To Err is Human, to Forgive…..

The title is a poor translation of the original thirukural I had in mind. The one that i

  • இன்னா செய்தாரை ஒறுத்தல் அவர் நாண நன்னயம் செய்து விடல் (திருக்குறள்)

A rough translation would be “Make a wrong doer feel shy, by doing him a favour.”

This is what many would advice us. Most books on human nature would parrot that.

But not the Hindu Scriptures. If I remember right this story is from the Mahabarata.

A King had a parrot which was a dear friend to him. In time the king had a son and so did the parrot. Though the younger ones too were friends, they were obviously immature considering their age. One day the King’s son in a playful mood kills the Parrotchick. The elder parrot seeing the dead bird, in a moment of anger, pecks at the eyes of the prince making him blind. The King when he comes to know all the turn of events apologises to the parrot and tells it – now that you have had your revenge, we should start our relationship fresh forgetting the past.

The parrot replied – while I appreciate your large heartedness, I would like to leave the palace. The King taken back begged the parrot saying but we both have been good to each other and you have had your revenge. The Bird replied – Human Nature is such it cannot be even. Later when you see your son blinded, you might lose your maturity and give way to anger. All said and done, I have harmed your son and it is bound to hurt you at some point in future.

The parrot left the palace despite the sincere pleadings from the king.

Why I relate this story to the Kural is because of this – It is fine to say “To forgive is divine.” But in real life what happens is both the initial transgressor and the person who magnanimously forgives would carry the burden with them. It would always weigh on each other’s minds later.

I am not saying that we should not forgive others for their errors but just that we should be wary of the effect this would have on the future relationship. It is an Hobson’s choice in reality.


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