Someone asked me the other day that why do our loved ones hurt us the most? This is not a question but a statement if you ask me, for only your loved ones can hurt you the most. Those who don’t know you may inflict pain but they can’t hurt you emotionally. In broken relationships, there comes a point when two people no longer care about the relationship. They are tired. Giving up on the other person, they become indifferent towards each other. In that indifference, they feel like strangers. It no longer hurts then because strangers can’t hurt you.
That said, a relationship suffers many blows, before it gets to that stage where such indifference creeps in, where the damage is irreparable. Every time you are hurt, a little bit of you is broken. You patch yourself, determined to win over or change the other person, but with each hit you take you lose a bit more of you. Just like sand sifts through a tightly clenched fist, the harder you try to hold yourself, the quicker you lose yourself. And one day you stand empty of any emotions towards the other person. That day you become a stranger to them, even to yourself to some extent.
You look at yourself in the mirror but the old you, the happy you, is nowhere to be found. You see the same body in the mirror but you don’t feel the same person inside. This is a sad stage for you have lost yourself and unless you spot the beacon of love, waves of emotions will continue to toss the ship of your life. These are new feelings, new swells of sadness, reclusion and grief, these are unknown emotions. You feel like the lost child in a fair, lonely in a crowd, an utter stranger. How can you feel any intense emotion towards strangers? You can’t. And, forgiveness like hurt is an intense feeling. You can only feel it for your own.
Immersed in a religious text, Rabbi Kagan, commonly known as the Chofetz Chaim, was traveling on a train. Three Jews, who sat alongside, invited him to play cards with them since they needed a fourth hand. The rabbi refused saying he preferred his reading over playing cards. The three travelers were clueless about the fact that the stranger they were soliciting was the famous Chofetz Chaim himself. They tried their luck a couple of times more and eventually becoming frustrated, got mad. One of them punched him in the face while the other two cheered. The rabbi grabbed his hanky to dab his wound but drops of blood had already leaked and fell on his book.
A few hours later, the train pulled into the station. Scores of people had gathered there to welcome the sage. He got off the train with a gashed face and the devotees demanded to know who hurt him. The rabbi whiffed aside the question and continued walking. The three culprits were plagued by guilt at the realization that they had not just beaten up some poor old fellow but the Chofetz Chaim.
They met him the next day at his home to seek his forgiveness. With remorse and shame, they begged him to absolve them. The rabbi, however, said no and refused them the gift of forgiveness. The rabbi’s son, who was a witness to all this, was taken aback. It was a saint’s job to forgive after all. The offenders pleaded again and yet again the rabbi said no. They left with a heavy heart.
“Father,” his son said, “pardon me for saying this but I feel your behavior was a bit cruel. You are a spiritual icon, the whole community looks up to you. Why didn’t you forgive them?”
“You are right, son,” the rabbi said. “Denying them forgiveness was unbecoming of me, but the truth is it was not in my power to forgive them.
“Of course, I Rabbi Kagan, the Chofetz Chaim, forgive them,” he continued, “but my forgiveness does not matter. The man they had beaten was the one they presumed to be a simple, unassuming poor person with no crowd of well-wishers waiting to greet him. He was the victim and only he can grant them forgiveness. Let them go find that person. I am incapable of releasing them from their guilt.”
A few months back I wrote about forgiveness being the most difficult emotion. It is particularly so because you can’t forgive as a stranger, you can’t grant them pardon as a new person. To forgive, you have to scrape the wound, you have to become the old person again. Embers of slumbering emotions light up again as the wind of memories blow away the ash of false assurance. Feelings you thought were long gone are reignited but the new you is afraid of handling them again. You don’t want to be hurt again.
Forgiveness, however, requires that you be hurt once more, one last time, once and for all. It is the final dressing to treat your wound. It demands that you put your new found strength and indifference aside and expose yourself anew to the old vulnerability, insecurity and uncertainty. You have to step into your abandoned and worn-out shoes and be familiar once more. You have to be reacquainted with the one who hurt you, you’ve to feel him or her one more time for strangers can’t hurt and strangers can’t forgive.
Mulla Nasurdin cheated on his wife once and she found out. She was hurt, and mad at him. Just short of tearing his guts out and framing them to replace their wedding picture in the living room. Mulla apologized, she forgave and they made up.
Over the next two decades however, every now and then, she would remind Mulla of what he had done.
Unable to take it anymore, he said one day, “Why do you keep bringing that up? I thought your policy was ‘forgive and forget’.”
“It is,” she replied. “I just don’t want you to forget that I’ve forgiven and forgotten.”
In reality, you can’t forget your own. You can only forget strangers. To forgive though, you have to own them one more time. And when you do that, indifference gives way to love and other emotions. This sets you up to be hurt yet again. It’s almost cyclical. You love, you get hurt, you make up or adjust, you love them again and you get hurt again. It’s nearly inevitable. That’s why people can spend their whole lives in abusive relationships even when they have the choice to move on.
The only way to avoid being hurt in a relationship is total acceptance of the other person, and that, I may add, is extremely rare. If you become indifferent, the relationship won’t be close anymore, and if you stay close, getting hurt is almost certain. A knotty thing, this life. Naughty too, perhaps. The more caring you are, the more sensitive you will be. And the more sensitive you are, the more hurt you will be.
You get hurt because you are human and they hurt you because they are human. If their good outstrips their bad, rejoice and turn inward so you be less vulnerable. If their bad surpasses their good, forgive and move on.
Your own will hurt you, for love is not about never getting hurt. Instead, it is about not losing sight of the good in the other person even when they hurt you. Sometimes, it’ll drizzle lightly and sometimes it will rain heavily. At times, it will snow and other times it may hail. Ultimately, it’s all water. Learn to let it pass.
If you store it all, life will become a stagnant pool—it’ll get dirtier with time. If you let go, it continues to flow like a beautiful, blue, clean and placid river. Let it.