Questions & Answers with Swami Satchidananda: How to Deal with Difficult People

Q: You have said that until we forget, we have not completely forgiven. How can I forgive and also forget something bad that someone does to me if they continue doing it and I’m constantly reminded of it?

A: If you really want to forget something why do you put yourself in the situation where you are reminded of it again and again? If a person does something wrong to you and continues to do it, then that means you are in the wrong company. There is a proverb that says, “Why should a person who wants to weave have a monkey as a pet?” They don’t go together. If you keep a monkey, it will tear the yarn. If you really want to forget something, instead of blaming the person for what they are doing, don’t put yourself in that situation over and over again.

It’s easy to blame somebody. That’s human nature. If you are walking in the road, looking everywhere except where your feet are stepping, you might trip on a stone and fall. If your leg begins to bleed you will say, “The stone hit me.” It’s the other way around. You tripped and hit the stone. We often say, “The needle pricked me.” It’s just human nature to react that way but it’s better not to blame anybody for what they do to you. Just stay away from it.

The saintly poet, Avvaiyar, gives beautiful advice about this. She said, “Keep at least 5 feet away from animals who have horns so that you can’t get hit by them. If you come across a horse, keep 10 feet away because in the front it will bite and in the back it will kick. If you see an uncontrolled elephant, keep 1,000 feet away.” But there is another category. “If you come across a person who keeps on doing wrong, don’t even look in their eyes.” That means that you should keep yourself away from them by not allowing them to see you. That’s a good way to keep yourself peaceful. It’s not advisable to complain saying, “Oh, he keeps on doing it so how am I to forget?”

Once a sadhu (an Indian holy person) was walking in a village and a sort of rough fellow who likes to hurt everybody, a bully, comes along.

The bully says, “Hey sadhu, where are you going?” Then, he pulled the sadhu’s beard and asked, “Why do you have this beard?”

The sadhu replied, “I’m sorry I don’t have enough money to buy a razor. I have only a rupee, but you can have it!

What, I’m hurting you and you give me a rupee!

Well yes, don’t you know that it’s human nature to give? If you do something like this to someone who is a rich man, he will give you more. I have only this one rupee to give you.

The bully then told the sadhu: “Aha, all right then, you can go.”

The bully then waited for a rich looking man to come along. Finally, a rich man walked by and the bully did the same thing he’d done to the sadhu, but this time he got a thrashing from the man.

So, you don’t always have to be the one to give the lesson. You can forgive and forget, and then don’t place yourself in that situation again.

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