Negative emotions have a way of sapping our energy.We are so consumed with anger & rancor,that this bitterness clouds all relationships.Our perspective, behavior & attitudes get distorted.This isolates us.We become depressed. Failure to forgive impedes recovery.It prolongs & accentuates our pain;maybe even aggravates it.Our physical health,sleep & stamina--all deteriorate when we are full of fury.Thoughts of revenge especially cause much havoc.
We start out with the idea of hurting the person who has wronged us. This thought keeps on smoldering in our minds; robbing us of peace,sleep & happiness.But the person against whom all these thoughts are directed is blissfully unaware of it. He is going about his daily routine unbothered, while we are making plans & thinking how best we can take our revenge. During all this time it is we who are suffering more. The time may come when we put our plans into action. Sure we will feel a rush of joy & satisfaction at having achieved our end .We are now equal to our enemy. But do not bank upon this good feeling to last long. It all depends upon the chain of events set into motion. Is our conscience OK with what we have done ? Has the fallout been larger & more ominous than what we had anticipated ? Do we regret having soured a relationship? Or maybe we are ashamed of our own behavior & regret having taken revenge? The various social,moral,psychological & legal repercussions which follow will differ from case to case. Suffice it to say that even if we escape social or moral strictures, how will we cope with the feelings of guilt or bitterness which might follow ? Will the whole tedious journey have been worth it?
But if we don't retaliate to aggressions against us then it might be construed as our weakness , & lead to repetitions of similar episodes. If vengeance breeds negativity then negligence damages our self esteem & social standing. Hence we cannot ignore major transgressions against us. But our reaction should be such that we convey our message without losing our composure. One way would be to accost our opponent & let him know in measured tones that we are aware of what he has done & it should not be repeated . A straight dialogue will have four-fold benefits---
A)It will release our pent-up feelings
B)It will warn our adversary to desist in future
C)It will save our prestige from taking a nose-dive
D)It will prevent further spoiling of relations & ambiance
In case this dialogue does not have the desired result,we can take the help of a mediator, a common friend or higher authority. But we must not descend to his level by taking retaliatory action. An act of vengeance can lead to a prolonged spell of sparring;with the outcome still being uncertain. Why begin what we can't end ? On the other hand a talk will give us insight into his version of the matter as well as convey our own feelings.If worse come to worst we can take care to protect ourselves in future.
Enough talk of vengeance & retaliation ! Let us now consider a scenario of forgiveness. Suppose someone has insulted us,or humiliated us , or harmed us in a more tangible manner. This is what WE think. There is a chance that it was not intended in the way we perceive it . Perhaps the other person's motivation was not to hurt us. Maybe he was overstressed or overworked, & committed a mistake. Or he was simply careless & is now regretting his faux-pas. Does that entail a return-post from us? When we forgive him we are in fact protecting our own self from unseemly behavior. Looking at things from our opponent's point of view will endow us with more understanding & tolerance.
If we find ourselves at the receiving end once too often then introspection is called for. Are we too sensitive? Do we carry a chip on our shoulder? Is our behavior brusque or insensitive? Perhaps we rub people the wrong way & they are forced to react. A frank appraisal of our own attributes will not only improve social relations but also lead to self advancement. As soon as we forgive someone we climb a step higher on the scale of personal growth.
When we pardon an opponent we feel a sense of calmness suffuse our being. The burden of how to avenge ourselves, to find the right time, place & method of doing so; is suddenly lifted from our shoulders. We feel light & carefree once again. With this major obstacle out of our way, we can devote ourselves to more constructive jobs that we had put on the back-burner. Life can now advance at an even pace.
Another significant off-shoot of forgiveness is release from pain. As long as we focus on why & how, so & so abused us, we experience a lot of anguish.The perpetrator continues to monopolize our thoughts & feelings.But when we decide to pardon him it is as if the pain dissolves , leaving behind a maturer self.
Then again forgiveness acts as a safety valve on a cauldron of fury. Anger persists till we consider revenge. As soon as we open our hearts to forgive & forget , anger escapes through the same route.
Forgiveness gives not only emotional well-being but also physical fitness. Once our mind is cleansed of all the negativity arising from a revengeful attitude,we enjoy better health,sleep & stamina.
If forgiveness is so beneficial for our health & happiness , then it ought to be directed at our own selves too.We all make mistakes. Some of us are quick to pardon others' faults, but are very strict when it comes to our own. Not only faults,even our weaknesses & complexes need tender handling. Circumstances sometimes connive to make us commit blunders or even premeditated wrongs. Repentance often sets in afterwards.It helps to ask that person's forgiveness.It is essential to make amends & move on.Excess remorse& flogging of self can only have negative repercussions. It will impair our personality & damage our psyche.
But there are instances where forgiveness can be counter-productive;as in the case of life partners.If one partner continues to forgive the other when s/he refuses to mend his/her ways then the latter's torment & the former's suffering go on increasing.This may keep the relationship intact, but at what cost ?
Ultimately it is up to the aggrieved person to evaluate comprehensively whether forgiveness is beneficial or detrimental to his/her well being. In the words of Lewis B Smedes---"
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was YOU!"
Some more thoughts on the subject at this site.