Is forgiveness practical?


There is only one defect in forgiving a person and not another. People take a forgiving person to be weak. That defect however should not be taken into consideration for forgiveness is a great power. Forgiveness is the virtue of the weak and an ornament of the strong. It subdues all in this world. What is there that forgiveness cannot achieve? What can a wicked person do unto him who carries a saber of forgiveness in his hand? Fire falling on the grassless ground is extinguished of itself. And unforgiving individual defiles himself with many enormities. Righteousness is the one highest good; and forgiveness is the one supreme peace; knowledge is one supreme contentment; and benevolence, one sole happiness.

From The Mahabharata
Udyoga Parva Section XXXIII

The above excerpt is acknowledging the power of forgiveness at the same time pointing that people who forgive can be considered weak. This shows that the Vedic tradition is not blind from the reality that forgiveness can be mistaken to be virtue of the weak.

To understand the practicality of forgiveness as a useful practice, it is essential to discern the crucial yet subtle difference between Trust and Forgiveness. Often we equate forgiving with trusting and this leads to a lot of problems.

Forgiveness essentially means to stop the feeling of anger or resentment towards a wrongdoer. Whereas trust is much more a positive thing. When we trust a person, we see him as more reliable, truthful and faithful. Forgiveness is about past but trusting is about the future. Understanding the difference between the two is essential for developing healthy relationship and take the correct action at the time of need.

Usually, we think, “When I forgive someone, the person who is under some guilt, is freed from that guilt”. Normal conception is that the other person’s guilt will be lessened.

The problem with this understanding is that the person committing the offence is not even conscious of his mistake most of the times and does not even seek forgiveness. And we feel there is no point in forgiving him. (more…)