Ta ko dhoka kaha biape ja ko oat tuhari : (page 711 SGGS)
Deception does not plague those that have YOU as their support.
At some time or another many of us have felt betrayed or deceived by those we love. Trust and betrayal are intertwined. Betrayal occurs in the closest and most trusted relationships and causes a lot of pain. Can betrayal possibly lead to something good? Could it be a significant milestone where we have to break through certain barriers? Jessi Kaur delves into how the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib enable us to transcend hurt through compassion and forgiveness.
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Body of Paper
Betrayal, Hurt and Forgiveness
By Jessi Kaur
Betrayal is an intrinsic part of human experience. Most of us experience it at some time in our life. Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) provides constructive guidance on how to overcome betrayal without getting embittered and seize it as a moment of growth.
Trust and betrayal are intertwined. Betrayal occurs in the closest and most trusted relationships. When someone close to us cheats us, lies to us, abandons us, or humiliates us, we feel let down, heartbroken and utterly disillusioned. We feel pain such as we have never experienced before.
The first reaction when one is betrayed is to lash out. We want to hurt back. Our peace of mind is lost. We want to expose the one who has let us down so terribly. We want to get even. Our thoughts spiral down to visions of revenge.
Epic plays have been written on the subject of revenge. Many movies and television shows have revenge as a central theme. Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense films called revenge “sweet but not fattening. “
But is it – sweet? Indeed not. We can never get even. Revenge only take us further down the spiral of unconstructive actions bringing more pain and anguish.
A wise man once stated that if you seek revenge – dig two graves – one for yourself. As long as we dwell on revenge, we keep our own wounds raw. When we allow anger to consume us, we lose sight of the bigger picture and become instrumental in hurting our selves further. Sri Guru Granth Sahib warns us of such a course of action;
Bair birodh kaam krodh moh
Jhooth bikaar maha lobh droh
Ehaoo jugat bihane kayee janam
We have wasted several life times staying locked in anger, conflict, slander, greed attachment.
SGGS Page 267
Slander is another way in which anger expresses itself. It is an equally futile exercise. It neither makes the hurt go away, nor resolves the conflict. Furthermore, slanderers lose respect because no one likes them. Sri Guru Granth Sahib condemns slandering in harsh terms :
Ninda bhali kisay ki nahin manmukh mugadh karan
It is not good to slander anyone; the foolish and misguided engage in it.
SGGS Page 755
The outcome, warns the Guru, of slander is horrific:
Muh kale tin nindka narke ghor pavav
The faces of slanderers turn black and they are tossed in hell
SGGS Page 755
How, then do we handle betrayal and hurt? Sri Guru Granth Sahib offers an alternative perspective, one that has the power to shift our frame of mind from reproach to acceptance :
Bhulan andar sab ko abhul guru kartar
As human beings, we are imperfect and full of flaws. The only one beyond faults and imperfections is the Creator. SGGS Page 61
All of us wittingly or unwittingly hurt those we love. Some transgressions are minor and easily overlooked. Others are of a more serious nature and harder to ignore. When we anchor our expectations on someone or get emotionally attached, we leave our selves vulnerable. There is another dynamic at play in human relationships. We are attached to our own perspective. When we get hurt, we resist and deny the possibility of any wrong doing on our part; the blame game is in full throttle. We forget the beautiful lesson in humility that Guru Nanak taught us to abide by in all interactions:
Hum nahin chungay bura nahin koay
I am not good; no one is bad.
SGGS Page 728
Blame has never wrought any good in any relationship. When betrayal occurs the tendency is to debunk the entire relationship. One negative interaction action becomes the entire focus of the relationship and everything that was positive is wiped out. We relive, regurgitate and remain stuck in the moment of hurt. We shatter the equilibrium that keeps us in harmony with our inner self and the cosmos. While swirling in this abyss of pain, if only we could hear the Guru’s voice that begs the questions:
Kahe janam gavavho vair vaad
Why waste your life in hatred, vengeance and conflict?
SGGS P 1176
Can betrayal possibly lead to something good? Can it help us grow? Could it be a part of a larger plan that the omniscient Creator is unfolding for us? Is it possible to break out of our conditioning of hurt, betrayal and revenge, and open our heart to a much larger and nobler perspective?
Perhaps it is time for a new beginning. Perhaps we are now free from a relationship that has done its time. Perhaps it’s time to shake off frail bonds and seek something more meaningful.
But before this can take place, anger has to be resolved. Healing has to occur. Suffering has to be transformed. Feelings of revenge put to bed. Trust and faith in a larger plan for our good has to unfold in our consciousness.
The key to overcoming betrayal is forgiveness. Forgiveness, however, is not easy. It takes time and necessitates becoming larger than we ever were, and more empathetic and compassionate than we ever thought we could be. It calls for trust in the Divine plan.
Beverly Flannigan, clinical psychologist and author of Forgiving the Unforgivable presents a model of forgiveness where both parties let go of their ego and open themselves to listening to the other’s point of view. The wrong doer takes responsibility and offers reparations and assures that the offense will not be repeated. There is an outpouring of emotion and a recommitment to the relationship.
The act of relinquishing the ego brings healing:
Haumai mamta maar kay har rakhea ur dhaar
Subduing ego and attachment, the Lord has preserved my heart from pain.
