Learning the lessons of forgiveness
There are so many things we could learn about true forgiveness from the last few posts, and I’m sure that each of us will have our own insights. When I was trying to pull it together into a coherent ‘strategy of forgiveness’, the following elements jumped out at me:
In order to really forgive, and in order to really apologise, we need the following things:
Namely, to admit that we genuinely have done things wrong, and that we aren’t perfect, even when that’s very painful.
To feel bad about our negative actions, and the consequences they had for the people in our lives, and to want to avoid repeating the same mistakes again in the future.
Talking to God about what we actually need to do, in order to fix the mess we made, as well as asking Him to give us the enormous emotional and spiritual strength required in order for us to own up to our faults.
- Emuna – ie, Ein Od Milvado, God set the whole situation up, and He had His reasons for doing that
This is where we start to see that we’re not in control of our lives, and that often, we kind of get stuck playing a part that we don’t want or like. It also means that we see that the OTHER people in our life, who may have hurt us, are also just God’s ‘puppets’, in a manner of speaking, and just coming to teach us some sort of lesson, or to right some sort of spiritual wrong that may not even be from this lifetime (just like what happened in the Baal Shem Tov story).
All of these things are key, and all of them are part of the secret of true forgiveness. But if I had to pick one thing out of this list to emphasise, then self-forgiveness would be it.
If we can’t forgive ourselves, we also can’t sincerely forgive others. And if we can’t forgive ourselves, we won’t have the emotional strength required to fix what we broke, and to ask others for forgiveness.
The Elul Forgiveness Exercise
OK, let’s see if we turn everything we’ve learned into something practical that will directly help US to practise more forgiveness in our own lives. Ready?
Take a piece of paper and a pen.
Answer the following questions (these aren’t for sharing, so go ahead and be honest):
- Who do you still need to forgive?
- What do you still need to forgive yourself about?
- Who do you need to ask forgiveness from? (Clue: kids and spouses nearly always make it onto this list)
- What’s stopping you from doing it?
If you get stuck answering any of these questions, schedule in some quiet time and ask God for some help and guidance.
Kick-starting the forgiveness process
Remember, God treats us the way we treat others, midda kneged midda. So let’s kick-start the forgiveness process right now. Turn your piece of paper of, and write the following statement:
“I, NAME, unconditionally forgive anyone who has ever hurt me or upset me, under any circumstances, at any time.”
You can add anything you want to this statement, and yes, it’s very similar to what we say before we go to sleep. But a few months’ ago, my rabbi Rav Arush gave a shiur where he stressed the importance of actually writing this statement down, and signing it.
Actions carry a lot of weight in yiddishkeit, so please sign it and then breathe out!
You just forgave a whole bunch of people unconditionally, (or at least, took the first massive step towards doing that) – and for sure, God will return the favour, come Rosh Hashana.
While we’re on the subject of forgiveness, I just wanted to ask you, my readers to please forgive me for anything I’ve written over the past 12 months that may have touched a nerve, or upset you in any way. That is never my intention, but I do make mistakes and I sometimes misjudge things. So please forgive me!!
And may we all be blessed with the most amazingly sweet, forgiving, kind and delicious year possible, Amen.