Bhavna Shah is an Indian born Australian. She was one of the hosts and organizers of the 2016 ‘Living Peace’ conference. In sharing this experience she brought us all to the uncomfortable reality of where forgiveness is often most needed, bringing the practice of living peace right into the home and office where most of us are.
Have you treated forgiveness like a precious diamond ring that is always kept in the safe only to be worn for special occasions? Forgiveness sounds like a big, heavy and lofty ideal to carry around. And I thought these lofty ideals are ideal for people seeking inner peace in war torn countries or countries hit by terrorism or by people in violent situations.
How wrong was I?
Let me take you back 15 years when I was relatively new to Australia. I was lucky to find a job as a customer service representative relatively quickly, but I did not make it past the probation. They said I talked too long with the customers. Can you believe that? Can you believe that? I can make fun of it now, but back then I was devastated. My ego was crushed. I began strategizing on how to become a millionaire and prove myself to the world.
I walked up to my husband and announced......... I am going to become a distributor of Avon beauty products and I am going to be a millionaire. He disapproved of it and I chose not to listen to him. My best friend was very supportive and so my empire was built with high glass ceilings. Next I spoke to another friend and she uttered the most despicable thing. ‘I don't use Avon.’ Everything I heard after that sounded distant and in slow motion. The cannons went off in the distance and my empire of dreams crumbled to pieces.
She was no longer one of my friends. I started declining invitations to the parties she went to. I would feel heartburn and feel knots in my stomach as soon as someone mentioned her name.
15 years later I recognized that I had made a mountain out of a molehill. Due to my low self-esteem at the time, I had lost my confidence in my ability and saw myself as a failure. I perceived her rejection of the product as a personal attack when all she was trying to convey to me was that her skin is sensitive and she can’t use many of the products in the market.
15 years later I walked up to my friend and asked for her forgiveness for my reaction to an event she had no memory of.
I have learnt from my experience that the quickest way to end suffering is to forgive and ask for forgiveness. To quote Louie Smedes, ‘to forgive is to set the prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.’
Bhavna Shah, Australia