SGGS Page 26
However, very often the hold of ego is strong and like a thorn in the flesh it is hard to extract.
Sakat har rus saad na janea tin antar haumai kanda hey
The sublime awareness of the Guru’s blessing is not experienced when the thorn of egotism is embedded deep within.
SGGS Page 13.
The ego presents many reasons not to forgive. Forgiveness is seen as a sign of weakness. It is also viewed as an enabler of bad behavior. Very often the justification offered to stand our ground or remain engaged in conflict is that Guru Gobind Singh taught us to stand up against injustice. We ignore that the tenth Guru pulled out the sword in the face of an existential threat after all peaceful means had failed. Guru Gobind Singh showed immense compassion even in the battlefield where he fought against tyranny. His arrows were tipped with pure gold for the last rites of the individuals who died in an attempt to kill him. Compassion for the injurer is the bearer of “har rus” in the quote above.
The loving, merciful, and kind Creator is present where there is forgiveness:
Jahan lobh tahan kaal hai jahan shama the aap
Where there is greed, there is death. Where there is forgiveness, there is God
SGGS P 1372
The confluence of ego, anger and arrogance creates barriers to forgiveness. Conversely, humility, compassion and empathy are an antidote for the calcified heart that shuns forgiveness.
Compassion, forgiveness and love are prized virtues recommended as a pathway to the Beloved. They also provide a fertile space in which a profoundly healing process begins for the wounded heart.
Our Gurus and other sages through the ages have demonstrated how not to succumb to anger, hatred or revenge . They have broken out of the confinement of pain and left luminous examples of heroic acceptance. The example of Guru Arjan Dev’s shaheedi often held up as the epitome of grace under pressure is worth revisiting. Guru Arjan was no ordinary mortal. He lived and died for a higher cause. His life had a unique purpose and mission. He was willing to be tortured to death so millions other could live in liberty.
When we chafe at the disappointments and disillusionments in our relationships, the mere remembrance of his last song as he sat on a hot stove with sand pouring over his head should snap us out of self-righteous anger:
Tera kiya meetha laagey
Whatever you do, seems sweet to me
SGGS Page 394
Can we find sweetness in the challenges we face? Could our experience serve a higher purpose even for our self? Can we steer away from resentment and anger and grasp at forgiveness and taste its sweet release?
Coming in contact with the Guru’s wisdom, I have been cleansed
The fires of ego and desire have been totally quenched.
Relinquishing anger, I have grasped forgivenss?
SGGS page 233
Guru Arjan created a better world for humanity? Can we create a better world for our self; a life that is not engulfed in narcissistic anger? When we are angry and unforgiving, we poison the ecosystem of our being. Our very essence is tarnished by the scars we do not allow to heal. Our emotional angst spills over and hurts those we love. The Guru assures us:
Ta ko dhokha kaha biapey ja ko oat tuhari
How can betrayal hurt when You protect me?
SGGS Page 711
When we gracefully accept what life unfolds even if we don’t understand it at the moment, we create the space for healing and wholeness. We allow our self to move on without rancor because we believe that God’s plan has something better for us in store. If a relationship has ended perhaps it was meant to be over. Its purpose has been served and something more meaningful lies ahead. If we have lost a job, a better one may be in store for us. Life does, very often, offer beautiful second chances when we become open to them.
It is equally important to forgive ourselves for transgressions we may have made. Self-pity and self flagellation are just as unhealthy as blame and accusations.
Forgiveness is particularly difficult when the injurer is unrepentant. Unresolved rage stirs up within us every time we cross paths with the individual who has wronged us. It is for our own good that we need to move forward and not remain fixated on the wrong done to us.
Moving forward does not mean that the wrong doer was right; it simply means that we keep faith in the Divine plan that keeps everything in balance. We have so many gifts that outweigh the pain we experienced. The betrayals we face are often an affront to our ego, a rejection of our love or contributions, or a lack of loyalty. Rarely do they pose an existential threat. Rarely do we need to pick up the sword or prepare to annihilate. So, let’s put things in perspective.
When dialog is not possible, when confrontation is guaranteed to lead to further strife, when the wrong doer is cavalier and unrepentant, remember we do not forgive for the good of the other, we forgive for our own well being. We move forward with a lightness of spirit and allow grace to bear fruit in our life just like a pruned tree that yields sweeter and juicier fruit.
Remember, too, that in our daily prayer we ask for forgiveness for all the wrongs that we do consciously or unconsciously. If we don’t practice forgiveness, how can we hope to be forgiven? There is freedom in letting go.
Let the inexorable law of karma settle the score if a score needs to be settled.
About the Author
Jessi Kaur is the author of Dear Takuya, Letters of a Sikh boy, and The Royal Falcon, highly acclaimed children’s books. She is the editor of Sikhpoint, (www.sikhpoint.com) , a web magazine. A theater aficionado, she produced The Royal Falcon Musical, a show that won accolades as the first ever Sikh musical of its kind. She has traveled extensively to deliver workshops and seminars at international conferences and Sikh youth camps. She has been an invited speaker on Sikh tradition and culture in several interfaith and multicultural events including Parliament of World’s Religions in Barcelona and Melbourne, and the Smithsonian