Getting hurt in life is, unfortunately, unavoidable. No matter how well we live our life, no matter how well prepared we are for all eventualities… stuff happens.
People might say things we wish they wouldn’t, or do things they really shouldn’t, leaving us feeling hurt, indignant, or perhaps with a sense of injustice. In situations like these, it can often be really difficult to let go of the mental commentary which reinforces the feeling, to let go of the grudge, to forgive the other person.
I’ve heard a lot of great stories about forgiveness, but one of my favorites and one which has always stood out is the story of a Tibetan Buddhist monk called Palden Gyatso. Palden was 26 years old when Tibet was invaded back in the late 1950‘s. He had just taken full ordination and life-long vows as a monk. Along with the other monks and nuns caught up in the invasion, he was soon arrested and put in prison, where he spent the next 33 years of his life. During this time he’s said to have been subjected to unimaginable torture, of which he still bears the scars today.
Anyway, soon after his release, he fled to India where he met His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who asked him what it was he had feared most during those years in captivity. Palden answered that what he had feared most, was not losing his life, but losing his compassion, his willingness to forgive. He said it was only forgiveness which had enabled him to continue living under such horrific conditions, where so many others had perished.
Of course, it’s an extreme example, and for most of us, our grudges are not with those who threaten our lives, but rather those who threaten our enjoyment of life. But how many of us imprison ourselves by holding on to resentment from the past, unwilling to put down the emotional baggage we’ve worked so hard to collect along the way?
A grudge requires a vast amount of energy to keep going. It demands that we play events over and over in our minds, keeping the fire burning and the conflict alive. To bear a grudge means to carry anger from the past to the present, restricting the space for love, happiness, friendship and all the other things that are important to us in life—and why would we ever want to do that?