When we think of wellness, we don’t often consider forgiveness as having a major impact on our wellbeing. But it does.
If we’ve been wronged by someone, our natural impulse is to cling onto resentment, hatred and anger. We tend to nurture the flames, throwing more fuel onto the fire and keeping those toxic feelings burning away…even as they poison us.
It’s long been known that forgiveness is the path to inner peace and happiness. Granted, it’s not always easy to forgive. But withholding forgiveness burdens us with a heavy load. It continuously occupies our mental energy and keeps us tied to the past. It not only impacts our emotional health, it affects our physical health too.
It was my privilege to sit down with someone who genuinely epitomizes the quality of forgiveness. Dr Nasser Kurdy is an orthopedic surgeon who, in 2017, was stabbed in the neck while entering the grounds of his local mosque. His act of forgiveness towards his attacker transformed his life and continues to energize him to this day.
Here are three key takeaways from the conversation we recorded for the Wellness Unwrapped podcast:
- Forgiving allows us to move forward with our life, rather than constantly being pulled back by a past that is continually wounding us afresh.
- When we choose to forgive, it is for our own benefit – not the benefit of the person who has hurt us.
- Forgiveness allows us to step out of seeing ourselves as a victim and opens up the possibility for us to live a full, joyful life.
Dr Kurdy shares his profound reflections on what happened to him in his new book A Reply to Hate: Forgiving My Attacker.
For more help in reaching forgiveness in your own life, I also recommend Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All by Gerald Jampolsky. It’s a short book that relates some extremely powerful stories about the power of forgiveness. What I found particularly interesting were accounts of spontaneous physical healing once people had managed to let go of their resentment and sense of victimhood. In many cases, not only did they experience a huge boost in their sense of happiness, they also noticed long-standing conditions just disappear.
Here is a wonderful forgiveness meditation which you may find helpful as a first step to forgiveness in your own life.
You’ll find the full transcript of our conversation below and can listen to it here on the Wellness Unwrapped podcast.
This is a deeply inspiring conversation that I think will leave you with a lasting sense of hope and optimism.
[Please note: this is a computer generated transcription of this conversation]
My guest today is someone who I have tremendous respect for, and talking to him for this episode was a deeply humbling and moving experience that will stay with me for a very long time. Dr. Nasser Kurdy is someone who genuinely epitomises the quality of forgiveness, and you’ll hear just how he drew on that quality when he suffered what most of us will consider. One of the worst things that could possibly happen to us, which is being a victim of violent crime when he was stabbed in the neck by a stranger.
And, astonishingly, Nasser actually views that attack as one of the best things that has ever happened to him. And that’s all down to forgiveness. Nasser is also someone who epitomises compassion. He’s a deeply, deeply spiritual human being who lives and breathes his faith. He was born in Syria, and he came to the UK in 1977 to study medicine. He is an orthopaedic surgeon, a devoted husband and father of three. He served as a lay imam at his local Islamic Centre, which is where the attack took place. This is a very profound and thought provoking conversation which I hope touches your heart like it did mine.
Here it is.
So, Nasser, Welcome to the Wellness Unwrapped podcast. It is a real honour for me to talk to you here. And, um, it came about because we were chatting at a tea party a few weeks ago at my synagogue and it was a multi faith tea party. And you’re one of the guests. And I sat next to you. We had a lovely table. There were some ladies from a local church and we had a lovely conversation and I hadn’t realised until you told me that you had just published a book which I was so excited about. And I said to you last, I’m going to buy the book and I’m going to contact you and I’ve read it. And here we are today.
As I said, I was so excited that somebody is interested in buying the book, so never mind reading it and and then contemplating on it. So it’s when you when you rang me to say you’ve actually read it? Uh, I was feeling normal that day, but then I felt much better. Actually, you know, I felt brilliant. And everybody that gives me a call or send me a message that they both and read my book.
It just gives me a lift. So I’m really happy about that. I’m so pleased.
Well, it did have a profound impact on me. So let’s just rewind now. Because you probably never thought that you would write a book because you are an orthopaedic. surgeons at Wythenshawe hospital, which is our local hospital. It’s where my three children were born, and I know it very well. Um, so I guess we have in common that we are both local to this area. And in fact, we have more in common because your parents were born in Syria, and my maternal grandparents are actually from Syria from Damascus. So we kind of have similar roots, albeit from from different faiths. But we both ended up living close to each other in Manchester, and yet you have had an experience which most people have not had That happened around four years ago. So, Nasser, can you share with us what happened on that day?
And well, I still remember it. Uh, and it was Sunday. Sunday afternoon. It was late September, so the days were still long and we were scheduled to have a meeting at the centre because I’m part of the working committee there.
So the centre being the Islamic centre?
It’s an old church which has been renovated, and we’ve been using it probably for about 18 years now, so people know know about it, and we’ve got our neighbours. And what have you, Um, And we had a meeting at at 5. 30. So the prayers at 5. 30 and then we go to after the meeting, and I was just a little bit late.
I had to drive past the centre by the parking place and then and then heads towards the centre. The prayers start on time. 5. 30 means 5. 30. So everybody was in, Uh, you know, and and it was pretty quiet. The cars were there, but it was a bit quiet. Um, and I was about 2 to 3 minutes late, right? So I was on my own, so I stepped out of the car and just headed towards the centre. And as I as I was walking towards the centre, just, you know, from my left eye, I noticed somebody on the other side of the road and I mentioned that because he was a bit tall and you could see his head above the car.
