Buddha said, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule”. Love is the energy behind what we call forgiveness, and is one of the most important keys to ridding ourselves of hatred and anger. The Qur’an has the verse “The repayment of a bad action is one equivalent to it. But if someone pardons and puts things right, his reward is with Allah… (Qur’an, 42:40)”. Forgiveness is found in almost every great religious text. In the new testament of the Christian bible “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13, NIV)“
It seems that forgiveness is something important in religion, but it is also important to philosophers, poets, and great thinkers throughout history. The following are just some of what has been said/written about the subject of forgiveness.
Confucius ~“Those who cannot forgive others break the bridge over which they themselves must pass.”
Voltaire ~“We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies – it is the first law of nature.”
Paramhansa Yogananda ~ “Today I forgive all those who have ever offended me. I give my love to all thirsty hearts, both to those who love me and to those who do not love me.”
Epictetus ~“When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.”
Friedrich Nietzsche ~ “And if your friend does evil to you, say to him, ”I forgive you for what you did to me, but how can I forgive you for what you did to yourself?”
Horace ~ “It is right for him who asks forgiveness for his offenses to grant it to others.”
So forgiveness is something important, it is the key to freeing yourself and others from past mistakes and all the pain and suffering those mistakes have caused. It is just as important to the forgiven as it is to the forgiver. Forgiveness may not always be easy, but in the end, it is well worth the effort. Holding on to a grudge, all the pain and suffering attached to it does no good for either side in the long run.
The Jewish High Holidays include Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Traditionally, Jews view the holidays as a chance to reflect on our shortcomings, make amends and seek forgiveness, both from other people and from the Almighty.
Jews pray and fast on Yom Kippur to demonstrate their remorse and to focus on reconciliation. According to Jewish tradition, it is at the end of this solemn period that God seals his decision about each person’s fate for the coming year. Congregations recite a prayer called the “Unetanah Tokef,” which recalls God’s power to decide “who shall live and who shall die, who shall reach the ends of his days and who shall not” – an ancient text that Leonard Cohen popularized with his song “Who by Fire.”
Forgiveness and related concepts, such as compassion, are central virtues in many religions. What’s more, research has shown that it is psychologically beneficial.
But each religious tradition has its own particular views about forgiveness, as well, including Judaism. As a psychologist of religion, I have done research on these similarities and differences when it comes to forgiveness.
Person to person
Several specific attitudes about forgiveness are reflected in the liturgy of the Jewish High Holidays, so those who go to services are likely to be aware of them – even if they skip out for a snack.
In Jewish theology, only the victim has the right to forgive an offense against another person, and an offender should repent toward the victim before forgiveness can take place. Someone who has hurt another person must sincerely apologize three times. If the victim still withholds forgiveness, the offender is considered forgiven, and the victim now shares the blame.
The 10-day period known as the “Days of Awe” – Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and the days between – is a popular time for forgiveness. Observant Jews reach out to friends and family they have wronged over the past year so that they can enter Yom Kippur services with a clean conscience and hope they have done all they can to mitigate God’s judgment.
The teaching that only a victim can forgive someone implies that God cannot forgive offenses between people until the relevant people have forgiven each other. It also means that some offenses, such as the Holocaust, can never be forgiven, because those martyred are dead and unable to forgive.
To forgive or not to forgive?
In psychological research, I have found that most Jewish and Christian participants endorse the views of forgiveness espoused by their religions.
As in Judaism, most Christian teachings encourage people to ask and give forgiveness for harms done to one another. But they tend to teach that more sins should be forgiven – and can be, by God, because Jesus’ death atoned vicariously for people’s sins.
Even in Christianity, not all offenses are forgivable. The New Testament describes blaspheming against the Holy Spirit as an unforgivable sin. And Catholicism teaches that there is a category called “mortal sins,” which cut off sinners from God’s grace unless they repent.
