Counsellors of any type will tell you that in the struggle for personal development forgiveness is the most important stage. It is not just a spiritual issue it is a medical issue. The nature of humans is to rub each other up the wrong way, people hurt people, people misunderstand people, lives go wrong and others take the blame. Hatred is a corrosive emotion that destroys the person from within. It is often based on wrong assumptions. It can motivate people to do incredible crimes and feel justified in doing so. But often that hatred will only affect the hater. They can waste their life on a perceived injustice when dealing with the problem by honest open communication would be significantly better.

Hatred is the enemy, it can come in different ways and to defeat it has no easy solution. There is one book that I have found particularly helpful in forgiving, that is “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu wrote his treatise 2500 years ago after 1000 years of war in China. What he taught was how to avoid damaging conflict and subdue your enemy without having to use violence. His strategies of positioning and deception in my view are quite brilliant.

But for us, his teaching can be about organisations fighting, or fighting in an environment, fighting another individual or fighting within oneself. I found that If you hate then all you are harming is yourself, not your enemy. In dealing with hatred it is not so much about dealing with others, but dealing with yourself.  If there is no common ground or communication, there is no future of a relationship and it may be over.

But the road to forgiveness is not necessarily just praying about it or deciding to do it, like all real personal development it takes a long slow, working out of your issues over many years. There are no short cuts. Sometimes if people refuse to accept your point of view or even refuse to talk to you then all you can do is reject them. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation, and even the Bible in Ecclesiastes talks about a time for love and a time for hate. If your hatred becomes cold, pure, patient and focussed on appropriate revenge at the right time, I do not believe it is wrong. Cold revenge can only be carefully considered. Not to harm your enemy, not use violence, but to demonstrate to them what they have done to you.

But revenge, even if justified, is not the most important issue. Finding yourself by letting go of the pain is what matters. Moving on and becoming bigger than those who hurt you and maybe understanding that it may not have been meant in the spirit you accepted it. Assumptions are rubbish, feelings are inaccurate, and selfishness does not help.

Truth and reconciliation comes from talking, it comes from being honest ultimately it needs healing of the people who have hurt each other. A society of selfish individuals living in a post-truth world are like grains of sand on the seashore with no cohesion. They will be washed away by the first storm that hits them. In the aftermath, what is it that will hold society together?

Conway-Laird (2016)


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