And as I headed towards the gates. I saw him crossing the road, which you want to have, sort of, you know, thought twice about it, and I just walked through the gates and it was going up the path along the path to the prayer hall and out of the blue. And this is something that I tried to explain, but it’s unexplainable, a terrific pain, a Southern terrific pain in the back of my neck. And I like watching films and all that. So that comes through in the book as well.
And I thought there was somebody with a baseball bat or the tree just fell on my head so that I mean, it’s immediate. You get the pain and immediately realise there’s something not right. So your brain has started, you know, to try and make some some sense out of what you’ve just experienced with the pain I felt I was pushed forward. So this is what I was thinking. Somebody might have hit me or something, or the tree might have fallen. A branch might have fallen down so instinctively you look down on the ground to see what hit you and fell, and there was nothing so gradually I turned around and then I came face to face with this chap, and I’m trying to remember what I saw.
And it’s It’s a while now. But at the time I described a young man, angry young man, vicious shouting at me, and I saw under his right arm a metallic thing and black metallic thing which later turned out to be the gate. While he was standing, I could see the gate beyond him. And I thought that was the arm mother he hit me with, which turned out to be wrong. I didn’t realise that I was stabbed. And I think and I keep on telling people I’m so grateful for little things. I didn’t see the knife.
Because you think it would have been worse to see, I think bloodstains?
I think so. I think if I saw something that is more threatening, yes, the only threatening thing that came across to me was the way he was standing and the way he was, you know, uh, looking at me, and I think his teeth. I mean, he appeared to be very angry, but he was almost like the distance between me and do so. It was literally at arm’s length and he just said one sentence, you know, he wasn’t chatting, and I’ve always said I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I think he said, This is for what you’ve done. He could have said anything else, but that’s what stuck in my mind.
But then he moved, and as he moved towards me, I don’t know what came across me, but I was absolutely frightened. Yeah, I turned round away from him and ran, and there’s still a bit of path left between where he stabbed me and the main hall. Now the main hall is normally empty, and the door is normally shut. So if it wasn’t for that meeting that afternoon, I would have come straight across a locked door, and that would have been terrified. But I ran in a straight line.
The door was wide open, but then I came through to the second door in that hole, which is a glass tented door, and it opens afterwards. So when you run away from danger of some from something that you feel is really going to sort of, you know, harm you. You don’t think. Yeah, from where he stabbed me to where the door is probably about 25 30 feet. And it was 23 seconds. I ran so fast without thinking. But when you stop and there’s a door and you have to open it, that is when I was absolutely frightened.
And I didn’t realise how frightened I was then, until I actually had a session with one of ours of, uh it’s health and, well being a nurse, because a few days later, I’ve asked for that session at work just to make sure that I’m not sort of, you know, struggling with that. And when I was talking to her, I realised how frightened I was because that frightened feeling disappeared. And I didn’t realise that I felt it so and I actually felt as if that’s it.
You know, I feared for my life. But it was a split second. And the way I was trying to think about it is where am I going to hide once the door is open? You know, I I knew there are tables I knew there are partitions et cetera.I was thinking as I was opening the door, Where am I going to hide myself? But as I entered, there were two ladies standing there and again that’s another mercy. I don’t know what happened to me because you’re not thinking. As soon as I saw them, I said, I think I said: Call the police or call the ambulance and I picked the chair.
This is not thinking this is all responsive. And I think the fact that they were there made me take the I was looking for some place to hide. Just a second ago, I was looking for some place to hide. But I saw these two ladies and I tell them, if it wasn’t for you being there, probably mentally, I’d still behind it. So I went out and I think the minute I picked a chair up, yeah, feeling of fear just disappeared.
It left me and it left me completely. It’s never been back.
Wow, that is incredible. That’s incredible. What you just described is so horrific. and so beyond the imagination of me and I’m sure the vast majority of listeners. It’s just something you see in the movies, but you don’t expect it to happen where you live. This is like two minutes from where I live as well. And you would think from what you’ve just described, that that will be the worst thing to happen to anybody and to be stabbed in the neck.
But as you explain in the book, if it had been two centimetres, either side, then tell us what would have happened as a surgeon because you went into you were taken into your own hospital to your own surgical team who were absolutely horrified.
Yeah, I think my medical and surgical training kicked in again. This is another mercy. Um, I didn’t realise that I was stabbed so that that’s the first thing. I was just sitting there with my with my hand on my leg and it felt my head felt so heavy and the neck felt so painful that I didn’t want to take my hand off. I felt if I let my hand go my head will drop. That’s how painful it was. But it’s one of my colleagues said, just move your hand a bit. Let me just have a look. So I looked at my hand and it was clean. Uh, so I still thought, you know, I’ve been hit by something, and then he just pulled my shirt a bit and he said, You’ve been stopped. So that was the moment I realised that. But it didn’t shock me..
What I did was I moved my hand and it was working. So I moved my shoulder. Everything was working. I moved my neck a bit. That was working. I took a deep breath and there was nothing wrong with it. So I’ve realised, and somebody was taking my pulse. So I’ve realised that, Okay, I may have been stabbed, but there’s no damage. You know, everything that I know about the anatomy of that area looks fine. So that calmed me down. And I think as I calmed down, the people around me were also coming down.
