During the thirty days before Rosh Hashanah we Jews begin the process of returning (Teshuvah) to the people from whom we’ve become alienated, to the Jewish community, to Torah, to one’s own soul, to a balanced relationship with nature, and to God. Part of that journey requires the act forgiveness in all its dimensions. Forgiving those who have hurt us is not easy.
I’ve come to the conclusion that our forgiving others and forgiving ourselves for past wrongs means letting go of hurt, anger, resentment, jealousy, envy, and hate, and thereby becoming free. If we are successful, the ensuing relationship we develop with the “other” will necessarily be different than it was. In many cases, the change that takes place in us requires letting go not only of the toxic relationship that caused us so much pain and hardship but any future relationship with the “other.”
On Saturday night, September 16, the Jewish world enters into a midnight service called “Selichot” (“forgiveness”) when tradition teaches that the gates of heaven begin to open to receive our prayers and supplications. Selichot is the opening service of the High Holiday season and it occurs on Saturday night just before Rosh Hashanah. It is a powerful service if we take the need for forgiveness seriously.
I have compiled a list of quotations from world literature that offer wisdom and insight into the purpose and benefits of forgiveness. I present it to you as a gift.
“Forgiveness sets you free!” – Mother Teresa
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” – Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi
“I can forgive, but I cannot forget” is only another way of saying, ‘I will not forgive.’ Forgiveness ought to be like a canceled note — torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one.” – Henry Ward Beecher
“A wise person will make haste to forgive, because s/he knows the true value of time, and will not suffer it to pass away in unnecessary pain.” – Samuel Johnson
“Those who cannot forgive others break the bridge over which they themselves must pass.” – Confucius
“To forgive someone does not mean you excuse their behavior or that they were bad. To forgive means getting rid of your resentment, so that it does not complicate your own life.” – Rabbi Abraham J Twerski
“The primary aspect of forgiveness is not as an act of kindness toward the offender, but as a gift to oneself, to free one of the burdens of harboring resentment, which can have negative effects, both physically and emotionally.” – Rabbi Abraham J Twerski
“Forgiveness isn’t about pardoning the one who has hurt us. We simply decide to move on.” – Rabbi Edwin Goldberg
“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, s/he becomes an adolescent; the day s/he forgives them, s/he becomes an adult; the day s/he forgives her/himself, s/he becomes wise.” – Alden Nowlan
“Ribono shel olam! I hereby forgive everyone who has angered or provoked me or sinned against me, whether against me physically, financially, or against my dignity, or against anything belonging to me, whether it was done under duress, or intentionally, or inadvertently or willfully, whether it was verbal, or by deed, or by thought, whether it was in this existence or in a previous existence, everyone, and may no person ever be punished because of me.” – Jewish bedtime prayer