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Seeking Forgiveness in the World's Spiritual Traditions


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Though their beliefs differ, the world’s great religions all affirm the power of forgiveness to set you free.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 1999 issue of Spirituality & Health. The world’s major spiritual traditions have long taught the value of forgiveness as a tool for freeing ourselves and others from the tyranny of past judgments and perceptions — or misperceptions. The traditions may offer different rationales for why we should forgive, and different ways to go about it, but the ultimate goal is strikingly similar.For example, all three “religions of the Book” — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — emphasize that believers should model their actions on God’s own forgiveness of human error, as recorded in their sacred texts. “Jewish tradition, as far back as late antiquity and especially in the medieval period, teaches that God is merciful and forgiving and that the apex of human existence is to emulate God,” says Dr. Shaul Magid, chair of the Department of Philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York City.Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector and professor of philosophy at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, points out that Judaism believes God also …

Ann Kathleen Bradley’s articles have appeared in Elle, Tricycle, Healthy Living, and other magazines. She is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary.

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ForgivenessFrom the ArchivesWorldTraditionsJudaismBuddhismChristianityHindu

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