The Angry Young Man


Tolerance, Forgiveness and Understanding

When I was a youth I was not known for my tolerance. Everyone seemed to irritate me at times. My mother was constantly reminding me to do this and that. My father would always want to know what I was going to be doing, not just that day but next week and even next month! My sister was always asking questions. My irritation grew and grew until it was difficult for my family to speak to me, without me beginning to burn up inside. I did not, however, tell them what I was feeling, because I realised that it was not right. In fact it was not just them, I was in the wrong too But somehow this knowledge did not help me to get over the problem.

One day I was finishing some work which my father had given me to do, when my sister came along and started to ask me all about it. Now, I had not enjoyed the work and just wanted to forget about it. I said something dismissive and walked out. My sister chased after me saying, “Ramu, Why won’t you talk to me? I like talking to you but you don’t answer my questions these days. How am I going to learn if no-one answers my questions?” and she burst into tears and ran off.

Then, when I went indoors for my evening meal, my mother started to say to me, “Ramu, have you cleaned out the stable today? I noticed that you didn’t do it yesterday; and did you remember to give your washing to Gopika? And...”

I walked out; I could not take any more. There, outside was my father.

‘Ah, Ramesh, what do you plan to do next week, after you have finished the work you started today? I had in mind some illuminated prayers which you could get done, to present them at the temple in time for the festival.”

I did not turn my back on my father, that would have been unthinkable, but I stood there saying nothing and fuming. All these people demanding things of me all the time. I just wanted them to leave me alone to make decisions for myself for a change. My father noticed my discomfiture.

“Ah, Ramu, I see you are struck dumb. What is the problem?”

I just couldn’t tell him. I felt so irritated and did not understand why. I heard myself saying, “Everybody wants me to do things all the time. I get no peace at all.”

“Now, Ramesh, you know that is not true, for most of the day you have been left alone to get on with your work.”

“But it was not my work, it was what you wanted me to do and I felt as if you were there watching me all the time.”

“It is indeed difficult to reconcile oneself with the need to work and to do all the things which need to be done, when someone else always seems to notice what needs to be done before you do. But that is the nature of things, you know. Your mother will always notice things you should do, often before you do. It is because she is used to that way of thinking, she has been doing it for years. I, too, can foresee what has to be done. What I am trying to do for you is to show you how to plan ahead for yourself, so that I can actually take a rest and sit back and watch you unfold your future in a useful and constructive way.”

“Oh, now I understand, Father,” said I. “Sometimes I have been thinking you don’t trust me to get anything done on my own.”

“ Be tolerant of your parents’ guidance, my son. Take it in the spirit in which it is meant. Perhaps we have pushed you too far on occasions, but you could quietly remind us of the fact and, if we see you remembering to do things of your own accord, we will certainly loosen the reins. Let us keep the channels of communication open. Do not let your intolerance drive a wedge between us. Give us your forbearance and we will continue to give you our forgiveness for all the things you have omitted to do, but will not admit to!”

With that, he smiled and patted me on the shoulder. At that moment I remembered I had not given my saddle to the mender the previous day, as I had promised father I would do. I looked at my father to see if he was going to check on that too. He winked at me as if he could read my mind and said, “Come along son, let us eat.” We went in together to join my sister and my mother. My anger had evaporated.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Can you think of anyone you feel intolerant towards?
  • What is it about them that you don’t like?
  • Is anyone intolerant towards you?
  • How does it feel?
  • What would you like to say to them to stop their intolerance?
  • Do you try to understand others?
  • How does it feel to forgive someone?
  • How does it feel to be forgiven?

Guidance on tolerance