The Awfulness of Forgiveness

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Photo courtesy: http://www.zazzle.com/

To forgive is divine, yet many do not seem to find godliness that attractive, really. And I think I can understand why. The act of forgiveness asks a lot of the victim – a lot more trust, understanding and an ability to let go of a grudge. All the while promising nothing in return. Indeed a lot of times it boomerangs back on the trusting soul that seeks to forgive.

 When someone commits a mistake – or a crime, or a sin – there are three things he/she must do to ask for forgiveness. To apologise. To accept that it was his/her fault. And to make it right – and most people tend to forget this one. I wonder if this is one of the main reasons people find it difficult to forgive: the absence of signs of atonement. Ok, so may be sometimes the crime (or the mistake) seems too big, too heinous to forgive. Cheating of a spouse. Betrayal of a friend (or country). Murder. Rape. Especially the last one. It’s horrible isn’t it? Because forgiveness has to start from the victim, and it seems so unfair to ask more from you, when so much has already been taken from you. Some people can do it and may want to, some may not. Some may seem unable to. Some may try and fail. Most of all, every one of them might feel, at one point or the other that it is so unfair to expect them to forgive.

 Is it scary? Hell yes. They do say that sometimes, giving a person a second chance is like giving them a second bullet for their gun because they missed you the first time. But then, the only things worth doing usually involve taking a huge risk: declaring your love, following your dreams, forgiving a betrayal – all metaphorical stepping off the cliff. And need an ironclad faith that you will land on your feet. And when you do, you realize it took nothing more than taking that step, and everything else was taken care of. Is it difficult? Nerve wracking? Seemingly impossible? Damn right it is. Forgiveness is not for the faint hearted.

 Real forgiveness – not the one that secretly hopes justice will still be served – involves letting the pain go. It takes trust, all the more difficult when you are vulnerable. But this is the thing I realized over my attempts at forgiveness – it has nothing to do with the perpetrator, and everything to do with the victim. To forgive never means that justice will not be served – they’re NOT mutually exclusive. To me, it simply means that you are willing to attempt to move on. It is closure to the victim, not the perpetrator. Every attempt at forgiveness – even the failed ones – takes you one step closer to liberation. Because I feel that’s what it does. Forgiveness liberates you. It lets you live your life without the betrayal defining it, or the person you are. It frees you from the cycle of chasing justice, which for most people is really only chasing revenge. 

But THAT is another post altogether.

  

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

Mahatma Gandhi

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Relationships – they are just like venture capital investments

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photo courtesy:http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-build-relationships/

I recently had a masterclass on one of my failed investments – a personal relationship with a family member. As a woman, I would say I’m a natural at investing in relationships – it’s who I am. Some build on themselves (parents), some you put in a lot of effort because they are too big to fail (children), and some you nurture throughout (or through phases of) your life (friends, colleagues, extended family).

 And really, building a relationship is just like making a venture capital investment. Or maybe like investing in stocks. Some you may inherit – like parents, but mostly you get to pick your own – childhood friends, favourite colleagues and the like. Sometimes (I’m an Indian woman) a spouse. And with every person you want to get to know, you invest in nurturing some semblance of a relationship. Though science talks about the many benefits of personal relationships – alleviating depression, sense of belonging, stronger hearts and whatever else – I feel that most people don’t recognize the one thing that makes it your biggest reward for having invested in it. 

Some relationships one tends to take for granted. Parents, for example. My father used to say that one can never divorce their parents after all. But other than that (and for some people, even that), most of us build and work at our relationships for thirty to forty years before we see the real fruits of our labour. The one big crisis that threatens to blow our lives apart, and the people that stand by our side, helping us weather the storm. All of us are aware at some level that, even though we have a complex network of personal relationships, very few of them survive the test of time. And the ones that come through at a moment of crisis are even less. And those, my friends, are the ones that any VC would call a 10-bagger. While all the daily benefits of nurturing relationships are like regular dividends from well chosen stocks, the true friendships, the family that surround you and protect you when things fall apart, are the true jackpot. 

You may not realize it at the time, but sometimes people work on these for years. It could be the goodwill your parents built over a lifetime, or the shadow effect of your spouse’s excellent relationship-building skills. Call it the power of compound interest, but the thing is, one never recognizes the significance of the role these relationships play until it is time.

 Do relationships never fail? Duh. Of course they do. Most of them. Almost all of them, in fact, if you look at the sheer numbers, and depending on your criteria for labelling a relationship as a failure. So do most venture capital investments, as any VC would tell you. The truth is that, with full awareness of this fact, they go ahead and invest in many ventures, in the hope that few would break even and one would be a 10X. That’s an investment that makes ten times its money, and makes the whole thing worthwhile, including the failed ones. 

For most of us – the lucky ones anyway – this is usually one relationship. One person we can count on, which is usually more than some people have. And as for the ones that have the good fortune of having two or more such people in their lives – please don’t reveal it, you might jinx it 🙂