Abida Mian's Blog

An outlier that's living, learning and being myself…

Quora Question: How do you learn to forgive?

It all started when I had one of my friends over to play. As my friend left, I found that some of my Barbie clothes had gone missing. I immediately ran to my dad, and told him that I was angry that my friend had stolen from me. My dad told me to come sit on the sofa and watch one of his favourite films, Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi (my dad was a young child during the partition, so this film was extremely poignant for him).

To this very day, there is one scene that I vividly recall. Gandhi was on hunger strike, and a Hindu man comes to him to confess the murder of a Muslim child, which he commits after his own son is murdered. The Hindu man begs for forgiveness, as he’s convinced he’s going to hell. Gandhi advises him to adopt a Muslim child and raise him as a Muslim. The moral was that the true test of redemption was to learn to love his ‘enemy’, and that did not have to mean forsaking his own religion, but to lose his hatred and become an understanding, tolerant Hindu. Wow, although I was young, I was blown away by the powerful message.

Now fast forward years later. I was dating a guy shortly after my dad died. I was pretty vulnerable, but I took him at face value, I really did believe he was one of the good ones. Then I found out he was cheating behind my back. I was devastated, angry, humiliated by my lack of judgement, how could I have gotten it so wrong? I never wanted to see him again.

Then a few weeks later I was walking to work, and I could hear my name being shouted, I turned around and that guy was running towards me. I had a few seconds to react, do I ignore him and carry on walking, or do I acknowledge him?

That flashback of Gandhi’s film, and having experienced switching off my dad’s life support, I realised that I shouldn’t walk away. That by not forgiving, I would always feel resentment, that bitterness for him wouldn’t leave me, I would become ugly inside. I wanted to overcome my conflict to become a better person, one that can understand others shortcomings. I had to let the anger go not just for him, but for my own happiness. How could I learn to trust again, if I still held onto the past?

In fairness, it must have taken him some balls to come up to me and apologise, so I appreciated that. He often says hello when he sees me, and I reciprocate. Much time has passed, I don’t despise him as I once did. I don’t want him in my life as a friend either, I need to respect him which I don’t, but I genuinely wish him well and hope he finds the happiness that he seeks…

As for my dad, I wish I could have had the opportunity to thank him for planting that seed of forgiveness in my mind all those very many years ago…

Gandhi: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”

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