The Forgiveness Practice for Your Daily Spiritual Health
Forgiveness involves seeking forgiveness for ourselves after genuine repentance, and then forgiving others. Forgiveness does not mean giving others a continuing right to oppress or hurt other people. We can both forgive those who tortured prisoners or supported economic or political policies that caused the death of thousands and nevertheless still insist that they be punished for their behavior. The practice of forgiveness frees us from the burden of carrying with us negative feelings that may limit our capacity for empathy and weaken our ability to love. It is not meant to disempower us from the righteous indignation at global capitalism that is destroying the life-support system of Earth and at those who accumulate huge amounts of wealth while turning their backs and closing their ears to the cries of the homeless, the hungry, the refugees, the powerless. If anything, this process of forgiveness should empower us to become clearer in distinguishing between the disempowering anger that our grudges and petty hurts often cause, and the prophetic righteous indignation that empowers us to struggle against ongoing evils in our world! –Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor, Tikkun and chair, The Network of Spiritual Progressives
Practice 1: Repentance
Carefully review your life — acknowledge to yourself whom you have hurt and where your life has gone astray from your own highest ideals. Find a place where you can be safely alone, and then say out loud whom you’ve hurt how, and how you’ve hurt yourself. In the case of others, go to them and say clearly what you’ve done and ask for forgiveness. Do not mitigate or “explain” — just acknowledge and sincerely ask for forgiveness.
We do not start from the assumption that anyone has become evil. Rather, we vision any ‘sins’ as “missing the mark.” We are born pure and with the best of intentions to be the highest possible spiritual being we can be, as though we were an arrow being shot straight toward God to connect more fully, yet at various points in our lives the arrow gets slightly off track and misses the mark. Repentance is really about a mid-course adjustment to get back on track, and can be done every day. But we also recognize that each of us is embedded in a global economic system which oppresses and exploits many while systematically undermining the life support system of the planet. We unintentionally but really benefit from that global system. So we have a spiritual and Jewish obligation to do more to find ways to transform our economic and political system and to support others who are similarly engaged in the struggle for a New Bottom Line of love, generosity, social justice, non-violence, forgiveness, kindness, peace, environmental sanity and celebration of all that is good and all that is awesome about this universe. These seemingly utopian goals have now become a survival necessity for the continuation of life on Earth.
There is nothing in this practice that requires one to be Jewish, so we invite all of our Tikkun readers to use this and the Forgiveness practice, and to invite others to do so also. We also invite you to join our interfaith and secular-humanist welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives and to create a local group that will study Tikkun articles together, develop ideas on how specifically to popularize the New Bottom Line in your own geographical area or in your workplace or profession, to act on those ideas, and let us know what has worked and what obstacles have arisen as you do that work. While others are involved in important social change work, we believe that a true repentance should also involve a willingness to move beyond specific complaints about our society and to envision the society we actually want—and then to engage in activity together with others to bring that society into existence. So we urge you to make your repentance not only about what has gone wrong, but to begin to refine for yourself and your friends the details of the world you want, and then to begin to work in that direction—and to share all this with fellow members of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Otherwise, repentance can become an empty exercise in self-aggrandizement as we allow ourselves to feel so very good about ourselves for having wanted to change our world, without ever doing anything to actually make that happen.
Practice 2: Forgiveness (For every day of the year)
Every night before going to sleep or every morning before engaging in your various tasks, projects or interactions with others, review your life, recall who you feel has hurt or betrayed you and toward whom you are still holding resentment or anger. Then, find a place to say this out loud:
YOU, my ETERNAL FRIEND, Yud Hey Vav Hey, Shechinah, Adonai, or whatever name you give to the God or the spiritual energy of the universe, THE POWER OF TRANSFORMATION AND HEALING IN THE UNIVERSE, WITNESS now that:
I forgive anyone who hurt or upset me or who offended me
…..by damaging my body, my property, my reputation, hurting my feelings, shaming me, undermining my friendships or hurting my income or scaring me or making me angry or damaging people that I love — whether by accident or purposely — with words, deeds, thoughts, or attitudes. I will continue to fight against social and economic institutions that oppress me or others, but I will not do so with hatred in my heart but only love for those who have been wounded.
I think particularly of ________ (fill in here anyone in your life who may have done some of the above).
I forgive (name each person) and every person who has hurt or upset me, whether or not I can remember them at this moment.
May no one be punished because of me. May no one suffer from karmic consequences for hurting or upsetting me.
Help me, Eternal Friend, the spiritual energy of the universe, to keep from offending You and others. Whatever sins I have committed, blot out, please, in Your abundant kindness, and spare me suffering or harmful illnesses. Help me become aware of the ways I may have unintentionally or intentionally hurt others, and please give me guidance and strength to rectify those hurts — and to develop the sensitivity to not continue acting in a hurtful way.
Let me forgive others — let me forgive myself — but also let me change in ways that make it easy for me to avoid paths of hurtfulness to others.
I seek peace, let me BE peace. ***I seek justice, let me be just. ***I seek a world of kindness, let me be kind. ***I seek a world of generosity, let me be generous with all that I have and to everyone I encounter in my life and to those whom I do not encounter but who need my help. ***I seek a world of sharing, let me share all that I have. ***I seek a world of love — let me be loving beyond all reason, beyond all normal expectation, beyond all societal frameworks that tell me how much love is “normal,” — beyond all fear that giving too much love will leave me with too little. Let me be overflowing with love toward others.
And let me be open, aware, sensitive and receptive to all the love that is already coming to me: *** the love of people I know, ***the love of the universe that that pours through all being and sustains life on this planet (also known as the love of God/dess for all Her creatures*** the love that is part of the human condition, the accumulated love of past generations that flows through and is embodied in the language, music, agriculture & recipes for cooking or preparing food, technology, literature, religions, agriculture, and family heritages that have been passed on to me and to us. Let me pass that love on to the next generations in an even fuller and more conscious way.
I commit to act lovingly in all my interactions, and to use some of my energy to participate in activities aimed at tikkun: transforming and healing our society and saving human and animal life on the planet. So this week or next I will___________________(fill in).
Source of goodness and love in the universe, let me be alive to all the goodness that surrounds me. And let that awareness of the goodness and love of the universe be my shield and protector. And let it give me the energy I need to engage in the struggles that must take place to transform our economic, religious, and political systems, our media and our educational systems, our science and our technology, our legal system and our government, and all other practices and institutions including my own profession and work place, so that they reward and give sustenance to (rather than undermine) our capacities for love, kindness, generosity, and compassion. And let me bring to these struggles a spirit of generosity, love, forgiveness, and open-heartedness.
Hear the words of my mouth and may the meditations of my heart find acceptance before You, Eternal Friend, who protects and frees me. Amen.
[Please join our Network of Spiritual Progressives and help us build a world of love and generosity in which forgiveness empowers us to act on our righteous indignation at ongoing systems of oppression and evil. www.spiritualprogressives.org/covenant]