I used to find it hard to allow forgiveness for myself, for the mistakes and shortcomings I had even if it was something that had happened years ago. Images of those awkward social encounters and embarrassing moments would flash back and haunt me for a few minutes, ruining my zen mode. Despite being perceived as calm and mellow, I am an anxious being – my emotions are chaotic. Sometimes, I observe and contemplate too much. I am easily affected by others’ emotions and vulnerability. I read between the lines too much. It’s exhausting at times that I’m worn out by my own feelings.

In fact, three stages would happen when something triggers my mind to remind me of my unpleasant past. First, I would just laugh it off. Then comes the real self-depreciating part, where I’d think about what other people must have thought about me and their skewed views of me as a person. It would bitterly end with a thought along the lines of, “Why can’t I just be cool like everybody else?”

One thought led to another and I’d think about a sequence of events where I’d either wish I had said different things or wish that I could’ve stopped trying too hard to make myself look like a raging extrovert. When rejected, my social anxiety flourishes and turns me into someone who seems disinterested in other people (except for my close friends, of course) when I’m just energetically drained out. In a way, I was just stuck in the mindset of wanting to live up to the peer pressure where you’d want to fit in somewhere but you were just confused and still on the path of learning about yourself.

As time passed, I’ve learned more about myself and realised that I am just an introvert. I’ve accepted that I am not the life of the party – and I don’t have to be – and someone who feels a lot more comfortable being the audience to a performance. With that in mind, it has become a lot easier for me to not go beyond stage one when the memory of the unpleasant past comes back.

It’s also that realisation that I can’t be the only one who’s this clumsy or embarrassing, right?

*Sounds of crickets*

Anyway, when it comes to forgiving other people, it’s difficult to evaluate yourself on how forgiving you are, isn’t it? On one end, you can be the most forgiving person ever that no amount of pain can destroy your hope in other people. On the other end, forgiveness is almost non-existent to your principle just because of that one person in your life that had betrayed your trust.

About a few thousand years ago, a Muslim man and his companions walked past an old woman in a housing area, who hated this man so much that she spat on him. Not one time, but numerous times every single time he passed through the area. But known as a noble and patient man he is, he remained calm and didn’t hold anything against her. It became a routine but one day, the spitting had stopped. He found out that the woman was nowhere to be found. He even wondered what had happened to the woman who used to spit on him regularly. As it turned out, the woman was sick that hardly anyone visited her. Without hesitation and having any bit resentment towards her, he visited the sick old woman. When the old woman found out that the man that visited her was the one she had spat on, she burst into tears of remorse and regret over her immoral action towards him. Upon knowing his unconditional kindness and big heart, she converted to Islam.

What a pure heart. This was none other than the heart of Rasulullah.

The forgiving nature of Rasulullah towards other people despite being tortured and insulted overpowered hatred and grudge, even from the people who were against him. His character was – has been – so inspiring to people that it has brought many people to Islam for the beauty of his actions and treatment towards other people. One of the recommended acts in Islam is, in fact, to forgive people before you go to sleep. It’s the concept where one should never sleep feeling angry because you can never be sure whether your life would resume the following day.

Forgiveness, to me, ultimately depends on what sort of purpose you would like to bring to that person. In most cases, we are bound to deal with different kinds of people at work or in the public. Often, it is a lot easier to forgive other people whom we don’t allow to enter our personal lives, because they only live on the surface of your bubble and not within it. It is those people in our private lives that we have expectations in and we count on so much that are hard to forgive. Because they’re special to us, and deep emotions are always involved. It is these kinds of cases where you would discover how to fix it or not fix it. In some extreme cases, like physical and emotional abuse in relationships, the best thing to do, perhaps, is to walk away from it with dignity and forgive when you’re ready to do so.

To realise the sunnah of Rasulullah – to be as forgiving – is difficult but the reward encompasses beyond the scope of our ability to see in this physical world. When you forgive, you grow. When you grow, you move on. And the best feeling that you can get from not holding any grudge is the feeling of freedom. That feeling when you’re no longer in a state of being a victim to an unfathomable pain.

That feeling when you no longer have to constrain yourself from anger and hatred when you encounter the person who has hurt you in the past. That feeling when you can identify who matters to you the most and who doesn’t need to be in your life. That’s the kind of state that we’d want to have in this life. You don’t have to suffer from being stuck in a place that no longer exists because there a lot – I mean, a lot – of other people who would be willing to give you the love that you both mutually deserve. You can disagree with me, but I believe but you can never be too forgiving. It’s only a matter of what kind of people that you’re willing to fight for or the people who you want to have in your life. At the end of the day, forgiveness is the only way to move forward, and attain that freedom. Be the bigger person.