Hazrat Inayat Khan on Forgive and Forget

Forgive and Forget

 Someone asked me once, 'In the hereafter shall we meet those around us here?' I answered, 'Yes, we shall meet in the hereafter those whom we love and those whom we  'hate.' He was rather pleased with the first thing, but much displeased with the other. Then I explained further: 'You think of two persons, the one whom you love most and the one whom you hate most; you cannot help thinking of them. You can either be praying for the friend or cursing the enemy, but you will be thinking often of both. And the most wonderful thing is that those whom you love or hate in life, you meet unexpectedly; without any intention on your part you attract them.' He asked, 'What shall we do?' I said, 'The best thing is not to hate anyone, only to love. That is the only way out of it. As soon as you have forgiven those whom you hate, you have got rid of them. Then you have no reason to hate them, you just forget.' Healing and the Mind World

 Precautions must be taken that nobody should become our enemy; and special care must be taken to keep a friend from turning into an enemy. It is right by every means to forgive the enemy and to forget his enmity if he earnestly wishes it; and to take the first step in establishing friendship, instead of withdrawing from it and still holding in the mind the poison of the past, which is as bad as retaining an old disease in the system. Moral Culture – The Law of Reciprocity – Our Dealings with our Enemies

 The more feeling develops in the heart of man, the more forgiving he becomes. For to him the world's inhabitants appear as little children, just as small as they appear to him who flies in an aeroplane; and as one is ready to forget the faults of children, so the wise are ready to forgive the faults of men. Moral Culture – The Law of Beneficence – Our Dealings with Wrongdoers

The judge is the slave of law, the forgiver is its master. In fact we ourselves, limited as we are, have mercy in us, so that often if someone has done something against us we would forgive. If he only bows before us we say, 'He has humiliated himself, I will forget.' Even if a son has caused his mother much sorrow, when he is in trouble, he only needs to say, 'Mother, I have done this, but you are the one to whom I can come for sympathy', and she will say, 'My child, I forgive you, though at the time it made me sad.' If we, who are full of faults and errors, have in us that little spark of mercy inherited from God and can forgive, how can we think that God, the most Merciful, will reckon our faults like a judge? We are as little children before Him. Regarding God as a personal being, how can we think that He, whose being is love, whose action is love, who is all love, can weigh our actions as a judge would? Spiritual Liberty – Life After Death – Reincarnation

 If God is most merciful, how could He govern us only by law devoid of love and compassion, when even we human beings forget and forgive another's fault in spite of law, reason, and logic, when moved by love, our divine inheritance? God is love, not law. Love in its lower manifestation turns into law by forming habits, yet it is not law which rules love, it is love that controls law.
 The idea of forgiveness is the result of our idealizing God. As we idealize God so He proves to be. Sometimes the sins of a whole life may be wiped off in one instant; sometimes all the virtue and piety of a whole life may be lost by one sin. Spiritual Liberty – Life After Death – Reincarnation

Man grows up in limitation, and this limitation suggests to him at every step that he is imperfect, handicapped, weak, captive, incapable; and it is because of this constant suggestion of imperfection that he begins to say, 'I cannot endure it, I cannot stand it, I cannot bear it, I cannot forget it, I cannot forgive.' A man begins to think all these things because he is imperfect, because of all the continual suggestions which arise in life and convince him that he is limited. Naturally, therefore, as the man goes on, whether he is successful or unsuccessful, whether he is more qualified or less, whatever his condition may be, his mind holds the thought that his power and inspiration, his knowledge and capability are limited. He cannot understand anything else but that, and he remains totally unaware of that spark which continually shines in his heart and which may be called his divine inheritance. The Alchemy of Happiness – Man, the Master of His Destiny (1)

 Man is born with such a critical tendency and has so much developed this tendency that he easily seeks what is bad in everything. The Sufi takes the contrary way; he seeks for what is good in everyone and everything. The way of morality is to think that if someone has done us some good it is very great, and if we have done good to someone to think that it is very little and that we might have done more. If a person has done something bad to us we should forget it as soon as possible, and if we have done something bad we should think that a great fault. If we see something that seems bad to us we should overlook it, disregard it, forgive it. This is the only way of happiness and peace. Sufi Teachings, The Privilege of being Human – Moral Culture