I mean, imagine they’re seeing somebody with a stab wound in their neck. They would have been equally terrified. But somehow I felt calm and I said, Just let me sit on the floor a little bit because I’m starting to feel a bit faint. It took about between 5 to 10 minutes for the emergency services to arrive and they were brilliant. So the ambulance and the police arrived literally within a few minutes. Um, then you realise what happens to you if you’ve been injured. So the first thing the ambulance group needs to do on the spot is to put a needle up your arm. So that was one needle. But they were great. I didn’t feel that. So then they carry you in that in that scoop, and that felt so precarious, being carried down the flight of steps that I ran up. So that felt precarious. But once I was in the hospital again, I felt a bit calmer. But then they put another needle of my left arm and then gave me a tetanus injection. So I tell people I was stabbed left, right and centre there.
With any penetrating injury, you get a scan to make sure that there’s no secondary damage or bleeding. So I had access to the scan. So three days later I had a look at my scan with a colleague, and we studied this scan. It takes about 20 minutes to actually make sense of a scan, even if you’re doing it for, you know, medical reasons.
Gradually and slowly I started to see the tracing of where that knife has gone. You see little air bubbles. You see some areas that were damaged on the scan. And then I realised the knife entered my neck at about the third cervical vertebra, and it was heading upwards, which is where you can cause maximum damage. But it was literally a finger’s breath on the left side of my what we call the spinal cord. If that knife was two centimetres to the right, that knife would have penetrated into my cervical cord.
Now I’ve described it in gruesome details. I’m not gonna do that here. But eventually I would have died within about eight minutes. Because I would have suffocated to death. Right?
So this really was a close shave with death.
It was close. Absolutely.
And one thing that struck me so deeply reading your book was the reaction of your wife that night. And I tried to put myself in her position and couldn’t really, But her reaction was unbelievably calm. And she said something like, Well, you’ll tell me the exact wording. But it was something like she felt that was that God or an angel had actually guidede the knife or his hand. Which is an incredible thing to say on the night. I mean, you can sort of get your head around her saying that after a few months. But she said that on the night.
Yeah. She came over to the hospital, one of my colleagues to drove her there and we sat together for a while, and she immediately saw that I was not in a bad shape, so to speak. And she is herself a doctor as well. So she realised how fortunate we were that evening and that literally, I was walking away from that stabbing. So when we went back home, we have a little cosy room. So we sat there, so she was almost, like, again arm’s length from where I was. I was just sitting there. I was trying to find a comfortable place to put my head because it was agony. And I told her, What do you feel? And she said, I think an angel held his hand, you know, so that that’s how she rationalised it, um, which I understood what she was trying to say, which is that, you know, some higher authority just decided it wasn’t that day, uh, and uh, directed that knife in in a in an area where absolutely, absolutely no harm took place.
Apart from that muscle tear, which is the ongoing pain, anybody who’s had a muscle injury will tell you about it, but it’s not intolerable. It’s a background ache. If you think about it, it’s there. But you don’t think about it, tt’s not.
And I think the way you describe that whole evening, the calm that descended on your entire family. You know, your three children as well is really the direct opposite of what I think anyone could have expected from their family and from themselves. It almost seems like a kind of supernatural com and equanimity that was in your house. I mean, if I compare it, I was reading it in the kitchen. I was reading your book, and that evening there was some disagreement in the kitchen over the way I’d stacked the dishwasher and I don’t know, my husband was complaining about the way I’d stacked the glasses or whatever, and it struck me really, Well, you know, it struck me that your house was calmer on that evening than mine was on this normal Tuesday night where nothing dramatic had happened at all apart from me stacking the dishwasher in a way that wasn’t optimal. And I thought how remarkable that you were all just sitting in a state of peace and gratitude when such a horrific thing had just occurred.
Well, just to let you feel happy about it, I complain regularly about how my wife stacks the dishwasher. I don’t know how you expect the water to get where you want to know.
This is what he says. How do you think that this will clean? You know, it’s just not something that’s important to me to stack it in exactly.
I think, uh, it’s all I think it’s all in us. What we did that evening. It sounds or it feels exceptional. We have the background to it. I mean, we’re not teenagers, you know? We were pretty mature. We have a strong faith backing us. I walked away from it. I mean, I tell people if if the outcome is different, probably the reaction would be different.
But the fact that I walked away from it, you know, allowed for that as well. And in a sense, uh, you’re either a person who tends to not regress, but step back when things happen, or you’re a person that steps forward instinctively, and I’ve always been the sort of person that steps back. You know, I don’t move forward when things happen. I just step back and I think a lot of people do that and they just tried to nationalise what’s going on before they move forward.
And at that moment… I disagree with my wife on many things, but at that moment… And this is why I love that moment because I think we were absolutely, absolutely on the same wavelength. And and this is why I also like that moment because we’re not always on the same wavelength. I also feel that way, and it gives me a lot of pleasure and happiness to know that that’s how she felt because it also allowed me to be myself.
I think if she responded differently, I would have had to literally get out of myself and behave in a different way. But she allowed me to actually behave in the way and feel in the way that I would have wanted to. So that was something that it’s special, as you said, very special, very special.
I mean the fact that you had turned this terrible incident into this beautiful moment between the two of you, where you were on the same page and you did feel this tremendous sense of gratitude and grace was really beautiful to read about. And what happened the next day, you started getting a lot of reporters and things to your house, and you publicly said in answer to a question from a reporter, that you forgave your attacker, which had a huge impact, didn’t it when it went around the world on social media?
Incredible, absolutely incredible. It’s still having an impact. You know, the two of us sitting here today is still part of that impact. I thank that reporter and I met him recently, and I told him that as I was writing the book. I had to have a good close look at how the interview went and I said, I didn’t say I forgave him. You asked me if I have forgiven the person, and I responded by saying yes, absolutely. And I told him that I’m not sure if I would have been able to get the words together if it wasn’t for you asking me.
