Sunday, 5 October 2008

Rosh Hashanah, Repentance and the Search for Forgivness

This is a reprint of an earlier enty:

Rosh Hashanah, Repentance and the Search for forgiveness

Rosh Hashanah, Repentance, and The Search for Forgiveness Friday September 19, 2008
S'lichot, the penitential prayers which intensify the internal spiritual work that build up to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begin on Saturday night. And while I love the midnight service with its haunting repetitive music and rich biblical imagery of Moses demanding that God forgive the ancient Israelites for their regular misbehaviors in the desert, the truth is I am also a little overwhelmed because forgiveness is hard - both granting it and seeking it. And if its not, then you aren't doing it right.
Why? Because to grant forgiveness means that you still harbor hard feelings about the person or act you decide to forgive (otherwise you have already forgiven, and are confusing the act of forgiving with announcing it to the one you forgive), yet find the strength to go beyond yourself to a place that makes forgiveness possible. That's never easy.
And seeking forgiveness is no easier. It means that you are willing to confront your past, assess it fully, can see what you have done wrong, commit to changing your behavior and are willing to include those you previously hurt in that process. That's huge. But like the ability to forgive others, it is within our grasp.
So with Rosh Hashanah approaching fast, faster that some of us might like, here are some tips that will help you to forgive those who have hurt you and seek forgiveness from those you have hurt.
1. Don't let your fear of what you did, or rage about what was done to you, dissuade you from either seeking or granting forgiveness.
2. Mind your own business. We can only grant forgiveness for that which was done to us and should only seek forgiveness for that which we have done.
3. Stay balanced. The number of apologies you seek should be proportional to the number you are willing to offer, because the doing of each nurtures the capacity for the other.
4. Know that you are never alone. From God's perspective, sincere effort to correct the past renders earns any of us what my kids call a do over.
5. Honor the past, but don't let yourself be imprisoned by it. Don't allow your fear of forgetting what was done to you keep you from forgiving those who did it.
6. Allow love to triumph over logic. There will always be a good reason to keep doing what you are doing or to withhold your forgiveness from someone else. But real issue is whether or not you love them enough to go beyond that logic.
7. Keep it simple. Apologize for, or forgive, one thing at a time. There is always more to the story, but this is not the moment to explore it.
8. The answer doesn't always have to be yes. We are not always ready to forgive and that is okay. But the answer shouldn't always be no, either. Consider what you loose by saying no, and be concerned if that has become your default response.
9. Remember that forgiveness is not always the end of the process, but the beginning of a new level of relationship which may continue to be shaped by those past acts which demanded forgiveness.
10. Celebrate the moment of forgiveness in some way that rewards both the one seeking forgiveness and the one who grants it. A hug, a kiss, perhaps something even more intimate. A drink or a shared meal. Whatever it is, you have both accomplished a major thing, so make the most of it.
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