One of my research papers, consisting of three studies, shows that a majority of Jewish participants believe that some offenses are too severe to forgive; that it doesn’t make sense to ask someone other than the victim about forgiveness; and that forgiveness is not offered unconditionally, but after the offender has tried to make things right.
Take this specific example: In one of my research studies I asked Jewish and Christian participants if they thought a Jew should forgive a dying Nazi soldier who requested forgiveness for killing Jews. This scenario is described in “The Sunflower” by Simon Wiesenthal, a writer and Holocaust survivor famous for his efforts to prosecute German war criminals.
Jewish participants often didn’t think the question made sense: How could someone else – someone living – forgive the murder of another person? The Christian participants, on the other hand, who were all Protestants, usually said to forgive. They agreed more often with statements like “Mr. Wiesenthal should have forgiven the SS soldier” and “Mr. Wiesenthal would have done the virtuous thing if he forgave the soldier.”
It’s not just about the Holocaust. We also asked about a more everyday scenario – imagining that a student plagiarized a paper that participants’ friends had written, and then asked the participants for forgiveness – and saw similar results.
Jewish people have a wide variety of opinions on these topics, though, as they do in all things. “Two Jews, three opinions!” as the old saying goes. In other studies with my co-researchers, we showed that Holocaust survivors, as well as Jewish American college students born well after the Holocaust, vary widely in how tolerant they are of German people and products. Some are perfectly fine with traveling to Germany and having German friends, and others are unwilling to even listen to Beethoven.
In these studies, the key variable that seems to distinguish Jewish people who are OK with Germans and Germany from those who are not is to what extent they associate all Germans with Nazism. Among the Holocaust survivors, for example, survivors who had been born in Germany – and would have known German people before the war – were more tolerant than those whose first, perhaps only, exposure to Germans had been in the camps.
Another year has past and one more year closer to growing old Another year gone and with it the world grows even more cold
Cold the world might be but that does not phase the love i feel The world grows more selfish and that is something that is real.
The light is growing dimmer each day as life slowly slips away from us all. The source of love still remains strong and we should answer its call.
God is the light that will never burn out and we are mere reflections of his undying love. His son came to teach us compassion and forgiveness with the gentleness of a dove.
Unfortunately mankind grows arrogant and their hearts are full of a very selfish pride. Greed and corruption rules over most and from the aftermath there may be nowhere to hide.
With age comes wisdom, experience and hind sight is always 20/20 as we all know. The piece of wisdom I try to share is to always let your love and compassion show.
Mistakes we may all make in the life we are granted and to learn from them is the key. Anger is quick to destroy the love and compassion that resides in both you and me.
If you take anything from all the things i write I hope it is to love one another both freely and unconditionally. For life is too short to hold grudges, place/carry blame for mistakes intentionally done or unintentionally.
Live life to the fullest and don’t allow fear to rule your world for it will only stop you from truly living life. Don’t hang on to regrets or anger for all that will do is fill your world with unneeded and undeserved strife.
Self forgiveness is something that very few of us ever practice, forgiving one’s self seems to be a much harder task than to forgive others. Why does it seem that to forgive some one is much easier than to forgive our own mistakes and transgressions? For some reason we tend to be much harder on ourselves than we are on other people. We must realize that like everyone else we are not perfect and therefore we will make mistakes and should learn from those mistakes but not allow those mistakes to control our lives. We can focus on our positive attributes and our achievements instead of on our mistakes and our negative aspects. Mistakes being a part of the natural learning process that we all go through and they are beneficial in learning what we should not do. So making mistakes is something that we all must face in this life that we live.
Guilt which is an aftereffect of making a mistake is suppose to be a short lived emotion to help us remember that we had made that mistake. Guilt is not supposed to be a lifelong emotion and if it becomes one it changes from a beneficial emotion into a destructive emotion. Suffering Guilt for a long period of time is devastating to a persons self-esteem and their personal happiness. Accept the mistakes that you have made, then learn from them and try not to repeat them is about all one can do. Everybody makes mistakes and everyone faces guilt from time to time and that my friend is what being human is all about.