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  • 11/3/2008

Forgiveness: A Gift to ourselves


This is a story about a teacher who told each of her students to bring a clear plastic bag and a sack of potatoes to school. The teacher suggested to her pupils that for every person they had refused to forgive in their life’s experience, they were to take a potato, and write on it the name and date, and put it in the plastic bag.

The teacher then told each of her students to carry this bag with them over their shoulders and on their backs everywhere they went for one week  keeping the bag next to them at all times even beside their beds at night and by their desk through-out the school day, basically 24-hours a day!!! Some of her students complained that the plastic bags were too heavy to lug around. 


The hassle of physically lugging these heavy plastic bags around with them made it clear to the students what their teacher was trying to convey to them about the value of friendship and forgiveness. The students realized what a weight they were carrying spiritually! This is a great metaphor for the price we pay for keeping our pain and heavy negativity! Too often we think of forgiveness as a gift to the other person, but it clearly is for ourselves.

Remember what Allah (S. W.T.) teaches us in Surah Al-Araf (7:199-200):

"Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the ignorant (i.e. don’t punish them). If a suggestion from Satan assails your mind, seek refuge with Allah; for He heareth and knoweth (all things)".

 In these ayahs Allah (S.W.T.) comforts the Prophet (S.A. W.A) and directs his mind to three Precepts:

1. To forgive injuries, insults, and persecution;

2. To continue to declare faith that was in him, and not only to that was in him, and not only to declare it, but to act up to it in all his dealings with friends and foes.

3. To pay no attention to ignorant fools, who raised doubts or difficulties, hurled taunts or reproaches, or devised plots to defeat the truth: they were to ignored and passed by, not to be engaged in fights and fruitless controversies, or conciliated by compromises.


Of all the things we can give other people in life, forgiveness is one of those that require the most effort. This phrase seems to make the process of forgiving easier for me: "To bear a grudge against someone is like burning down your house to get rid of a rat."

People say or do things often inadvertently and mostly out of personal insecurity or ignorance. You may be just the punching bag for the day. Maybe the other person is envious or afraid of you. Most of the time, these people have their own demons to grapple with.

Don’t let their words and actions wear you down. They can only have a moment’s effect on you. Then, depending on how you deal with the situation, they can continue to haunt you, or vanish like ashes in the wind.

 But only you can make that decision. Discouraging and spiteful words and actions from other people can only have the desired effect if you want them to. Give yourself the pleasure of a free spirit.

Forgiveness is something we "give other people", but forgiveness, really, is a gift to ourselves.

 When we wreak vengeance on people whom we think have done us an injustice, we invariably end up bitter and resentful. Worse still, if our vindictiveness provokes retaliation, we might start a cycle of vengeance. And when you bear hatred within your heart, what you’re essentially doing is destroying your own state of mind and potential to be happy.

Each day yields opportunities for us to let go of or hold on to grudges, although the severity of each situation may vary. Are you better off holding on to them, or letting go?

other links:

Believing Brother

Knowledge and Acting on it

what is faith?

beautiful attire

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