Sep 17/Elul 22
23 of 40
Are there times when its ok not to grant or ask for forgiveness?
“the world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” wrote Ernest Hemingway. And the ancient rabbis wrote in the Talmud that the act of teshuva – return – is always possible, for without it the world would not exist. Those broken places are where we find cracks for the light to come in, with compassion and a second chance.
But what happens when what’s broken is beyond repair? are there limits to reconciliation?
Each year at this time we rummage through our heart and address books, desk drawers and journals, making this annual pilrgimage to a higher sense of self and our inner holy of holies, challenged to take care of as much unfinished business as possible, clean up our act, refine our lives for a more balanced new year. The broken places – the regrets and shames and rages we harbor, often privately, often even no longer memorable by us, often clog up our happiness.
So we drudge up the uncomfortable memories of when we’ve missed our mark, and try to figure out why and how to avoid this again, what we can do to fix, and we finally tidy up that shelf beneath the sink, pay our debts, and turn to those we’ve hurt to say we’re sorry. If we really care and dare – we go to those against whom we carry grudges and we let them know what we need and want from them, with hopes of somehow reconciling or at least achieving closure and moving on.
That’s the theory anyway. But, in practice, it’s sometimes way too messy to be cleaned.
There are people we’ve once loved and cared for who for various reasons we now cross the street to avoid talking with. Or worse. lawsuits.
Some of these we’ve carried with us for years. Some are recent. (How much tension and discord was unleashed this past summer over the war in Gaza? Not to mention the war over Gaza on Facebook. How many were unfriended just these past few months?
My friend N. was telling me about her sister, with whom so little can be shared anymore, and, she thinks, with whom the relationship is really over. Too much bad blood in recent year despite the blood connection. Is it ok to not pursue peace-making, let her know how tired of the sisterly charade she is and let it go?
I counseled one last honest letter, just sharing the emotions, not blaming, less for the sister’s benefit but for N’s own sense of having done what she could.
Find a way today to deal or heal or walk away, for now, until the heart is ready to reach out. I want to believe that it’s never too late to forgive or ask for forgiveness, it just needs the right time.
Maybe that time is today?
PS: I searched for photos of historical handshakes between former enemies and found one from 1977 – Begin and Sadat – with my father right in the middle. He was one of the diplomats behind the Camp David Agreement – one of his finest hours.