And I gave him a copy, of course, and I said, Look, I’m so grateful because that moment it was another life changing moment for me.
And in fact, it’s an unusual question to ask, in the aftermath of that, the day after, I’m not sure if I was a reporter that I would have thought to ask that question.
I still consider him as somebody special, uh, he was asking about how I felt. We spoke a little bit before the interview, and I may have come across, you know, in that forgiving nature.
Just before the interview started, one of the bishops that I know bishops, Rogers Clark, is retired now. He was the father at All Saints Church, and I’ve known him for years. He rang me that morning, and I was speaking to him while the reporter was there. And I’m just wondering whether he heard something or felt something about what was I was feeling like that morning. So it started with him saying, Well, how do you feel? And I just said, Well, I don’t feel hate. I don’t feel anger, you know?
I don’t feel any of these negative feelings. Uh, and I feel good in myself. And he said, Well, does that mean that you’ve forgiven him? I mean, that was an amazing question, and that’s where it all started.
Yeah, so tell us, how did you get to that state of grace so quickly? Because I think for most of us, the natural reaction would have been. Why me? I can’t believe this has happened to me. I didn’t deserve this. I was just an innocent person going to mosque. How could this person come and try and kill me? You know 1000 things. How did you manage to get to that place? Well, probably it’s years of practise, in a sense that I deliver sermons at the mosque. Uh, and to do that, you have to get to know your faith a little bit better. And I give regular study circle sessions, and I get challenged with these, you know, issues of forgiveness. And then I have to research. Well, what does Islam have to say about that? So you know about the traditions from the Prophet peace be upon him and you know about the verses in the Koran.
And these are not just versus. These are verses that people give lectures on, write books about. Um I mentioned Joseph the story of Joseph and the Koran. It’s a full chapter and the story of Joseph is all about forgiveness. You know how he came around to forgive his brothers and forgive the fate that he was put in so that interaction between a human being and their higher authority or their makers, and then how that translates to the reaction between human being and other human beings. It’s something that is very special about all religions, because I think the story of Joseph comes to us from the Bible and from the Torah.
So it’s that well known story. So I’ve always sort of adopted that nature in my dealing with others. And it’s not that you practise forgiveness, but you grow into it. It’s not something that just happens overnight, but if you feel and you believe that this is how life should be working out, so to speak, then you gradually and gradually look around yourself and work yourself to that position. So it doesn’t just happen, and it is something that I’ve practised. My own personality is more likely to, as I say, take a step back and think what’s going on?
So everything I’ve learned about my religion, I did not have to struggle with, but I’ve never been across a situation where I had to use it.
This is the thing because there’s one thing to talk the talk. But did it take on a whole different meaning? Once you’ve actually been through this experience?
It’s just amazing. I mean, I tell people, you know, this is why I like talking about it because it is incredibly amazing. The fact that I did not hate I did not resent. I did not grumble. I did not ask why, etcetera and publicly declared, I have nothing against this young man. You know the law will take its course, but I personally have nothing against him. And in fact, within about three or four days I was feeling so good in myself I actually emailed one of the reporters that interviewed me, and I said to him, How can I extend a helping hand to this man? He said, Hold on a minute, there is still a court case to go. So back off now, you need to back off.
But I was feeling so energised that I could not think negatively about him. I actually saw early on I wanted to help him, and even that feeling that I wanted to help him gave me even more energy. So I tell people when you forgive the positivity that you get yourself and people around you. My family. My friends, the people I work with. It was an amazing reaction, but I was getting letters from all over the country telling me how that made them feel.
So it was an incredible feeling. I wasn’t expecting it. I mean, I was just saying Well, I feel OK, but somehow it just triggered that response and I tell people that response just lifted me and it’s still lifting me. It’s amazing and that’s what I like to talk to people about.
And that is so remarkable because if we think in terms of being energised, who would think of being stabbed as a way to become more energised? It just sounds like a bizarre thing to say, doesn’t it? Really, if you look at it logically, it’s bizarre.
But if I haven’t been through it and that’s the whole point now is that I’ve been through it. So I’m not talking theory or dreamland or what have you. It happened to me and I can’t explain it. You know, you try to rationalise it, but you can’t explain it. And I was a different man. And in fact, I can be as flippant as saying now that I’ve been through it, I’m glad I was stabbed.
And that is a truly remarkable thing to hear, isn’t it?
And I think this is the reason I say that again. It’s not in a flippant way, but it’s to let people know who have had something bad happened to them is that it’s the way you pick up the pieces that matters. What has happened to you, you can’t undo. You can’t take back. The only way you can look is forwards. And this is part of what I tell people. If you look back at what happened to you, you’ll never walk away from it. Yes, but you have to look forward and looking forward by default means you have to forget. Not forget in that sense. But you have to put out of your mind the trauma and the negative feelings and everything that you would associate with something bad happening to you. Because if you can’t let go of these things, you can’t move forward. So, in a sense, probably the fact that I’m a surgeon. I love my work. I had an aim for me getting back to work. I’ve just been off work and what I need to be back to work tomorrow. And I just got that in my head and unfortunately, the following day, I couldn’t go back to work because I had to go to the police station and give my report. But I was back toward the morning of Tuesday, so I was stabbed on Sunday evening and I made it my purpose to do that. And I think that was part of the healing process is I was focused on what I needed to do, and in order to do that, you cannot think at the same time all the questions that you asked, Why me?
