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The Essence of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not so much an act as an attitude. As an act, forgiveness raises the forgiver above the forgiven; it empowers the one even as it disempowers the other. I know this isn’t the way we normally think about forgiveness, but explore this with me a bit. If you don’t like what I have to say, you can always stop reading. The only way someone can hurt you is if you have given them power over you. When my son was a toddler and I refused him candy as we stood in the checkout line at our local market, he would often cry out, "I hate you. I hate you." While this might have been a bit embarrassing, it wasn't hurtful. He had no power over me, and his assessment of my character and parenting skills meant nothing to me. While you might argue that he should have apologized for his outburst, there is no need for me to forgive him for it. He just did what any three-year-old kid would do when forced to stand in an aisle stacked from his head to his toe with candy. Now imagine a different scenario. You're standing with a friend who is under the misunderstanding that you have done her some harm. She too crie …

Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler,” addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more. His latest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art: Shattering the Illusion of Control and Falling into Grace with Twelve-Step Spirituality.

He has this to say about religion: “To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence.”

Register now for Rabbi Rami's new online course, The Sacred Art of Forgiveness

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