Volume 7, Issue 1, September 1997


One of the things we need to learn and work at if we are to be happy and our society fulfilled is to forgive ourselves and others. To be social is to be forgiving.

The importance of practicing forgiveness has been a spiritual principle throughout the ages. Prophets, saints and scriptures admonish us to forgive, and this axiom is a mainstay of virtually every religious and philosophical doctrine.

For better or worse we have to judge each other and bring wrong to account, but we are safe in the business only when we remember that both the judge and the judged are themselves under judgment. None of us are perfect, though a few consider themselves near to it.

It is easy to be a critic and to level judgment towards others, usually those to whom we are distant and with whom we are not well acquainted.

We are prone to express zero tolerance and "tough" love towards those we see as transgressors. We stoutly uphold law and order, but often fail when it comes to love and justice; for justice is distinguished by mercy.

Social responsibility demands that we search out the truth, try to appreciate the complexities in any situation. We must see the others strengths and not just their shortcomings.

Learning forgiveness - both granting it to others and accepting it for ourselves - is one of the primary means of maturing and becoming a whole person. When we offer forgiveness we are able to constructively deal with our feelings of hurt, resentment, and self-pity, and are less likely to compound these difficulties.

To forgive begins as an act of will. We've got to want to. Simply going through the motions of forgiving or accepting forgiveness will not get us very far. We must squarely face our feelings and be honest with ourselves and the other. Forgiveness is something we must work hard at to achieve. It does not come easily, it must be learned and developed. Forgiveness is so easy in the abstract, so difficult in the concrete, actual situation.

Love is the motive behind forgiveness. It will make resentment and anger melt and allow us to offer more chances for the wrongs to be righted.

It is not a sign of weakness to forgive, but rather of strength, courage, and self-awareness. There is a Muslim teaching that one must seek reasons to forgive others their wrongs, and if you can't find one reason then the fault lies in you.

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"Religion NOW" is published in limited edition by the Rev. Ross E. Readhead, B.A., B.D., Certificate of Corrections, McMaster University, in the interest of furthering knowledge and participation in religion. Dialogue is invited and welcomed.