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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On Forgiving Others

Elul 23

Every now and then someone will speak with me about the difficulty of granting forgiveness.  Is it always right to forgive someone for hurting us?  For making us feel scared or unworthy?  For breaking our trust?  Every situation is unique, of course.  As we approach these holy days we have the obligation to seek forgiveness from others.  We also have the responsibility to grant forgiveness when we can.  In thinking about the notion of forgiveness, I have always found the words of Rabbi Lawrence Kushner to be helpful.  He writes:

To be forgiven one must first learn how to forgive.  Many of us waste years waiting to be forgiven.  But since we have never offered forgiveness ourselves, we do not know how to recognize when it is extended to us.  To “forgive” means not only to excuse someone for having committed an offense, but also to renounce the anger and claims of resentment.  Forgiving someone therefore means you are willing to endure the risk that he (or she) will hurt you in exactly the same way again, but that you trust him (or her) not to.

As Rabbi Kushner explains, forgiveness comes with an inherent risk.  There is always a chance that the other person will hurt you again.  But if there is enough love AND enough trust, the risk is worth taking.

From whom are you seeking forgiveness this year?

To whom will you grant it?

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