 To ask forgiveness of another produces a proper sense of justice in one's mind. He perceives the need for asking God to pardon his faults. When he asks for forgiveness, that forgiveness develops in his nature too, and he becomes ready to forgive others. Christ says in His prayer, "Forgive us as we forgive others." The virtue, the secret, is in that. By asking forgiveness of God, you give up the desire to demand forgiveness from your fellow man, and you desire to give forgiveness to him. We see this with the Arabs and Bedouins in Mecca and the desert. They are so ready to fight one another and kill each other. They may be fighting, and actually have their knives drawn to kill one another, and yet if a third person comes and says, "Forgive, for the sake of God and the Prophet," as soon as they hear these words they both throw away their knives and shake hands, and the handshake is the seal of friendship. Though the Bedouin has no education, yet he has such a devotion to God and His Prophet that no sooner does he hear these words than he at once offers his hand, and from that day there is no spite nor evil thought in his heart.
 If we only had that! With all our education and learning, with all the claims of civilization that we make, we are not as good as these. We retain the bitterness in our hearts. We never reflect what a poison it is. The very person who would shudder at the idea of having something in his body that is decayed and offensive--something that should not be there, but should be taken off or cut out or removed--will tolerate that poison of bitterness in his mind: he will not take it out; he will foster it. Had he not lacked the sense of forgiveness and had he not neglected to cultivate the habit of asking forgiveness, he would have become ready to forgive and forget. The Unity of Religious Ideas – Religion - The Effect of Prayer

“…God does not always exact according to a certain law. He does not weigh your virtue on one side of the scale and His grace on the other, and exchange His grace for man's virtues. The Divine Being apart, man in his friendship, in his kindness, in his favor and disfavor, does he always exact what the other one is, or is doing? No. A friend admires his friend for his goodness and defends him for his wrongdoings. Does he not forget the law when there comes friendship? He forgets it. So man, instead of using justice and reason, overlooks all that is lacking and wrong.
 Something right comes forward to cover it all, to forget it all, to forgive it all. A mother whose son is accused of having done something wrong, she knows he has done wrong and she knows he is against the law. At the same time there is something else in her which wishes to lift up, to clear away. She would spend anything, lose anything, sacrifice anything in order that her son might not be punished. When we see that in everyday life, according to his evolution, man has a tendency to forget, to forgive, to look at things favorably, to cover all that is ugly; if this tendency is in man, from where does it come? It comes from the source which is Perfection. There is God.  The Unity of Religious Ideals – Divine Grace

 In order to learn forgiveness man must learn tolerance first.  And there are people whom man cannot forgive.  It is not that he must not forgive, but it is difficult, beyond his power to forgive, and in that case the first thing he can do is to forget.  The first step towards forgiveness is to forget.  It is true that the finer the man is the more he is subject to be hurt by the smallest disturbance that can produce irritation and inharmony in the atmosphere.  A person who gives and takes hurts is capable of living an easy and comfortable life in the world.  Life is difficult for the fine person, for he cannot give back what he receives in the way of hurt, and he can feel it more than the average person.
 Many seek protection from all hurting influences by building some wall around themselves.  But the canopy over the earth is so high that a wall cannot be built high enough, and the only thing one can do is to live in the midst of all inharmonious influences, to strengthen his will-power and to bear all things, yet keeping the fineness of character and a nobleness of manner together with an ever-living heart.
 To become cold with the coldness of the world is weakness, and to become broken by the hardness of the world is feebleness, but to live in the world and yet to keep above the world is like walking on the water.  There are two essential duties for the man of wisdom and love; that is to keep the love in our nature ever increasing and expanding and to strengthen the will so that the heart may not be easily broken.  Balance is ideal in life; man must be fine and yet strong, man must be loving and yet powerful. Gatha 2 – Morals – Forgiveness

 They say, "Forgive and forget," which is very expressive of the process of forgiveness.  It is impossible to forgive unless you can forget.  What keeps man from forgiving his fellow-man is that he holds the fault of another constantly before his view.  It is just like sticking a little thorn in one's own heart and keeping it there and suffering the pain.  It may also be pictured as putting a drop of poison in one's own heart and retaining it until the whole heart becomes poisoned.  Verily, blessed are the innocent, who do not notice anybody's fault, and the greater credit is to the mature souls, who, recognizing a fault, forget it and so forgive.  How true are the words of Christ, "Let those throw a stone who have not sinned."  The limitations of human life make man subject to faults; some have more faults, some have less, but there is no soul without faults.  As Christ says, "Call me not good."
 Forgiveness is a stream of love which washes away all impurities wherever it flows.  By keeping this spring of love, which is in the heart of man, running, man is able to forgive, however great the fault of his fellow-man may seem.  One who cannot forgive closes his heart.  The sign of spirituality is that there is nothing you cannot forgive, there is no fault you cannot forget.  Do not think that he who has committed a fault yesterday must do the same today, for life is constantly teaching and it is possible in one moment a sinner may turn into a saint.
 At times it is hard to forgive, as it is hard to take away the thorn that has gone deep into one's heart.  But the pain that one feels in taking away the thorn deep-set in the heart is preferable to keeping the thorn in the heart constantly.  The greater pain of a moment is better than the mild pricking going on constantly.  Ask him who forgives what relief there is in forgiveness.  Words can never explain the feeling of the heart when one has cast out the bitter feeling from one's heart by forgiving and when love spreads all over within oneself, circulating like warm blood through one's whole being. Gatha 2 – Metaphysics – Forgiveness

