Many of you may have seen a new cinema release, The Railway Man, featuring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman. I went to see it with a couple of girlfriends, all of us expecting (due to our lack of in-depth research) that we were merely going to watch an easy going, World War II romance. Well, how wrong were we? It was the most heart-wrenching, brutally honest film (based on a true story) that literally set my emotions into overdrive witnessing the terrible suffering many of our ancestors endured. The audience was made aware, not only of the extremities and torture of soldiers captured under Japanese Rule in Prisoner of War camps in Asia, but we were also taught a very important lesson in life and that is of “forgiveness”.
This small sentiment gets so regularly overlooked and I came home feeling humbled by one man’s response to the act of forgiveness. It proves the strength of an individual and in the words of Mahatma Gandhi “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”. This is especially true of The Railway Man. Despite the fact that this man’s forgiveness goes beyond the realms of any human being’s general life story, it does prove that life is too short not to forgive.
I thought to myself, I must ensure that I teach my children how to forgive. It sounds simple doesn’t it? However, in reality it is easy to dismiss individuals out of our lives because they disappoint us, let us down, deceive or hurt us. We are all in charge of our behaviour and, as children, we learn through guidance from parents, teachers and friendships to take into consideration the feelings of others. Our simple, innocent friendships mature with age and with maturity you expect humility in relationships. No-one wants to get hurt so we naturally become defensive if we do and barriers slowly appear. Teaching our children to forgive will only strengthen their ability to understand friendships and hopefully they will become more adept at not putting themselves in a position to ever need to be forgiven. Whilst relationships get built on trust and understanding, they can so easily be destroyed. Without sounding too complacent, surely we can learn to have the strength and ability to excuse other’s behaviour accepting that there may be an element of human error involved. To have this attitude of acceptance means we can also forgive.
Playground antics feature heavily in my 9 year old’s life and there are days when she arrives home disappointed by friendships and questioning individual’s behaviour. It is easy to dismiss these episodes and most of the time I do, as there is nothing really untoward about the dilemmas of a 9 year old, just girls being girls. However, there are times when I do have to explain, in a little more depth, why a friend would react in such a way as to disappoint or hurt feelings. What is important is that she recognises and starts to understand that we are all so very different, leading parallel lives and expecting a great deal from friendships. To have the ability to rise above these acts takes years to develop but I know she will feel better about herself once she grasps the concept of forgiveness.
We learn so many lessons in life through friendships and whilst we learn how to build trust we ultimately marry our partners under the presumption that we have found someone who incorporates all the elements of a person we not only trust but love and cherish too. What happens when forgiveness comes into a relationship we have built our life around? A few years ago, a friend of mine discovered her husband had been having an affair whilst she was pregnant with their first child. To witness the devastation and destruction surrounding her life in those first few days of discovery and weeks after was heartbreaking. How on earth was she going to move forward positively when the one person, whose sole responsibility it was to protect her, had destroyed her? Do you know what she did? She forgave him. I know in this world of feminism, it is inconceivable that a woman should be scorned and accept it. However, she did not accept it, she merely accepted that he had acted with immaturity and disregard for what was important and she took it upon herself to teach him the importance of what they were building together and that was their family. She did not give up and they now have three children together. Whilst it was certainly not plain sailing for a long while and there was a great deal of creases to be ironed out, the simple act of forgiving the unforgivable moved their lives in a new, more positive direction. It was purely her strength of personality that got them through.
Forgiveness is an element of life that we face on a daily basis and the scale of limits can be extreme. Often the hurt and anguish of personal situations causes such stress that individuals feel that is their only emotion available to deal with the incident leading to the animosity. However, with a sense of honesty, openness and strength of personality hurdles can be overcome. What we do not want to be left with is a sense of guilt and longing to have forgiven when it is somehow too late. Live in the here and now. Forgive for your own sense of peace of mind. It will draw a line under a situation that otherwise would not be finished. If the Railway Man can do it, have faith that so can we.
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