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Forgive Me, Forgive Me Not

August 19, 2013

Ahhh…. the Hebrew month of Elul…. the time when we start to prepare our souls for the emotional roller-coaster known as the High Holidays. We have to get ready to celebrate, mourn, remember, and be renewed. That’s a lot to gear up for! Today is the 13th day of Elul, and according to the Blog Elul template, today is the day to think about forgiveness. Good. It’s an important thing to consider. We’ve all done things this year that we regret, and man… doesn’t it feel good when someone says those three precious words – “I forgive you.”?!?!

Well, to be perfectly honest, seeking out someone’s forgiveness is, in my opinion, a fully selfish act. Apologizing is kind. Apologizing is acknowledging a hurt that you’ve caused and it validates someone else’s feelings. Asking for forgiveness though… well, I’ve never really understood that.
If I have hurt you in some way, then I want to apologize for it. I want to make amends and acknowledge that you do not deserve to be treated that way. Asking you to forgive me, on the other hand…that’s about me. It’s like saying “ok… I know I did this really crummy thing to you, but… could you just do me a favor and tell me that I’m forgiven? Can you do that for me? It would really help me feel better about doing such a crummy thing…” Asking for forgiveness, in my opinion, is saying that I am concerned about my own conscience, my own feelings. Here’s a little secret about that – no one can clear your conscience but you.

Yes – it is important to forgive others. It is important for our own mental health and spiritual clarity to forgive those who have wronged us. It is often the only way to move on…. but forgiveness happens in the heart. Forgiveness benefits the forgiver. We shouldn’t need to seek out someone else’s approval in order to move on.

On Yom Kippur, when we ask God to “forgive us, pardon us, and grant us atonement” what I really believe that we are saying is “help me to find the inner strength to forgive myself, pardon myself, and therefore grant myself atonement…and help me to see that I am worthy of those things.” No one knows, other than you and your God, if you have done what needs to be done in order to make amends. We can’t rely upon others to tell us that we are ok. Frankly, once I know that I have done everything that I can to right a bad situation, it shouldn’t matter to me whether the other person forgives me or not. If that person chooses not to, well, then that’s going to weigh on his or her conscience, not mine.

We have all been told that it is easy to forgive others, but important to forgive ourselves. Yes. We must learn to forgive ourselves – for how we have wronged others and how we have wronged ourselves. Only we can truly judge our own moral character, and only we know if we are worthy of our own forgiveness.

And so – if, in this past year or in all of the years before, I have done something to hurt you, then I truly and sincerely apologize, but I do not ask your forgiveness…. I ask for my own.

Wishing you light and love.

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One Comment
  1. Very interesting in site and great article. The high holidays are always difficult for me, but also allow me a spiritual cleansing, so to speak, that feels like a new beginning each year.

    I agree about your idea if asking for forgiveness being a selfish act, but this still confuses me. Should I ask God for forgiveness or simply just apologize and pray that (s)he does? Am i just asking myself for forgiveness, when I pray that God does? I know this is different than asking for forgiveness from someone we directly hurt, but it is similar. I even struggle with how we can forgive ourselves.

    There are examples of people doing heinous things to others, and undoubtedly some of those people forgave themselves, or so it would seem. Is that not a selfish act if you forgive yourself for terrible behavior? I think I need to take an ethics class.

    Thanks, for bringing this topic up. I’m sure there are many opinions on this. Your writing this inspired me to think and reflect, and that is a good thing.

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