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Must I Forgive Everyone?

Must I Forgive Everyone?

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Question:

How can you forgive someone that really hurt you especially if it is someone close, and the trust between you has been shattered?

Answer:

Forgiveness is not a single action that you begin and complete in a short time. Forgiveness is a multi-layered process and a long journey where we slowly progress and move towards the goal.

In an essay on the topic, the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that there are three levels of forgiveness:

1) We don't wish the person any harm and we even pray for their wellbeing. At this basic level of forgiveness we might still be upset, feel hurt or even angry. Yet we find it within ourselves not to hope for the person's downfall and not feel the need for revenge.

Forgiveness is not a single action that you begin and complete in a short time

2) We stop being angry. At this second stage we might not be ready to relate to the person as we did before, but we are able to move on and let go to the point where we no longer carry feelings of anger and resentment on any level.

3) Restoring the relationship. At this final stage the forgiveness is complete. Not only have we forgiven the individual but we have totally understood and reaccepted him or her. We are now ready to be as close to the offending person as before.

The Talmud explains that even if someone has hurt us terribly, it is expected of us to find the strength to forgive them at least on the first level. Absence of any forgiveness whatsoever is a sign of cruelty. Wishing badly on someone and the desire for revenge represents a weakness of personality that requires rectification.

A more difficult form of forgiveness is the second stage, where we cease to feel hurt or anger. If we have been hurt or betrayed we might need time and hard work to rid ourselves of negative feelings. It could be a long process of healing and soul searching, until the feelings of resentment actually disappear from our heart and soul.

The ideal form of forgiveness is the third level where we restore the relationship. However, it must be pointed out that this is not always possible. Some relationships are so toxic that the responsible thing is to walk away from them. But we don't need to take an "all or nothing" approach. If restoring the relationship is impossible it is not always necessary to terminate all contact or become antagonistic. We can still achieve a more basic level of forgiveness by wishing them well. We can still cease being angry and give them basic respect. We can still greet them when we see them and give them the dignity that every human being deserves.

Every small improvement in our relationship is significant, has a profound effect and generates happiness. Take the first step now.


Sources:
Based on Likutei Sichot vol. 28, p. 141ff.
Rabbi Michoel Gourarie lectures on a wide range of topics with a special emphasis on Personal Growth and Self Development, including self esteem, communication and relationship building. He is the director of "Bina" in Sydney, Australia.
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Discussion (30)
April 8, 2013
level 1
Maybe in 20-30 years I might get there. Some people I was close to and trusted recently hurt me deeply, more than human words can ever express. They killed my heart and crushed me inside completely. Nothing will ever heal me from it and nobody can "bring back the dead". If anyone could've heard me crying for the last few months they might think my world just ended. So, crying as I type, there's nothing else I can say.
Citrine
US
November 29, 2011
What Forgiveness isn't
Forgiveness certainly does not mean excusing or condoning evil behavior or allowing it to continue. Judaism teaches us not to tolerate evil and to protect others and ourselves from it. If we are the victim of ongoing hurt, we need to take effective steps to end the damaging behavior and to create the necessary boundaries so that those people cannot continue to hurt us. However, at the same time we can work on forgiveness, which means not to allow our hearts to continuously be filled with hatred. Getting rid of hatred is liberating and allows us to move on.
Michoel Gourarie
Sydney , Australia
November 23, 2011
Shirley..... Give it to God!! He is capable!!
Once my daughter came home from school crying, a rumour was circulating at her school about her Mother. I asked what was the rumour so, I can see if it is truth or lie. She told me that it was about me having an affair with the fireman in our town. I laughed so hard. This seemed to upset her more... and she said Mom! you wouldn't like it if you had to hear all the sick things they are saying around school about my Mom, and your just laughing! I told her either we are so popular they just can't stop thinking about us and sit around thinking of us all night long to come to school with a story like that.. what a very sad life!" They have to make up something that isn't true because they aren't interesting enough to be popular them self. She looked puzzled. I told my daughter you go back and tell them, "I must be popular, if all you think of is me and my family."(Give it to God! no one like this is worth your heart breaking)Now if, it be a truth you need to forgive them but also yourself.
lori
hsb, id
jewishidaho.com
November 20, 2011
it doesnt seem possible...
what if the effect of the others actions still stand? say, someone spread a juicy rumor about you that totally ruins your name? i just dont think everyone is forgiveable. sorry.
shirley
Brooklyn, New York
October 3, 2011
Forgive your molester
Only you hold the only power to release yourself through the act of "forgive"..... To remove the only remaining power those offender(s) have and continue to have over inside your every thought in your head. That is to cut off the only thing that continues the day they took what was not there's. Forgiveness gives you back your mind, your heart and doesn't let them hurt you any more. If you do not forgive you are choosing to live with the pain. "For" "Give" it to God, is forgiveness. True Freedom from your offender. Until then... they still offend you.
lori
hsb, id
jewishidaho.com
September 29, 2011
Forgive my molester?
Am I required by Judaism to forgive even my rapist and childhood molester? My scars are not only emotional but physical as well. I have to look at the scars on a daily basis like a constant reminder of my innocence murdered.
Anonymous
Phoenix, Arizona
August 17, 2011
Tzadik
What would a tzadik do if they where a victim of a hate crime? I want to think like a tzadik!
Michelle Andre
cc, fl
August 17, 2011
Re Hitler
The Evil perpetrated by the nazis in the name of Hitler and the German nation will forever anger those who love G-d. I cannot forgive this evil and I was born in the sixties.
How much more those who lived through the years of the Hitler madness. G-d bless you Rabbi Freeman
Clifford
London , Uk
December 4, 2009
eye for and eye
"Eye for an Eye, toothe for toothe...lest we both be blind and toothless..." Is that Jewish law?.
So we all end up that we can't see or eat?
I know personally I have hurt more than two people in my past and I have been hurt more than twice by others, even more than I have teethe! So iif we lived by this we would be, aimlessly floundering around in the dark, starving to death!
Please hear this...the hurting, Hurt others! and Hurting them back don't stop Evil, it only continues it there is no end ask the gangs in LA Calif.
God does not need our help to punnish anyone. He looks to see which way "you" will go with the hurt. To Him or Evil.
Eye for an eye does not cancel out thou shalt "not" Kill. But we commit it in our minds all the time because we hurt inside. Therefore by rights we should all be wearing dentures and walking with a guide dog....Or we can stop hurting!
lori
hsb, id
jewishidaho.com
December 4, 2009
Asking for Forgiveness
Thank you Rabbi Freeman for your response. That helped a lot. I know that people who do evil, and do not repent, do not ask for forgiveness, are indeed inherently evil, because they feel they have the RIGHT to do their evil deeds. I can easily forgive someone who has transgressed in some way and then asks for forgiveness (haven't we all?). But the person who commits evil acts -- and then refuses to step up to the plate, there my forgiveness ends. The courts will now have to decide the fates of my daughter and her husband; but I will have to nurture, love and protect my grandchildren.
Anonymous
Oxnard, CA
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