Q.  Could it be if a mureed who leaves the Murshid, it is a lack of understanding?  I can't believe that a mureed could consciously hurt his Murshid!
A.  That is quite true.  But all things we do in our lives, we hardly consciously do them.  All things that really are wrong or a weakness, mostly we do them unconsciously.  Nevertheless, the consequence is the same.  But it must be understood that no one in the whole world you will find so ready to tolerate, so ready to forget, and to forgive than Murshid.  If Murshid would not forgive, who should do, who would forgive?  Murshid is the first to forgive.  But remember, even the forgetting of it, even the forgiving of it, might leave the scar there just the same.  Anything that is delicate, there can come a crack.  It is very easy to get a crack. Sangatha 2

Q.  What should we do if we want to ask forgiveness from a person who has died?
A.  The best way of asking the forgiveness of a dead one is to ask forgiveness of God.  God's forgiveness will reflect on that person.  That is the best way of reaching.  Anything that makes uncomfortable, we must ask God's forgiveness:  "May God forgive us."  To say it to oneself.  In that way God's forgiveness reflects on that person.  And then all is forgiven.
Q.  Does God not always forgive?  (note:  The meaning of this question was affirmative and not negative:  "Does God not always forgive?")
A.  Yes, but by asking consciously God's forgiveness, God's forgiveness comes in our consciousness.  God has forgiven already, but by asking God's forgiveness it reflects in our consciousness, also in the consciousness of the one whom we wish that would forgive us.  In the East there is, the Prophet Mohammed told his followers that, "No matter how much good you have done, but if your parents remain dissatisfied with you, you are not forgiven."  And what is the meaning of this?  The meaning is this, that God always forgives, and who does not forgive is man; and that parents, we owe to them, to the parents, a great deal, the most, I mean.
 And only by asking their forgiveness can that debt be paid.  But not paying it back; because we can never pay them back.  In the same light we can see this idea with every person.  It is easy for us to forgive another, but it is difficult to get the forgiveness from another, because we can forgive another person if we want to.  But another person will not forgive us if we want to.  And therefore, to forgive is easy, and to get forgiveness of another is most difficult.  And God's forgiveness is always there, but man's forgiveness must be obtained.  That can be obtained by making our consciousness saturated with God's forgiveness.  That, reflecting in the person who has not forgiven, it will come to us.
 And if a person is clear of vision he will feel it; just like one feels cold or heat he will feel the forgiveness of another person.  And it is so easy to offend, and it is difficult to make up.  In just a least little thing we can offend another without knowing it, and to make up it is so difficult.  It is just like lifting a mountain.  You can ask and ask and you can do and do what you like, what you can, and may not be forgiven.  Because many people are unable to forgive.
   They cannot forgive.  They are not capable of forgiving.  They cannot forgive because they cannot forget.  The first step in forgiving is to forget.  And not everybody is capable of forgetting.  It is an impression which can be deeply rooted in a person.  They never can forget.  Even if a person wanted to forget he cannot forget.  And if one cannot forget, then one cannot forgive.  If a person says, "Oh yes, I forgive you," that is not enough.  He must first forget.  Then only, he can forgive.  And the one who has got the key to get the forgiveness of another, that is the man who conquers the world. Sangatha 2

Besides that, there is a certain attitude of mind that is necessary while one is in the Summer School. That attitude of mind is such of friendliness, sympathy, tolerance, forgiveness; an attitude to tolerate, to forgive and forget anybody's faults. We are all limited, we all have our faults and limitations. If another person has a little more, perhaps our faults are hidden. Maybe we have more faults than anybody else.
 The best thing is to overlook it. Besides, in the worldly life, all year long there are many chances to say, "That person is not good; that person does not please me; he is wrong; that person I cannot tolerate; that person I hate." These three months that we come away from worldly life it is better to give up absolutely that feeling of malice, intolerance, prejudice; it must be entirely thrown away. If anybody comes and inspires with that feeling, take it differently. As there is a saying of a Sufi at the king's table, the king asked him when he was taking a glass of wine, "It is prohibited in your faith, is it not so?" "Yes, but when it touches my lips it turns into water." The same thing we must do. From the Message Papers June 15th, 1926