George Eliot’s novel, Silas Marner, tells the story of a man who though wronged repeatedly in his life, eventually lets go and is able to proclaim, ”It’s wonderful — our life is wonderful.” Roger Chillingsworth from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic, The Scarlet Letter, allows his obsession with revenge consume him until he is “positively withered, shriveled away.” You could say that Silas finds Zen in the sense that he finds peace. Roger does not.
When others offend we can seek to find Zen as Silas, or we can dwell on the offense until it eats like a cancer on our soul just as it did to Roger. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” To develop this attitude, integrate the following tips into your life.
Don’t go looking for offense
In the bible, James chapter 1 verses 19 and 20 state, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” It can be easy to allow small oversights or unkind words grow into mountains of offense. Learn to be slow to anger.
Don’t respond in kind
When others say things that are offensive, ignore the urge to be offensive back. In Disney’s classic, Bambi, Thumper says it well, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.” Another Bible verse, Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” The wrath it turns away could easily be the wrath growing in your own heart. A favorite saying of my husband’s is, “Like water off a duck’s back.” In other words, let unkind words slide off you like water slides off a duck.
Let go of your resentment
In other words, simply forgive. Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom said, “Forgiveness is an act of will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.” Tell yourself you are letting go of the anger. Then tell the person who offended that you forgive them. Perhaps the best example of this is a U.S. community of Amish who went to the widow of the man who massacred their children and told her they forgave him. The hurt may still be there, but letting go of the anger will calm your heart.
Don’t dwell on the offense
President Abraham Lincoln once said, “There may sometimes be ungenerous attempts to keep a young man down, and they will succeed, too, if he allows his mind to be diverted from its true channel to brood over the attempted injury.” Dwelling or brooding on the offense only allows it to grow and fester within you.
In speaking of forgiving us of our sins, the Lord has said, “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:12) We, too, must learn to remember no more those things that have offended us. Confucius said, “To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.”
Christ taught, “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25) Forgiving others and seeking forgiveness from them in turn, will allow our hearts to find Zen, a complete and absolute peace. Having that peace will lead to a happier and healthier life.