Forgiveness is a theme very close to my heart right now. Just this past Sunday, we commemorated the 15th anniversary of September 11th, a very sad day for all of us. It is also the Jewish month of Elul, a time of repentance in preparation for the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).
So I find myself thinking about giving and receiving forgiveness. I won’t give any pithy comments about forgiveness, but I can say from my own experience that when I have forgiven, even when the damage caused has been terribly traumatic, even when another has not asked for my forgiveness, it has freed me from the chains of bitterness and resentment and from acting from unconscious and suppressed hurt.
But that doesn’t mean that I have forgotten. I agree with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said, “Forgiving is not forgetting”. I remember so that I can make new choices. I remember so that I can be free from the past. I remember so that, maybe, I can share my stories and help others.
And I remember so that I stay humble. I don’t in any way equate myself with terrorists or torturers or abusers or suggest that anyone else should do so! But, there are moments in the depths of my own sadness for a wrong I have done to another when I get a glimpse of the power of forgiveness—of the release and freedom I experience when I forgive and the softness and openness and sensitivity when I ask for forgiveness.