others, you do not change anything; but, you do make your own life miserable. When we are unhappy no situation is improved. When we see our own happiness is dependent upon letting go of grudges, we will be more inspired to try and do it. Be kind to yourself, let go of negativity towards other people. (note this does not mean we are condoning bad actions of others. It just means we detach from the situation, we can still hate the action but are free of the personal enmity which is so corrosive to ourself.)
3. Human Justice and Divine Justice.
We have an innate desire for justice; when we feel wronged instinctively we desire to return the suffering. This is one way of living; but it is not necessarily the best. Just because someone deserves to be punished doesn’t mean we are responsible for making them suffer. If we believe in Karma, we feel that everyone is responsible for their actions. What we do, will come back to us ‘As we sow we reap’ However, if we feel responsible for rectifying every injustice, it is we who will suffer.
4. The Mind Exaggerates
Sometimes problems can be exaggerated by the mind. Perhaps a person has done a couple of bad things, which have left us furious. However, maybe that person is not all bad. From their perspective, maybe they were trying to what they thought was the right thing. Try to look at your ‘enemy’ from a new perspective; try see some positive qualities in that person, think of some good things they have done. If we realise they are just average people with the ordinary failings it becomes easier to forgive.
5. The Past is Dust.
Perhaps we just cannot see anything good in the person we hate, perhaps we don’t believe in karma. Despite our best intentions, we just can’t let go of their enmity. What can we do in a situation like this? We have to be wise, life is not about living in the past. Every day offers a new opportunity to start a fresh and forget the past. The past has not fulfilled us. True, but who says we have to live in the past? If we remember every perceived and imaginary wrong, how will we ever move forward and enjoy life in the present moment? Don’t give all your attention to the past and to people who have caused problems; concentrate on the future, live in the present moment. By focusing on the present we can allow the newness and positive qualities of life to wash away our miserable past. If we have difficulty doing this, spend time with positive loving people. This is the best antidote to negativity. – Don’t fight negative forces just focus on something good instead.