Of hurt and forgiveness

Of hurt and forgiveness

Of hurt and forgiveness


Gandhiji never asked for revenge against his tormentors even though he was jailed unjustly several times by the British Raj. Gandhiji’s strategy was ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner’

It was a cold night on 7 June 1893 at Pietermaritzburg railway station in Natal, South Africa. The wind was howling and making an eerie sound. The howling of the wind was suddenly shattered by the thundering sound of an incoming train .The train stopped for a moment at the station and as it started streaming away from the station, the doors of the first class compartment opened briefly and a man and his luggage were violently pushed out of the compartment .The man fell on the platform.

With lot of pain the man slowly got up and made his way to the waiting room of the railway station to spend the night as there was no other train for the night from the station .The man was thrown out from the first class compartment for the indiscretion he was travelling in the first class reserved only for white people. He was a brown man and he was not allowed to travel in a first class compartment with white people even though he purchased first class ticket. The brown man was Mohandas Gandhi ."It was winter. The cold was bitter. My overcoat was in my luggage but I did not dare to ask for it lest I should be insulted again. So I sat and shivered" Gandhiji was to reminisce in his autobiography about his night experience at the Pietermaritzburg station.

The hurt seared into his psyche like a burning coal on his skin. Instead of being consumed by anger and shame he ploughed his anger at the system that sanctioned apartheid and denied civil rights for the coloured people. During his stay in South Africa Gandhiji organised mass civil right movement and secured basic civil rights for non- white people. After his return to India in 1915,Gandhiji saw the same unjust white rule over Indians. He led a mass freedom movement to secure independence for India.

During the decades of struggle Gandhiji never asked for revenge against his tormentors even though he was jailed unjustly several times by the British Raj.Gandhiji's strategy was "Hate the sin ,love the sinner " This on the surface appears to be innocuous but on the flip side is a brilliant plan. Instead of fighting the enemy physically when you are weak ,by questioning his moral rights you are weakening him mentally. Next story is not about an ordinary man.

He was the son of God. He was to be crucified on the Cross for his blasphemous teachings .As he was being led away to the Cross ,Jesus was serene like deep sea. There was no hint of anger or hatred on his face. He was to undergo the cruelest punishment possible .But what did Jesus say? Luke, one of the four evangelist ,records the last words of Christ in the Bible. "Father forgive them for they know not what they do". What did the words of Christ do? They invigorated the faith with new energy and led it on a path of love and compassion .The third story is about a master.

The master was sitting under a tree taking to his disciples. A person barged in and in a split second spat on the face of the master. The intrusion created angry commotion . But the teacher was rock- like. He slowly wiped the spit from his face and calmly asked "What next? What do you want to say next?" The intruder expected a violent reaction from the great teacher. But on seeing a serene god like figure, the trespasser was speechless.

The disciples of the master were enraged. They wanted to beat up the aggressor. The teacher slowly raised his voice and said "He has not spat on me .He has spat on his idea of me because he does not know me at all. He has spat on his own mind "The master in the story is Gautama Buddha . The enduring takeaway from the story is that most of the time people are ignorant and do not mean what they do. We should dump our past baggage and carry only a light load of the present to lead a happy life. The following story is a contemporary story

Dr Edith Eva Eger is an American clinical psychologist She is a survivor of concentration camps at Auschwitz in Poland set up by Nazi Germany to exterminate Jews from Europe. She saw her own mother and thousands of Jewish men , women and children being sent to their death in gas chambers. She herself lived under constant threat of starvation and death. Despite the horrors she kept her mental balance. After her liberation she migrated to the USA and struggled to earn a living. By sheer grit and hard work she learned English and earned a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology. She became a famous psychiatrist helping number of people to wriggle out of their psychic traumas .

She has the following to say on hurt and forgiveness in her book 'Choice': "It is easy to make a prison out of our pain of our past. At best revenge is useless. It can't alter what was done to us. It can't eradicate the wrongs we have suffered. It can't bring back the dead. At worst revenge perpetuates the cycle of hate."

The four stories give us varied perspectives about how to treat hurt. Many of us in our daily life get hurt . Close friends cheat ,Bosses insult .Strangers rob ,family members cheat us out of our property or out of the blue a disease can strike us. Should we get bogged down by our hurts or bounce back. Many people believe that pain of hurt or loss dims over time But Dr Eger has a different take on this." Time doesn't heal. It is what you do with your time. Healing is possible when we choose to take responsibility ,when we choose to take risks and finally when we choose to release the wound to let go of the past or the grief." Bury the past hurt , walk in the present moment and do some thing positive about the issue related to the past hurt. This is the path leaders who are hurt walk on.

(B Aravinda Reddy is a former IAS officer. Views expressed are personal)

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