If we practice and eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, soon the whole world will be blind and toothless. - Mahatma Gandhi
Humanity has a long tradition of revenge and retaliation, only rarely meeting hatred and attack with love and forbearance. It is precisely the rarity of forgiveness that gives it value; it causes us to admire those few individuals courageous enough to display it, and inspires us to follow their example.
Jainism stresses the importance of forgiveness for communal well-being. We need to forgive others, not because they need our forgiveness, but because we need to release ourselves from the rage, hostility, and resentment we carry within us.
Why to forgive?
It sets you free!
Forgiveness is not a sense of false humility that makes us better than somebody else. It is an attitude that sets us free, so that we are not continually haunted by our wounds.
There is a cosmic penalty for not granting forgiveness. The penalty we experience is the hurt that remains trapped within us, which poisons a portion of our body, mind, and soul for every living moment. In order to heal ourselves of the wounds inflicted upon us, we must be willing to forgive those who hurt us.
Makes the world more beautiful!
Forgiveness not only makes us whole once again, it energizes us and makes our vantage point towards the world more beautiful than ever. It isn't about letting someone off the hook, it's about taking a knife out of your own soul. When it comes to forgiveness, it is far better to have a small amount of the genuine thing than massive quantities of the fake stuff.
Forgiving is good for the body as well as the soul. Reliving bad memories over and over again is bad for your health. Simply remembering an incident that made a person angry has proved to be stressful for the heart. Negative feelings that cause stress have also been linked to high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and increased susceptibility to other relatively minor illnesses.
Sincere forgiveness isn't colored with the expectation of an apology. Life has a way of righting the wrongs when looked upon as a larger scheme.
Stages of Forgiveness
Stage I: Preventive form of Forgiveness
Let us concentrate on prevention, rather having to go through the tough process of deciding to forgive someone. Let us constantly maintain friendly relations with everyone. Let us clarify misunderstandings politely and right away. Let us be sensitive to the feelings of other individuals and exercise humility.
Stage II: Passive Forgiveness (Forgiveness involving indifference - 'Live and let live')
If we do not succeed in preventing animosity, let us do our best to resolve the situation. In this mode of behavior, the other person is not your friend, but nor is he your enemy. You may not be even on speaking terms with the other person, but then stay true to your word and don't even speak of them at all. Let us remember that just because we could not get along with someone does not mean that he/she is a bad person.
Stage III: Active Forgiveness
This is the best form of forgiveness. It entails loving your enemies. This is what the religions of the world are asking us to strive for, and this is what was preached and actively practiced by Lord Mahavir, Jesus Christ, and many other religious leaders.