Why did he pick on me? You know all these things. You can’t do it. You can’t hold on to that pain and move forward. And it’s really something you have to realise. And that’s my experience.
In a sense, I guess you are blessed and that you do have a job that gives you a huge amount of meaning and your job is helping people. And you held on to that. And not everyone has that. And I think that what struck me most about the book is if I could choose one word, it wouldn’t even be forgiveness. It was acceptance. That was the thing that leapt off the page is, is that there was this quiet acceptance of what had befallen you. And you weren’t questioning in anyway, why or why me et cetera. I think that’s what I’ve taken away. If I could take just one overarching lesson is accepting what life gives you.
Definitely again. I think my my age has got something to do with it. I’ve been through some difficult years, which we what we all go through that, um so looking back when I was in my late twenties. That was a very difficult, period for me, for me, because I even wrote there that my mum passed away. Uh, just as I got my exams, my surgical exams, uh, 1988. So I was so happy I was getting there. She loved me for doing medicine, and she was waiting for me to get back home and just set up practise there. Uh and so we were living in Kuwait at the time. They were living in Kuwait and she got very ill, and unfortunately, her leukaemia got the better of her.
And the year that I managed to get my exams and my surgical certificate, so to speak, she passed away. And then from then on, I had a very bad three years. I wrote about the fact that financially, spiritually, uh, emotionally, I was really in a bad place. But it turned. And all I have for that is the fact that I’ve always been committed to my work and I always worked hard, and I don’t ask why. I mean, I never asked why my mum had to die that young. I never asked why people were not giving me a chance. All my life, I used to ask myself, What can you do about it? You know, and all I could do is work harder. Never complain. Yeah, I had moments when I was very depressed or very sad or in a depressed mood. But I always say to myself, I’ve got to wake up tomorrow and go to work. So it’s almost like that. I’ve had that in me for years. Uh, so it wasn’t something new to me, And I think the fact that I’ve been through a bad experience in the past, I say it openly I think that gave me some resilience.
You may have struggled if it happened when you were younger?
Correct. And this is why I tell people that the reason I talk about my experience is not to make it look so exceptional, but is to let people know that, yes, in order to forgive, you have to have a few things in the background, and I think my age was on my side. My job was on my side. My family was on my side, my religion and spiritual side, you know, was on my side, so there’s so many things on my side that allowed me to forgive.
So I don’t take forgiveness easily. But having gone through that experience and having forgiven, there’s no way I was going to be silent about it. Yes, I have to say it for what it is, and I’ll let people take from it as much or as little as they would like to.
Yeah, because you talk in the book about post traumatic growth, which is something that I think is relevant to so many of us. I mean, so many people have gone through such an exceptionally hard time these last couple of years. There’s been so much for people to cope with, and it is reassuring to hear someone’s story of going through something which, as I say most, most of us can’t comprehend what it’s like to be stabbed, and you viewing that as a very positive thing in your life and that you have grown from it and continue to grow for it and continue to be energised, and also to direct that energy towards bringing more good, more light into the world that you’re doing.
And I think the other thing, which I don’t know too much about this. But I have read a little bit about the benefits physiologically of forgiveness. And in fact, there’s a book have got here, which I recommend people. It’s called Forgiveness The Greatest Healer of All by Gerald Jampolsky. And he talks about spontaneous healing when people have held onto resentment for years and years and years, and then they are able to let it go able to find that bridge to peace by forgiving. And there’s something that they’ve struggled with health wise, and it’s just literally resolved itself instantly.
And I think there is a bit of research again. I’m not sure where I’ve read this, but I’ve definitely read it over the years to do with better cardiac health because it’s so bad for our health, isn’t it to cling to the resentment and the anger?
Absolutely, absolutely. And in the Q and a session section in the book, I was asked whether it’s important to have faith to forgive. Yeah, and I’ve been through these questions about the strength of faith et cetera. And I think it is.
It’s naive to think that you can only forgive if you have faith. Faith helps you. It paves the way it gives you an understanding. So you’ve got more, more background to forgiveness. But a lot of people with faith don’t forgive. So we can’t link faith to forgiveness in that manner. If you’re faithful, if you believe in God, you’re gonna forgive. That is not the right thing. So if people who are having difficulty forgiving want to seek forgiveness through faith, I’m not sure how to answer that question.
But what I said in my answer is physiologically we are geared up in a way, in a certain way, and there are circuits in our brains and in our bodies that respond to certain feelings. And there is no doubt that there is a circuit for forgiveness.
Yes, in fact, I’ve recently read a book by I think it’s called David Hawkins, and he talks about the different energies attached to different feelings. So, for example, at the lower end of the scale, there’s things like shame, anger, extremely low frequencies. Everything is an energetic frequency, I think, with shame being right at the bottom and then moving up towards acceptance, love, peace, you know, gratitude. And there is actually a measurable electromagnetic frequency attached to each of these. So if we can let the lower ones go, anger, resentment, etcetera. And then you automatically move towards the higher ones. And with that, the body can fix itself.
Absolutely so physiologically it’s there. I can’t explain it better than Hawkins. And what book also states, What’s the link to faith? It lets you cast away these negative things that you’re talking about. So you mentioned the word acceptance. That is what I get from my faith, acceptance, which means I don’t question what happened to me. My faith allows me to question, but to a certain extent, in a sense, that we have a phrase in Islam and it says God asks you, Are you happy with me? And people say what God is asking man? Are they happy with God? And the answer is yes. So what’s the question? The question is, are you happy with what I have given you?
