Why Should We Forgive?

“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”— Charlotte Brontë

Falling out with friends and family; making the acquaintance of people whom you just cannot see eye to eye with. These are all part and parcel of daily life. But what do we do when we find ourselves caught in such positions of conflict? It is easy to be angry, become enraged, and let ourselves be ruled by our seething emotions, where we become marionettes to mere chemical impulses. Yet, simply because it is easy, does not mean that it should be done.

What we can do and should do is to look the other way instead, and turn the other cheek: just because we disagree with someone does not mean that it is necessary to start or prolong a conflict.

In fact, if we think about longstanding feuds such as those which have occurred between families for multiple generations, most of the time we find it to be the case that the participants do not know the history behind the feud. They get embroiled in it simply because of a shared history; it is just one of those things they are a part of. Nonsensical, is it not? Similar to saying that we should hate the Japanese or the Germans for the atrocities they committed during World War 2, even though the people of today have had nothing to do with it.

Granted, to accept wrongs, to take blow after blow without ever retaliating, is too much to ask one for. Thus, instead of asking one to tolerate all wounds inflicted on him, it is more practical to ask him to tolerate to the extent that he is able to.

Not to say that anything goes beyond that threshold of tolerance, but rather that if the conflict does escalate beyond what is bearable, or that the person just seems to have a vendetta against you, then perhaps it is time to rethink the relationship with that person. Perhaps it is time to break off all contact with that person.

Yet even after we no longer have anything to do with that person, such is the irony of life, that we cannot forget about that person, and we are left with such deep impressions on our hearts and mind, that a single reminder of that person will leave us spiralling in descent back to the horrible experiences we have had in the past.

Thus, there is a need to forgive whatever wrong has been done. This comes naturally with time and distance — the longer we are apart from the person, the easier it will be to forgive and even forget that person. However, in the case where we still come into contact periodically with that person, then forgiveness only happens when we choose to make it so.

To facilitate the process, it is useful to imagine that the person regrets what he has done, to have lost a friend, a confidante. Or, we ourselves can be the catalyst, by realising that nursing grudges, pampering hatred, is little more than a redirection of our energy, energy that could have been used more productively.

When talking about teams, it is the unfortunate truth that we often do not have the chance to choose our teammates, which means that in the event that we are grouped with someone with whose ideologies ours fail to coincide with, then it is necessary, if common ground cannot be found, to learn to forgive. After all, our time is limited. So what is the use of fostering thorns and letting our emotional wounds fester?