Sun.Star Davao - - OPINION - Email me at andy@free­think­ View pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cles at­think­

MANY peo­ple do not un­der­stand for­give­ness. They think that for­giv­ing some­one is de­pen­dent on the other per­son’s re­pen­tance. “How can I for­give if the other per­son is not sorry?” is their bat­tle­cry.

At a sem­i­nar long ago, I en­coun­tered a woman I’ll call Linda (not her real name). Linda was in her mid-30’s and worked in mid­dle man­age­ment in a Makati firm. When she started shar­ing, the anger in her voice was thick and pal­pa­ble. She talked about her job and how she felt she was be­ing un­fairly treated by her boss -- how she had been ex­pect­ing a pro­mo­tion twice al­ready but had been by­passed in fa­vor of peo­ple who were her ju­niors.

The fa­cil­i­ta­tor, I’ll call him Gary (also not his real name), asked about her child­hood and so she talked about her mother, who had worked as an OFW when she was around six and later ran off with another man. She had never come back, leav­ing her fa­ther alone to raise Linda and her brother. Ev­ery time Linda saw her fa­ther drunk and cry­ing in the kitchen, her ha­tred for her mother grew more and more.

“But now that you’re all grown up and are al­ready a mother your­self, have you for­given her?,” asked Gary.

“How can I for­give her when I don’t even know if she’s sorry for what she has done?,” said Linda.

“You know what, Linda? For­give­ness isn’t about the other per­son. It’s about you. For­give­ness is about not let­ting the pain of your past af­fect your present. You are ob­vi­ously hold­ing on to your anger. What ben­e­fit do you get out of it?” asked Gary. “I don’t know, noth­ing, It just stresses me out,” said Linda.

“That’s not true,” said Gary. “If you weren’t get­ting any­thing out of it, you wouldn’t be hold­ing on to it for so long. Here, let me demon­strate.”

Gary walks over to a ta­ble and picks up a rub­ber ball used in a pre­vi­ous ac­tiv­ity. He gives it to Linda and asks her to grip it tight, which she does. “Don’t loosen your grip,” said Gary. Af­ter a minute or so, Gary asked, “How does your hand feel?” Linda says, “Tired and tense, can I let go of the ball now?” “Sure,” says Gary, “Just open your hand and let it drop.” Linda drops the ball.

Then Gary says, “You know, Linda, your hand felt tired and stressed af­ter just a minute of grip­ping the ball. And yet your heart has been hold­ing tight to this anger since you were six. That’s around 30 years. Like I said, you wouldn’t be hold­ing on to it if it did not ben­e­fit you in some way. Let­ting it go would be as sim­ple as let­ting that ball drop. You want to know what you’re get­ting out of it?” “Yes,” said Linda.

“What you’re get­ting out of it is that you have some­one to blame -- and that’s a tremen­dous ben­e­fit,” Gary said. “When your life goes wrong, you look back and re­mem­ber your mother, who didn’t love you enough, who left you and your fa­ther and brother to fend for your­selves. It’s her fault your life is a mess. It’s her fault you grew up this way, and so on and so forth. And very of­ten, that anger is what drives you to push your­self to suc­ceed, to prove to her that you can make it with­out her, that de­spite what she did, you will still win.” Linda nods. “But re­mem­ber that anger also car­which ries a heavy price. It takes a toll on your mind and body. Just as your hand grew tired of grip­ping the ball, your body also suf­fers be­cause of your anger, and it even ra­di­ates to those around you.”

Gary turns to the rest of the at­ten­dees and asks, “How many of you felt Linda’s anger the mo­ment she started speak­ing?” Ev­ery­one of us, in­clud­ing me, raised our hands.

“See?” said Gary. “That is the price you pay. Maybe that’s why your boss doesn’t pro­mote you, be­cause he feels that anger too, and may deem you un­fit or emo­tion­ally in­ca­pable of han­dling the higher po­si­tion. Maybe that’s why you get fre­quent headaches and tire eas­ily. Linda, you are now an adult and you have made some­thing of your­self. You have made a lot of life de­ci­sions that have noth­ing what­so­ever to do with your mother. So why do you con­tinue to let the mem­ory of what she did haunt you? Let it go now and be free.”

We then had some more ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the rest of the sem­i­nar and Linda did let go. She for­gave her mother and was a very happy woman at the end of the sem­i­nar. Even to­day when I get the oc­ca­sional chance to talk to her, she seems very dif­fer­ent from how I first per­ceived her. She still talks about her past, but it is just nor­mal sto­ry­telling with no more over­tones of hate or anger. Gen­uine for­give­ness brings a per­son into a space of real joy and peace.

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