Am I Right?

How to live ethically

Forgiveness

Is there anything that is unforgivable?

"The miracle of the change of water into wine at the feast of Cana would not have seem so wonderful to the guests had they not remembered that what was turned into wine had been water. To forgive is to remember that what was water has become wine,"  wrote Felix Adler, found of the Ethical Culture movement.

Forgiveness is a bet on the future. For to forgive someone for the harm that he has done requires an act of faith, believing in the higher nature of people. To forgive is to believe two things: that people can have a change of heart and that they can learn from their mistakes.

Forgiveness is a moral act when the person who has done harm first admits her wrongdoing, is sincerely contrite and truly wants to do better in the future. Repentance is a prerequisite for being forgiven. And the belief in the high nature of the wrongdoer is a requirement for the transformation to take place.

Forgiveness is possible when hearts are open on both sides. When this happens, forgiveness becomes a spiritual bond. Both parties reach a deeper part of themselves in this act of mutual betterment.

In having faith in the regeneration of others we must, at the same time, acknowledge that we too are in need of spiritual renewal. Without admitting that we have made mistakes and have harmed others we become smug. The power of forgiveness is the recognition that each of us must move forward in the quest for a more humane life.

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So a question to ask yourself is, Is there anything that you find unforgivable? 

Arthur Dobrin, D.S.W., teaches applied ethics at Hofstra University. He is the author, coauthor, and editor of more than twenty books.

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