Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Speaking Tree Weekly Blog | Aug 31, 2020
Almost every day of our lives, we meet with some kind of bad experience, great or small, which is inescapable. We have two options: either to ignore it or try to take some counter measure. The first option is a form of forgiveness, while the other amounts to seeking revenge. Which is the better option? We must decide by looking at the outcome, for that will be the determining factor.
Forgiveness is certainly the better option, for it is based on a proven formula for saving yourself from even worse experiences. For example, forgiveness saves you from unworthy distractions, saves your precious time, saves you from creating even more problems. It is an instant solution to any problem. On the contrary, taking revenge is bound to complicate the problem, for that means making everything go from bad to worse. Where forgiveness can buy time, taking revenge just wastes time without there being any benefit.
In such a situation, people are generally too prone to place the onus for the predicament entirely upon others. But this is an unwise reaction. The better plan is to examine one’s own role in the affair. In other words, if you are having some sad experience, do not focus on the other party. Think about your own self and adopt a course of action which is better for you. At many times in our lives we are faced with two kinds of choices – anti-other thinking and pro-self-thinking. Anti-other thinking makes you descend to the animal level, whereas pro-self-thinking elevates you to a higher plane of human behaviour.
If forgiveness is a full stop, revenge is punctuated by commas. Forgiveness means ending an unwanted situation, while taking revenge means endlessly extending it. Forgiveness maintains your positive thinking uninterruptedly, while revenge fosters negativity. And negative thinking can lead to all kinds of evil actions.
Some would argue that forgiveness does not always work, and that it is better to adopt the tit-for-tat policy. But tit-for-tat is not a real solution; it does not end the problem; it only leads to a chain of action and reaction. Forgiveness puts an end to the problem once and for all, while a tit-for-tat policy only aggravates and prolongs it. There are those who will argue that the policy of forgiveness will only encourage others to indulge in further wrongdoing against us. But this is a flimsy supposition and, moreover, runs counter to the law of nature.
Psychological studies show that every human being is born with an ego and a conscience. If you follow the tit-for-tat policy, it arouses the ego of the other party, whereas if you follow the policy of forgiveness, it will activate the other person’s conscience. And it is a fact that, in controversial matters, the conscience always plays a positive role.
Forgiveness and revenge are two different moral cultures. The culture of forgiveness helps in the building of a better society – a society where positive values flourish, where the spirit of co-operation prevails, where disparate groups join and turn themselves into a peaceful society. The outcome of vengefulness is quite the reverse. The revenge culture creates an environment of mistrust, in which everyone takes others to be his or her rivals. In the last analysis, it rules out the growth of a healthy society.
Sooner or later, everyone is bound to do something wrong. But then the well-known saying ‘To err is human’ should be borne in mind. This being so, taking revenge means making not just one mistake, but making mistake after mistake. On the contrary, forgiveness means undoing wrongs with rights. It is better to concede that, if to err is human, to forgive is even more humane. Indeed, it is this concept which is expressed in the well-known saying: ‘To err is human, but to forgive is divine.’