I am working on changing my fear into love and becoming more fully who I am. I keep on reading that one has to forgive others in order to "forgive" oneself and hence be happy. My husband has been gravely hurt by his family and we have been trying to fight back for the past year. It has been devastating to us financially as his mother and sister both committed criminal acts to keep his inheritance from him. He is now suffering increased health concerns as a direct result. Forgive?

—Ari, Canada


Dear Ari,

There is a curious segment in the Autobiography of a Yogi in which Yogananda, describing his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, writes:

My guru personally attended to the details connected with the management of his property. Unscrupulous persons on various occasions attempted to secure possession of Master’s ancestral land. With determination and even by instigating lawsuits, Sri Yukteswar outwitted every opponent.

A soldier in war may be spiritually under a duty to defend his country but he is under no spiritual compulsion to hate his attacker.

I am sorry to hear of your financial troubles and your husband’s health. We need not be a doormat, however, for the attacks of others. Forgiveness does not preclude self-defense.

It too often happens that in matters of family estates or wealth that greed overcomes one or more family members and they commit acts even they themselves could not have previously imagined. No doubt, they concoct rationalizations to do so: sudden recollection that the deceased intended to favor them in some special way, for example.

Perhaps you can view his mother and sister as if intoxicated and thus “not themselves.”

So here is what I am saying: it is alright to stand up and take action if you feel you can and feel you must, but let the issue of forgiveness be suspended for the moment in the heat of emotions. See the situation more objectively as if a stranger were doing harm or stealing from you.

If, on the other hand, it is too late and the damage is done, then it is time to do the inner work of letting go. God forgives all, so for now, ask God to forgive them and ask God to help you do so also when the time is right.

All tests in life are there to help us learn lessons. Never mind attempting to figure out what on earth you might have done earlier in life (or a past life), rather, pray and meditate what spiritual lessons you can learn. Obviously, non-attachment to material security is one; another is, as you say, forgiveness. This will come in time if you at least want to forgive but perhaps for now, that may be difficult or impossible. Affirm freedom in yourself.

Imagine in a flood, fire or earthquake all of your material possessions were destroyed. True, that’s not as personal as your situation, but you’d probably find the strength to get up and rebuild your life, wouldn’t you? That’s how you should take this up (assuming there is nothing more you can do to defend your interests). View all of this more impersonally.

On the subject of de-personalizing this, I return to my earlier comment that at times like these it is far too common for relatives to act badly and selfishly. So, try to chalk their behavior up to their ignorance and see if you can feel sad for their betrayal of decency and human values. They are the ones who will be hurt spiritually by wrong action far more than you and your husband.

With faith in God, even-mindedness amidst tests and trials, knowing that beneath all things is the silver-lining of the divine hand and you will be victorious with peace and gladness in your heart. In time, you will add forgiveness as well.

Blessings upon you both,
Nayaswami Hriman
Seattle WA USA