Yeah, if you are unaccepting of what’s happening to you, you’re actually saying I’m not happy with my God and it’s an interesting way how Islam deals with it. Because religion, to me, is all philosophy and dealing with dealing with the human being with human nature, the human mind feelings. So for us, that question has come up. I came across that question many years ago and, you know, you think Oh, when I’m angry about what happened to me am I telling God I’m not happy with what you’ve actually chosen for me and that sort of thing?
And as your faith becomes stronger, you start to actually like your God more. Whatever God gives you. Now that is, if you have faith. If you don’t have faith, what do you do? Well again, I tell people, look at tradition. Where did that word que sera sera comes from? Or let it be? That’s life. Where do they come from? They don’t come from faith. They come from people’s experiences and telling people after they’ve gone through their experiences, you’ve got to let it go.
And that issue of letting things go. We’re not talking about, you know, letting a right go or letting something of that nature. But it’s letting the impact it has on you.
So we’re not talking about forgiving the act necessarily?
Absolutely. But accepting that it happened. No resentment, Yeah, Don’t resent. And in fact, I’m not a great believer if something not right happens to you, uh, there’s something behind it, you know? And you know, there’s an opportunity Uh huh. To come out of a better person.
And if it’s not, I’m not about me personally. If you actually read many other people’s experiences having gone through a difficulty, they will come and say out of that difficulty, I’m a different person. I never realised the energy I had inside me. I never realised what sort of person I could have been. You know, I was almost drowned in my in my and why me, etcetera. But when that lifted, a different person happened to be and so people will talk about their experiences and how an incident which, as you say about all measures seems to be so negative, had had such a positive effect. But you have to believe it is within you, you know, and you have to look for it.
And in that sense, it’s such a hopeful book, isn’t it? We can all apply that lesson, can’t we? Because we all go through stuff to a greater or lesser degrees things that happened to us that we don’t like, but we wouldn’t have chosen. But which happened nonetheless. And I think what I like about is you’re not flippant at all about forgiveness, and you do acknowledge it can be an extremely difficult thing for people to forgive. And I think I’m just throwing this out there. But I almost wonder if some people would find it easier to forgive a complete stranger than, for example, their parents or a sibling. And I know in my own job as a health coach so many people who I who I coach who are holding onto things where they were really badly treated by their parents by a sibling, by a bully at school and decades later they’re still being very, very adversely affected and it’s a really hard thing. It’s not an easy thing is that to just say Oh, I forgive.
My parents were putting me through that, and yeah, um, it is hard for people, okay? Uh huh. Again, to think about this, Uh, it’s not an easy answer, but let’s see how I work around it towards it. Um, one of the stories I mentioned in my in my talks to children is about a police officer. T
This is when you go into schools?
Yes. And he was shot paralysed from the neck down. And his own words were I could not start to heal before forgiving. Yeah, these were his own words.
Somebody in a wheelchair. Absolutely paralysed, couldn’t do anything for himself. But the first few years he was holding on to that anger onto that resentment. Yes, it was a stranger, but he was no longer a stranger after being shot, you know, in that sense, but yes, he wasn’t a family member. But the moral of the story here is that if forgiveness is hard, not forgiving is even harder.
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Yeah, that’s I think that’s absolutely true. And people do feel such a release. I mean, I’ve felt it myself when you are able to let go of the resentment. You do feel like three stone lighter, don’t you? I mean, as it says in this book. There’s some beautiful, beautiful quotes. Um, one of them is forgiveness is letting go of all hopes for a better past.
That answers the bit about the a stranger. But your question was about a family member. What do you do? We’ve all had issues with family. And whenever I have a quarrel with my wife, I’m thinking, Oh, am I hypocrite here? I just can’t forgive that, you know. What am I gonna do? You know, do I walk away? But what do I do? It is so painful. But I know that in 2 to 3 days time, these feelings are going to go away. I’ve been through it every time. I have a fight with my wife which we do, and everybody has that. So I’m not. I’m not sort of, you know, walking away from it. It’s not hunky dory. We get our moments. But I know from experience that whatever I’m thinking and feeling on the day that we had that quarrel 2 to 3 days down the line, I’m going to feel different.
Yeah, unless I keep on to those thoughts. Yeah, that that that’s important. But that’s that’s my wife that, you know, some people say, Well, what if it’s your parents, you’re abused by your parents? I don’t have an answer to that. And I spoke about that. There’s personal forgiveness, and then there is a wider forgiveness. You can’t forgive abusive parents in a sense that as a society you can’t forgive because it has to be shown for what it is. But we need to take this away from what the person who was sort of, you know, abused needs to feel, and this is why and I’ve seen it.
I’ve seen it happening where, when the society is behaving in a certain way. They don’t carry the person who was abused with them. They carry their anger, which is absolutely sort of justifiable, because society should be angry and resentful of that action in order to show it for what it is. Yeah, but they don’t look at the victim at the same time. And the victim gets carried in the same along on the same bandwagon, so they don’t. There’s something wrong in the way that we deal with these victims.
We give them all the negative vibes of the anger, resentment. We just keep feeding it into that. How do you disassociate that? How can you actually go to the victim and say, We are angry for what has happened to you, but we don’t want you to be angry for what has happened to you. That that is absolutely difficult. But if we’re going to look at it in a societal way, I think society also needs to help the victim. Yeah, and I think what I talk about is you have to make sure that that victim who was being victimised from such a young age changes their perception about themselves.
