Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Friday, September 10, 2010

Forgiveness ends the argument

He who forgives ends the argument (Africa)

Dear Zayda,

Two monks were once walking on a long journey. When they came to a river, they saw a young woman who wanted to get across, but the water was above her head. One of the monks lifted her up and took her to the other side in his arms. The second monk paid no attention to the young woman. The monks then continued walking and the young woman went along a different path.

Three hours later, the second monk said, “I don’t understand you, my brother. You know we have taken a vow never to touch a woman. You broke that vow when you lifted that woman across the river.”

“You are right,” said the first monk. “I held her in my arms for about three minutes. However, you have held her in your mind for the last three hours. And you seem set to hold her in your mind even longer. It seems to me that, until you let her go, you will continue breaking your vow.”

Jack Mandora, mi nuh choose none. [This is a way we end stories in Jamaica. The phrase means that I am passing on the story to you as I got it, but I cannot tell you whether or not it is true.]

The first monk did what he had to do. He broke a rule because he saw this young woman’s need and he could help her. He also knew that his vow was meant to help him stay focused on being a monk. However, he also believed in helping others as much as he could. He could forgive himself and move on, ending whatever argument he may have had in his mind.

The second monk could not let go of his view of what he saw. He had an argument in his mind that he kept turning over and over. To him, his position was morally superior. He was protecting the rules. If he were like many of us, he would not be able to resist telling others how right he was and how wrong his brother monk was. With each repeat of his side of the story, more and more persons would be likely to enter the argument and take sides. If he continued the argument, he could become unhappy and ill. In addition others could avoid him because he would not be fun to be around.

If the second monk is wise, he will learn from the memory and let it go. He will realize that he needs to forgive himself for what could be his own frailty in relation to women. He could have past experiences that cause him to fear touching a woman.

If the first monk had truly released all his would be able to forgive his brother monk his inability to end the argument. If he knew and trustws himself well, he would let go the baggage that rightly belonged to the one who decided to carry the load in his mind.

Sometimes people hurt us. Parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, close cousins and distant cousins may seem to fail us. We may feel friends have betrayed us. People may steal from us what we consider most valuable, taking away our jobs, our homes, and even the lives of our loved ones. The media seeks out those who are victims, so we may find fame and fortune in continuing to show how much another person's conduct makes us suffer.

At some point, however, we may need to choose between being happy and being sorry for ourselves. Old and worn stories may begin to affect the choices we make and the relationships we form. Those who want to be happy will avoid us. Those who at first welcomed the argument may become tired of it and move on to stories from more recent victims.

My grandniece, letting go is not easy, especially in a world that promotes getting our own back at those we think have offended us. I am not asking you to be a door mat, so you need never excuse what you do not wish to accept. You can remember, but not with hurt or desire for revenge. You can remember in order to make better choices in the future. You can remember so as to know whom to bring into your closest circle, and whom to keep your distance from.

Where you are the one who did wrong, forgiveness means accepting that you did wrong, and not trying to excuse or justify your behavior. Admit it, let go the baggage, repair any damage done, and continue on life’s journey.

Forgiving (most of all self-forgiving) is not easy, but it is the only way to go if you love yourself and want to keep yourself whole and healthy.


Your shangazi Nothango (Yvonne)

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