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The Power of Forgiveness

REFLECTIONS — By Dr Rajan Philips — ‘To err is human, to forgive is divine’, so wrote Alexander Pope in his ‘Essay on Criticism’. He was echoing a noble sentiment that is easy to preach but difficult to practise. However, if only we had more people accepting it in their everyday life, our world would surely be a far more peaceful and agreeable place to inhabit.

It is such a thought that inspired the institution in 1994 of the Global Forgiveness Day, observed annually on August 27. The initiative was pioneered by an organisation named the Christian Embassy of Christ’s Ambassadors (CECA) based in Vancouver, Canada. A similar observance on the first Sunday of August, called International Forgiveness Day, was created by the World Forgiveness Alliance, a non-profit, educational foundation led by Robert W Plath, from Mill Valley, California. Their mission is to evoke the healing spirit of forgiveness worldwide and endeavours to achieve it through workshops and seminars and by fostering creative, stress-free relationships in the workplace. It also promotes and publicises research findings on the positive impact of an attitude of forget and forgive on health and mental well-being of people.
There are also a few other days of the year associated with the same theme of forgiveness. I would think, the multiplicity of such commemorative occasions is, in fact, a good thing. These help to emphasise the vital significance of forgiveness in keeping the wheels of social and personal life well lubricated. After all, there’s enough strife and unresolved conflicts at all levels in the world, beginning right at home. Regular reports of domestic violence make appalling reading in the media. A little give and take might have resolved many of these discords.
Basic human impulse is to take revenge or retaliate with greater force. But such escalation of hostile feelings and actions lead to greater turmoil. As Mahatma Gandhi put it well, if everyone applies the principle ‘an eye for an eye’ it would only make the world go blind. We need to break the vicious cycle by providing a healing touch.
Forgiveness is a key virtue that urges us to willingly give up thoughts of retribution or ‘tit for tat’ response. The weak or the feeble cannot do it. We require great courage and will power to exercise this option. It is a therapeutic step that cleanses and ennobles the one who forgives as much as it is likely to transform the forgiven offender.
The guiding thought is that we are all frail and prone to hurt and injure others knowingly or unknowingly. Thus situations where we need to be forgiven outnumber those where we need to be forgiving! And that forgiveness is not a one–off act but an ongoing process.
In Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’ the Bard dwells on the divine quality of mercy which is akin to forgiveness. In a memorable speech Portia makes a passionate plea to the unrelenting Shylock to be merciful without insisting on extracting ‘his pound of flesh’ at any cost.
If we assimilate the spirit of forgiveness properly and practise it effectively, we become better individuals, and experience its true healing power. Let us strive to attain this state of mind that would flood our lives with inner peace and joy.

Quotes:

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
— Gandhi
Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.
— Martin Luther King Jr
Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.
— Mark Twain
Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.
— Paul Boose