Forgive and Walk Away

As the year 2022 draws to a close and the festival season fills our lives with hope, optimism and promise, it is also time for some serious reflection – at both individual and collective levels – on what to carry forward into the new year and what to leave behind. Redundant, past baggage retard and sicken us. It is only prudent that we lighten ourselves — up there, mentally — and move towards a lighter and brighter new year, and live life more in the present and to its maximum.

Around this time of the year, at the turn of the millennium, I realised that, to forge ahead and quickly make up for my lost time (after Kashmir), I must offload my past baggage – of painful, debilitating memories. In doing so, I realised I must forgive all my past offenders, unconditionally, before those memories work deviously into my thoughts (and actions) of redemption, vengeance or vendetta.

Forgiveness does not ask for any reparations; it is a self-healer. After forgiveness, as we move on, even thinking about our offenders or their offenses becomes redundant. Not only it brings us a wonderful gift of liberation, but it also rescues us from our own shackles that enslave most of us to a painful but non-existent past. Forgiveness defines human progress and our spiritual growth.

Twenty-two years hence, I don’t regret my decision. However, it has not been a very easy journey for me or a smooth process of reconciliation.  It was never easy to ignore the barbs that I kept receiving from many repeat offenders who misinterpreted my civility and a humane side. Amongst some serious offenders were also those who clearly showed disrespect to me in public (and in private) and those who were generally inconsiderate, as well as those who generally mocked the notions of human respect and civility, construing them as human weaknesses. In the human jungle, many people do that. They poke you, where they believe it will hurt you the most, just to incite a reaction from you.

When I could no longer put up with my self-inflicted pain — caused essentially by my own self-restraint and a largely non-violent, forgiving mindset — I introduced some rules to my act of forgiveness, purely to ease and free up my life. One such rule was the ‘Three Strike’ rule, which allowed me to free myself from my tormentors, which included some relatives and fake friends at that time, immediately upon their third attempt of transgression against me. Upon detaching myself, I walked away, silently, without giving them any notice or warning. In essence, this approach provided three lifelines to my relationships (especially with repeat offenders); it also gave me a much-needed relief and precious time to focus on the wellness of my life.

Like my offenders, I too am a human, prone to err and blunder. By no measure, therefore, I can stand on a high pedestal and claim to be an angel. I too must have rubbed many people on their wrong side, intentionally or inadvertently. Expectedly, therefore, like me, many people must have walked away from me, silently, without causing me any hurt.

About a decade ago, I sharpened my approach using a ‘Two Strikes‘ policy, which gave my offenders just two chances to offend me [of course, which they did not know] before I would strike them off completely from my life. However, another decade later, after realising an immeasurable value of my remaining time on Earth, I had to bring in the ‘Single Strike’ policy to further free me up. Why get embroiled in stupid, unwinnable arguments?

Considering how fast time fleets by, we mortals just don’t have any luxury, whatsoever, of wasting any of our precious time in unnecessary arguments with other people, irrespective of the intensity of the provocations from the other side or the Himalayan height of our ego or irresistible temptations to fight back and seek apologies or amends from the other side. In essence, at our individual little levels, it really does not matter who is right or wrong, what really matters is how well we spend our gifted time here on Earth. Time is all we have got. After our living physical body, time is our greatest asset.  My Single Strike policy effectively reduced the number of my social lifelines to one. I just detach myself and walk away immediately upon realising the other side is uncivil or unfair or a potential opportunist or a problem maker.

Why do I walk away? Why don’t I ask for their explanation or forgiveness and try to continue my relationships? Could my act of walking away be construed as an act of cowardice? These are good questions and, of course, there will be many more questions that need some serious explanation.

One can’t change the basic individual nature of living beings: some bite, some sting, some simply devour other beings – their own kind or other kinds. Therefore, it is just futile trying to change the nature of the wrongdoers or even expect any considerate behaviours from them; they will do whatever characterises them, no matter what you do to help them or how well you treat them. Only when we realise the importance of bringing about a lasting change in our mindset and social behaviours, we change ourselves. No external force or threat can change us permanently.

We humans come in several shapes, sizes and shades but there are some traits that characterise us in general, such as, we are sadistic, materially competitive and jealous. Our intelligent species ranges between (human) angels and (human) demons. There are humans who sacrifice themselves – their personal comfort and lives – for not only their fellow humans but also for the natural environment – the flora and the fauna, birds and all life on Mother Earth. And there are humans who work diligently on the total destruction of every living being. There are vegans (i.e., vegetarians who don’t consume dairy products) who live with and stand for humane ideals and there are humans who consume everything under the sky without any hesitation. There are humans who live for others and work incessantly to save lives and there are selfish humans who don’t desist using others or taking lives. There are humans who eat to live and there are those who live to eat. There are humans who feel entitled to be served and there are humans who look for opportunities to serve. Most of us fall within these ranges.

All humans have intrinsic dignity. As much as I must uphold the dignity of all other people, my transgressors included, it is my sacred duty to uphold my personal human dignity too. Giving a free rope to others, on how they treat me, is undoubtedly quite unfair to my own being. One can’t change the world or the basic nature of other humans, but one can choose to manage oneself and one’s actions and, in this case, permanently walk away from people or situations that can potentially give one grief.

Consciously walking away, to allow a decent space to exist between two sides, not only upholds the dignity of both sides but also provides them with opportunities to reflect back, exercise civility in the meantime and encourage peaceful coexistence in the future.

In conclusion, let us celebrate this Christmas and, in a few days, move into the new year (a) with ‘gratitude’ that we are alive and well and hopeful for a better tomorrow; (b) with ‘forgiveness’ for all those who may have transgressed against us in the past; and (c) with ‘apology’ to all those we may not have treated well or who may have felt offended by us. Individually, we alone know how good, bad or ugly we are. We know how mean or fair we are. We can’t escape ourselves. Our conscience will catch up with us one day and judge us. No one escapes karma. Time will hold us to account.

Let us move on, from pain to liberation, from a non-existent past to a possible brighter and lighter future, with forgiveness, empathy, compassion and humility for one and all – our fellow humans and all other living beings on our Mother Earth. Move on, move on …

© Bill K Koul [23 December 2022, Perth, Western Australia]

Copyright © Bill K Koul

4 thoughts on “Forgive and Walk Away

  1. It’s one of the wisest and well written
    New year message.
    Making the presence perfect!
    All the best. And regards.

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