Keep Life Simple: Be Selfish and Forgive!
Let’s be Real Selfish!
We all make our best effort to be selfish, and not appear so (for social reasons). But the naked truth is that all our acts are decided only by selfishness. The only trouble is: we don’t know what real selfishness is. Our material and accumulation oriented lifestyle has distorted our understanding of selfishness. As a result, we fail to know what is in our best interest. Forgiveness is a wonderful personal tool for peace and happiness; only if we rediscover its true empowering nature. Although current lifestyle is heavily loaded against development of ageless human virtues such as love, compassion and forgiveness, there are people who still want to develop these virtues and enjoy inner peace and emotional healing.
Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck. - Dalai Lama
Forgive those who insult you, attack you or take you for granted. But more than this ... forgive yourself for allowing them to hurt you. - Anonymous
Our Conditioned Mind
In the so-called normal living we hold on to anger, resentment, shame, grievances, or pain rooted in the past. (What else can we do? The human skills to live with inner tranquility and harmony has gotten confined to a tiny section of spirituous religious people.) This makes us suffer constantly; we all know that. Clinical tests will also reveal extra secretion of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which ultimately compromise our immune system and weaken us, both physically and emotionally.
Chronic resentment and hostility precipitate conditions for heart attack and strokes, medical researchers tell us. Nothing new in the circle of people with broader sense of life beyond materialism. If we look at the vocabulary of people around the world, we hear people “dying from a broken heart” or betrayal described as “a stab in the back” or s deep loss described as “gut wrenching” or speaking with a “choking voice.” You don’t need “experts” to tell you what is a common-sense knowledge: body and mind are inextricably connected. Human beings are not mere bundles of flesh, bones and tissues separated from the non material mind. In fact, Vipassana meditators know this connection better than anyone else – anything that arises in the mind is always accompanied by physical sensations.
We are fortunate that the body-mind complex (of human beings) is incredibly flexible. In our ignorance we abuse it by holding on to mental toxins like anger, resentment or hostility and keep ruining the well-being of the body (and of mind as well). However, when we stop clinging to (or let go of) the emotional toxins, our body immediately starts returning to homeostasis, which is a state of self-healing and self-regulation. At the mental level we experience freedom and inner peace.
In brief, negative emotions generate pain and deterioration and the positive emotions like goodwill and compassion promote health bring about peace and healing. The letting go of mental negativity is achieved through forgiveness. Practically speaking, it is a release from the conditioned mindset or from the burden of judgement to surrender to lightness of freedom.
In forgiving, we free ourselves from the strings of the past and clear hindrances that constrict our heart. It expands our ability to love and be loved. For most of us, probably the biggest emotional burdens we carry is the lack of forgiveness – for others and for ourselves.
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What is Forgiveness?
I don't forgive people because I am weak. I forgive them because I am strong enough to know people make mistakes.
To forgive someone essentially means wiping out the feelings of resentment, anger, and hurt from the mental slate. In other words, we are giving up “our right to hurt him/her as a revenge for the hurt we are going through.” Thus, it is unilateral “letting go.” Stating it differently, it is all about one-sides unconditional cease fire.
Why we would want to do such as thing? The true reason is selfishness: we are constantly feeling hurt and anguish which we don’t like. We want to “let go of the hurt” because we want freedom from suffering. Let's be very clear that it is “my hurt” that I wish to get rid of. (If I were not in pain why on the earth would I dream about some non-modern stuff like forgiveness - plain and simple! Doctors can only give pain-killers that works only on the body and have no effect on mental anguish.)
Therefore, the whole focus is on ME and not on who offended me. It makes sense because I can try changing only my own feelings, not someone else’s. Forgiveness is MY decision to stop hurting any more – because enough is enough. As long as I stay with resentment and anger, I am allowing the enemy (or perceived enemy) to control my feelings. I am actually cooperating in self torture! Probably that is what the enemy wanted.
The moment I DECIDE to let go of anguish and break free, I make the enemy powerless. It means cutting off emotional connections and taking charge of my feelings. Quite logical and rational response – I hear you say.
What Forgiveness is NOT
What Forgiveness Is Not?
In order to grasp the technique and philosophy of forgiveness, it also helps to approach it from the reverse side.
Forgiving is not forgetting (or even pretending to forget). This is a common misunderstanding and comes from the oft repeated phrase: forgive and forget. How can you really forget something that has been giving you constant pain? Forgiveness is also not excusing or condoning. What was wrong then is still wrong now. Some actions are always bad: for instance stealing, cheating or lying. Here is some inspiration of Nelson Mandela who was in jail for 27 years, but came out without slightest bitterness towards his captors, “As I walked out the door toward my freedom I knew that if I did not leave all the anger, hatred and bitterness behind, I would still be in prison.” Therefore, forgiveness has to happen despite not condoning and not forgetting.
When you can't forgive and forget, choose one. - Anonymous
Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. – Paul Boese
The Process of Forgiving
At the root level, you need to turn upside down (or bypass) the arguments that helped you stay with hurt feelings: the logic of resentment, the desire to get even, and the mindset of seeing aggression (eye-for-eye or fist-for-fist) as strength. Therefore, forgiveness means changing your attitude (of pointing fingers) of blame and taking charge of how you should feel. Here is one typical line of reasoning towards forgiving:
That person lacked skill and certainly has shortcomings; that’s why he could not do any better and ended up offending you. Now you further reason: Is it OK to expect imperfect behavior from someone who is not perfect? You may still further introspect: Are you perfect? or Why do you take things so personally? Are you suffering from low self esteem or always hungry for people's approval?
Constant hammering your brain with such ideas will weaken the logic that sustains the feelings of hurt and prepare you mentally to forgive. You also need to wash your brain with the understanding that you want to forgive because not doing so is giving you chronic emotional pain; that you are doing it only for your own sake and that forgiving would ultimately make you stronger. Thus, forgiveness is all about relieving the mind of all toxic waste that is eating you from inside. And you will realize the benefit of forgiveness only over a period of time.
Religious people can create arguments around their Faith and ultimately achieve the same end. If you are a meditator like me, use meditation as an aid and work your way through forgiveness. Remember: Forgiveness = Letting go. If you know any other tool, use that to let go your anger.
Forgiveness is a Gradual Process
Forgiveness is not a onetime affair and then we are done with it. The old habitual logic of resentment and anguish will continue to raise its head and we will have to counter it with the new reasoning leading towards forgiveness. It is a tug of war we can win with perseverance and determination. Thus, forgiveness is a process that requires us to make efforts over a period of time, before all the emotional residue of the past is gone. It also helps to remember that it is the nature of life to release negative feelings and move towards its real inner state, peace. Along the way as we gradually progress, feelings of peace and relief will emerge in the heart and we will feel some sort of a shift. It will further expand our capacity for love and compassion – two other essential ingredients for inner healing. This starts a virtuous cycle, a cycle of evolution to higher mental plains. Then the boundaries of dislikes and aversion begin to vanish and humans evolve into real humans.
Emotional Freedom – The Biggest Benefit of Forgiving
Giving up the desire to get even frees us from the chronic pain of bitterness and resentment. When mind is no more preoccupied with such wasteful and negative thoughts, it is “fully” available for productive activities.
Talking of “revenge,” a life well lived is the best form of revenge. Forgiveness is the tool to make that happen. It is the technology of “letting go” that gives you emotional freedom. We forgive people for our own good. Therefore, let’s be selfish and forgive. Forgiveness is the highest form of selfishness!!
I invite you to share your ideas on the question: