I guess the topic of forgiveness is on everyone's minds as Yom Kippur approaches. I was in the middle of this post when I saw Bored Jewish Guy's post about forgiveness and dating.
What does it mean to forgive someone? This is a question I’ve tried to figure out the answer to for a while. I know what it means when Hashem forgives- it means that he wipes away our sins as though they never happened, or if we don’t deserve that, the lower level is that he doesn’t punish us. But what does it mean for us, human beings, to forgive one another? Does it mean we forget the past and pretend like it never happened? Every year before Yom Kippur we go through the typical route of asking everyone we’re close with, “Are you mochel me?” or “Do you forgive me if I did anything wrong to you this past year?” And people ask us this question. We each respond with a hearty, “Of course!” and exclaim that we can’t think of anything anyway that the person did wrong. Has anyone ever asked you for forgiveness for a specific incident? No one has ever approached me right before Yom Kippur. Right after a particular situation they have, but right before Yom Kippur not really. Let me explain why I have been thinking so much about this question.
A number of years ago, a friend of mine did something that I found to be very hurtful. The problem is that she actually thought she was doing something that was really nice. So I couldn’t tell her that it upset me, because it would have made her very upset to hear that what they thought was a nice deed was not only not appreciated, but in fact caused me to be sad. Yet, to this day, when I think about that event, I am hurt by it. This person has no clue that she did something wrong, so she cannot ask for forgiveness. I would never tell her that she did something wrong, since that would cause her much anguish, and that would be an aveira on my part. I know I need to forgive her. But what does forgiveness mean?
To this day, I am still very good friends with this girl. My behavior towards her is as friendly as always, the same way I relate to all my friends. Aside from this small incident, I hold no negative feelings towards her, and immediately after the incident I was never even cold to her, as I wanted to mask how I was feeling. My question is: Does that mean I have forgiven her? I held on to my negative feelings for a while after the event, but after a while I let them go. But I still feel hurt when thinking about what happened. She also never expressed remorse over the incident, because she never knew that she did anything wrong.
It's been a number of years since then, and I think at this point I can truly say I have forgiven her. But let's go back to a few months after the occurrence. I was still mad at her about it, yet I was also still friends with her and was doing my best to put it behind me and move on. At that moment in time, would you say that I have forgiven her?
Food for thought: Does forgiving mean forgetting? Can you hold on to negative feelings while simultaneously having a positive relationship with that person? Does forgiveness mean letting go completely or is it OK as long as your actions and behavior does not show your true feelings?
I wish you all a Gmar Chatima Tova, may we all be inscribed in the book of life. May we be zoche to be forgiven by Hashem and the people who we have sinned against, and may we have the inner strength to forgive all of those who wronged us.