Forgiveness Is the Unspoken F-Word
In this Open Column submission, Farhan Baridwan unravels the long, grueling journey of finding solace in forgiving after sequences of anger and displeasure from external factors.
Words by Whiteboard Journal
Like most people, I weigh the sins people have done to me. The heavier the sin, the bigger the punishment… or so I thought.
Nowadays, I have come to the conclusion that nothing is linear, and the weight of a sin can’t be scaled from one to ten. I realized that the context that one situation holds is usually different from another’s. How I treat my own sins differs from how I treat those of others. I have all the justifications in the world to let myself off the hook, and I can only assess how badly a person has screwed things up based on the impact.
I can never know what goes on beyond a person’s mind at any given time, especially if not one word is spoken. It would be very arrogant and presumptuous to assume I understand everything that is happening. I’m not the source of truth; I will never know a person’s intent, only the impact.
There were days when assessing the impact would’ve led me to be cruel and punish people more than they deserved. But not this time. I have lost so much—almost everything. But how I lost almost everything is exactly why I should shift my focus from anger and revenge. I started to think that maybe punishing people far less than they deserve is what I deserve. I can wait to be kind, but I don’t want to. I think this is it. This is the exact moment when I must be kind.
When things are hard and it feels impossible to be kind, that’s precisely the moment for me to be kind. After all, what is life if not a series of chances to give chances?
A cynic might label this entire column as screaming virtue signals, and maybe they would be right. I won’t deny that it’s partly my intention. But my plea is not for you to label me; these signals are not meant for you to hear. In fact, it is the signals I send for myself—whispered reminders in moments of doubt when things are silent and I can’t help but to be less than kind.
The truth is, it is hard for me to believe that I can be kind. When I’m hurt, I tend to be defensive and excuse my cruelty, like most people do. So, I need to hear it; I need to believe that I’m more than a person who is hurt. I need to believe that I’m capable of choosing kindness and that it is a part of my DNA. I don’t want to feel too embarrassed about it.
If I believe I can be that person, perhaps I can actually be that person.
I have lost everything, leaving me no choice but to somehow be that person. I know I can never be perfectly kind and good, but I don’t need to wait until I’m 100% free from evil to choose kindness and forgive. The hurting hurts so much that I have no other choice but to forgive. It seems unforgivable, and I could be compelled to be cruel. This is my cue to forgive and be kind; to spare and to move on.
The weight of a sin can’t be scaled from one to ten. But when one believes a sin weighs beyond the numbers of that scale, perhaps the right thing to do is to make a 180º turn and forgive. When things are incredibly hard to assess because assessing everything is painful, perhaps the right thing to do is to trust one’s judgment (the real one and not the vengeful impulse) and forgive their sins. Forgive people.
I realized that, maybe, after I forgive that sin, I can start working on forgiving myself. Forgive myself for allowing things like this to happen in the first place. Forgive myself for begging people to stay. Forgive myself for being less than kind and not seeing the good in people.
This will never be a finished task, and I will never be free of days when I feel anger. But I can try. I don’t want to resort to anger, revenge, and cruelty because nobody matters to me more than I do. How people hurt me doesn’t matter as much as how I respond to the pain. I might not be perfect, and I might be critical of myself, but I owe it to my imperfect self to be kind to others.
So, yes, perhaps forgiveness is the unspoken F-word. When you run out of the four letters that traditionally follow, perhaps a place for an additional 10 letters is reserved. When it seems or is deemed impossible, do it anyway. You didn’t know you could be here in the first place, so why not do something out of the ordinary and just forgive?