And I keep telling those children, if somebody abuses you or you know it’s all about hate and hate speech, and what have you, their aim is to devalue you, to put you down, to make you feel a victim. And I tell them that unless you actually turn it around and say, No, I’m not a victim, I’m me. I’m a survivor. I’m a person, you know. And this is where society steps in. So when we talk about people have been victimised in that sense, they need a lot of support to bring them up to a point to feel that there’s something.
And then give them the tools to start shedding away all the hate, all the resentment, which I don’t think it will ever go. I can’t imagine how you know a girl or a boy who had been abused by their parents. I can’t imagine that going. But if you know how positive forgiveness is, it is almost criminal not to show them how to forgive.
Yeah, and that reminds me of a story you told me earlier because you go around secondary schools and you talk about the subject of forgiveness. And I found it really heartening that a 14 year old boy came up to you because he’d been bullied at school for being gay. And he told you, What did you say to you?
He came up to me after the talk and his words to me was not the words of somebody who felt like a victim anymore. Somehow knowing how to deal with hate and resentment, realising that it’s the perpetrator who is actually the person who is the inferior one, you know, or they’re the ones in need of help in order to get them out of that, that that sort of mental attitude and state.
But you as a person, you should feel above it and get yourself the feeling that I’m not the victim in this. I’m above it and he came up to me and he said he felt good about himself, and he’s going to be able to use what what I said to actually, uh, feel that way. And he said part of this to forgive those bullies, which you’d think for a 14 year old thinking that way. I felt really tremendous about that.
As you should, because that’s such a huge thing. Because I mean, I think in terms of my job, how many people come to me in their fifties or sixties who are still suffering the effects of being bullied at school, which drove them to all sorts of things, eating disorders and so on. And to release someone from all of that at the age of 14 so that they can actually self-actualise and have self-worth and go on to live a full life is such a huge gift. So I think the ripples from your book and from your teachings and from your talks and from this podcast will just continue to spread and spread because this is such a universal theme, no matter what anyone’s background or faith or otherwise.
And it’s something that we all need. I think it’s very much underrated in the conversation around health. I mean, you’re a surgeon, I’m a health coach and we talk about diet and exercise and all these different things. But actually, unless you have forgiveness, these things don’t really. I mean, they go so far in getting as well. But forgiveness is absolutely fundamental. It’s one of the things that I’ve learned over the past few years is just how fundamental it is to being well on every level. Emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically. And I think you’ve just given such a beautiful example of what is possible.
There’s a point that we’ve talked about forgiving a stranger and forgiving a family member. How about now forgiving somebody that harmed a family member? So I came across that, and I think what I came across was two families, and both of them lost the son to knife crime. Um, it is not me preaching or teaching just observing. And one family was able to deal with it in a positive way in that they were not looking for answers, not waiting for perpetrators to give them answers. They were not, depending on the justice system to give them answers. They had the answers within themselves and again, it’s that issue of acceptance, I think. But they were able to deal with that and then put efforts into teaching others the impact of such a crime and why they have to literally not do it, so to speak. So they were going to the to the to the prisons to talk about their experience. And that’s how I came to meet them.
Because you also go to prisons to give talks too.
And then I met the other family and to lose your loved one, to lose your son, especially when that son is special and that boy was special and through that, losing in the circumstances that happened. And then to find out the judicial system let you down and to find that the person who plunged the knife that killed your son was unremorseful. I sat next to his dad in that church. I was asked to go and talk about something, you know, about my experience, and I just turned to him. And I just asked him, Where are you on forgiveness? I looked at him and I realised he’s far removed from that. But he was in such pain and he was having difficulty dealing with it. His life was on hold. I went up to speak to his mum who knew who I was. And when she saw me coming towards her, she knew I was going to ask and I could see the ice coming down, so I didn’t ask her.
I just went to console her, but I realised where she was as well. And this is where I think I’ve come across. I come from that point of those who are trying to get justice to her son. We’re putting her on that wave of we need answers. We need the justice system to do just reward a just outcome. We’re not going to stop until we get what we want. And I was thinking What? What is that doing? That disconnect between wanting justice and waiting for it?
Yeah, she was on hold. I don’t think any of us could judge the parents for that.
But I’ve seen the two sets of parents, those who were waiting on answers from who they wanted remorse from the perpetrator.
You’re putting your life on hold because you’re dependent on someone else’s response.
And that someone else has no interest in this. You know, there’s nothing about them that’s gonna, you know. And if it comes out, it will be out of pity rather than out of deep remorse. You know what I mean? So you’re waiting on things that are so difficult and you will not happen.
So that’s like a sentence, isn’t it?
It’s like sentencing yourself. Absolutely. A lifelong imprisonment. Absolutely. And by whom? Who is imprisoning you? It’s the person who did that to your son. So that person has harmed the son and hurt both parents. And this is something that I say that yeah, it is a critical point here, which is, and I was challenged about my forgiveness, by the way. It wasn’t accepted by everybody.
And the challenge is you’re belittling what has happened, and almost you’re betraying the incident. So it’s almost like if I forgive that person, it’s a betrayal, right?
So need to hold on to it.
Absolutely. And the answer back is, would your son have wanted if he knew what was going on? Would your son have wanted you to stay in that pain? So which is more of a betrayal is what your son would have wanted for you. And I think if you ask any victim, if they come back and you ask them what you would you have wanted for those who have loved you and the answer will be, Let it be. Move on. So it’s that betrayal issue. It sounds good, sounds authentic, but it’s actually if you really dig into it, it’s totally the opposite. You’re not betraying their memory. You’re not betraying if you use it in a positive way. But you’re betraying them, by being sad, by being depressed, by not moving. You know, so that to me, I think I’ve dealt with that question in my mind. I’m comfortable with it, and I know it’s not. It’s not clear that there’s nothing clear cut about what we’re talking here.
