Last night, following our program for Selichot, I had a great conversation. One of those informal talks that get to your core in a way that only informal side conversations can. The program had focused on the topic of forgiveness, as did our talk, and centered on this video from Jewish Food for Thought:
In this conversation, I realized what had been bubbling up inside me throughout the video and during the programmatic discussion. Forgiveness is about us and really has little, or even nothing, to do with the other person. When we do not forgive, we allow the other person who hurt us to continue to hurt us. When we forgive, we are able to stop them.
Forgiveness, as I wrote a few weeks ago, is an internal act. It is one which empowers us to heal ourselves. It is not really saying that we are ok with the act that someone did to us–that we approve of what they did. Instead, it is an acknowledgement that it happened, and that we can move ourselves beyond that moment in time. Not so much that we accept the other’s action, but that we accept the reality that the action happened. We can’t change that.
Real forgiveness is not superficial. It is so much more than the words we might utter when someone offers us an apology. Real forgiveness takes time. Maybe that’s why we have Yom Kippur every year to focus on this–sometimes the process takes more than a year. We need to allow ourselves more time to get there. Another chance to forgive.
Because once we forgive, we are able to begin–to start a new phase of life in which we have changed and we have grown.