There’s a lot of nuance, a lot of people will be listening, thinking that’s all very good. But what about what I’ve been through? I think I totally, totally understand that everyone’s got you know, their cross to bear, things that they’ve been through, which are so painful. On the other hand, there is so much evidence to show that forgiveness is the key to having peace of mind. And peace in our hearts, which, which is, I guess, the ultimate goal, isn’t it?
As human beings, what has happened to you? Ah, within your own mind? Yes. Forgiveness is not about others.
That’s it. You’re not doing it for them. You’re doing it for you.
Absolutely. Yeah, And it’s a feeling within you that says to yourself, I think enough is enough. I’ve already been victimised when I was victimised. I’ve already allowed myself to be victimised by literally burying myself in those feelings, went for how long, you know. And the minute you allow yourself to come out of that, it’s almost like a self-fulfilling thought processes, and you have to break that vicious cycle and you’re deep in it. You’re in the middle of it. But if you just allow yourself to just get literally a finger through the door, once that vicious circle is disrupted, you’re out. It doesn’t take a lot to be honest with you, because you feed those thought processes yourself, and you only need to convince yourself. I’m just going to put a spanner somewhere. Yes. And if you start doing that, you’re the minute you do that. You’ve convinced yourself it’s the little step.
Yeah. The little step. Yeah, it’s almost like asking yourself. Could I let this go? Then would I let this go? And then it can just pass because feelings just evaporate, don’t they? If you allow them to, they just pass. And then there is this incredibly expansive feeling of freedom and joy and peace, which is all anyone could ever ask for, isn’t it?
But people need help. I think some people can do it on their own. They’ve got enough of that mental stamina and backing. So this is not what we’re talking about you we’re not talking about. You have to have a strength of will and the strength of mind, you know, to forgive. What we’re saying here is forgiveness is the right outcome. How can we help you forgive? You know, it’s not like forgiveness is good to go and do it, you know? So there’s a lot about forgiveness that I can only talk about my personal experience, but I think it’s almost like you need to set up for that. Yeah, and this is what they do with victims of for victims of rape, like what they’re doing now in Srebrenika. It’s 1995 I think, and we are now 26 years down the line and they’re still suffering. But you can’t go and expect a young woman that was raped to just suddenly walk away from it. So there needs to be that that process.
And done with huge compassion and gentleness and patience.
Absolutely, absolutely. It brings the best of people on both sides if they allow it.
Such a beautiful way of putting it. And I want to thank you for sharing everything that you’ve shared today and in the book, And it’s definitely something that will stay with me.
And I really hope it will resonate with listeners and allow them to find, as you say, just a little space in that wall that they may have put up to just maybe explore the possibility of giving themselves the gift of forgiveness. Because that’s what it is. It’s a gift for themselves, isn’t it?
So I’m going to be challenging now?
OK, because I hope people are going to be listening, and they’re going to say, you know, Okay, you know, I’m not gonna do that, etcetera, etcetera. And as you say, it’s almost like they need to find that space sometime. Um, it’s more than that. Okay, because they’re struggling. They’ve almost come to accept that predicament, which is even worse. You know, they don’t even realise that they’re burying themselves in that pain. It’s almost like they’ve got comfort in that pain. I’m comfortable with this pain. And I mentioned that in my book, it’s almost like the pain of anger is subduing the pain of loss. And if you allow the anger to go with the pain of loss comes over.
So then I said, Well, the challenge is you’ve got to really go for it. You’ve got to challenge yourself. So everything that we’ve talked about is that the last bit? Can I let go? But as you let go of the anger, you feel the loss. And I always said that the pain of anger is to cover the pain of loss, but the pain of anger will stick with you forever. Yeah, and at some stage, you’ve got to have that confidence. You’re going to challenge that anger and be able to come through it.
So it’s actually there’s a challenge within you. Yeah, you have to do so.
It can be a fear of what would happen.
Absolutely, if you were to forget that a lot needs to be felt so that you can. It’s natural, but don’t hide that pain of loss with the pain of anger, or the pain of resentment because it is so insidious and the two become one. Yeah, and you can’t get rid of them. So it’s dissecting that. But that’s what you do, isn’t it?
Yeah. Oh, gosh. There’s just so much to mull over there and what you’ve shared. And again, I really hope that this has given hope to listeners that there is a way forward, no matter what they have been through. So thank you, Nasser. I so appreciate you coming to chat to me. I feel very privileged to know you personally. Um so just leave us with what last words would you like to say to listeners?
I was just thinking about that. Where should I leave it? Where was I? In my mind. Yeah. Yes, I remember. When I finish my talk about forgiveness, I finish it with one word. And I say that anger, resentment, bitterness, prejudice. They all lead into one thing, and that is violence. And then I bring a word. And in your Power Point, the other words vanish. And the word is hope. I know forgiveness gives hope. Now some people might say, Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. You know what you’re talking about? Even if you accept that, it gives you hope within yourself.
To me, that’s good enough. You know not hope for society or hope for…no, hope for yourself. And there’s nothing doom, gloom, resentment. You just put the curtain down, and then you bring the word forgiveness and you see people in the audience, you know, their eyes change. Their feelings change because forgiveness somehow gives hope. Yeah, on a personal level and on a wider level. So if we ever finish on forgiveness, it’s on the world hope.
Which is such a powerful emotion, isn’t it? So I hope this leaves listeners with a note of hope.