Forgiveness is a like a bridge. It carries you over an expanse to the side of life that is softer, kinder, easier to bear. It is a shift of perspective, a new way of seeing our world, a different way of experiencing our inner life.
I have come to understand that this journey, this path, this way of being in the world has many stages, stepping stones in a journey which is perpetual. Each step restores a bit more of what we have lost. Each step we take leads us to greater wisdom and understanding, a deeper sense of life's meaning and purpose. We do not forget, we take what we have experienced and learn to live a different way. We do not turn the other cheek, we take the pain of an assault and understand that to live a loving life we must release the anger. We do not condone, we accept our lives and search for ways to restore the light within us that has been diminished.
Every offense leads to a sense of loss. A bit of wholeness is cracked or chipped or shattered. We lose a bit of trust and security. We may lose faith or a sense of wonderment. Understandably loss creates anger. We are long to rid the world of insanity, to rid our lives of all that is not good, that does not serve the good in us. The search for God is the fight to relieve ourselves and the world of suffering. With every breath, inhale the possibility of healing and of holiness. Loss then becomes anger and anger can then motivate you towards change. And once we can release the anger that we have felt, we can begin to understand the need for acceptance.
To live life fully is to accept what has become of you. Acceptance is not acquiescence. It is not giving in, and it is not giving up. Acceptance is the compassionate embrace of yourself and your place in the world: without judgment, without fear, without regret. You are who you are. You are not who you are not. Every story has pain and loss and despite all this, the life force is resilient. The soul yearns to reconcile the curses and the blessings of life by finding meaning and purpose.
Forgiveness is not condoning the wrong in the world or the offenses we experience in our lives. It is not forgetting. Forgiveness is a state of being. It is like a bridge which carries us over the hurt we have experienced, which leads to life of greater peace and acceptance. If you step upon it, it will carry us, support us and connect us to another side of life, a side waiting to be discovered.
And of course, there is the bridge to be crossed. An arch high above an abyss of fear and mistrust that carries you away from loss and anger, more acceptance, to a life of learning and restoration. You can restore your faith, your trust, your optimism, your sense of beauty. You do not go back to the way you were when life seemed simpler because now you know that life is not simple. It is complicated path of pain and joy, of disappointment and achievement of betrayal and love. And now that you know that, and accept the impact that has on you, you can regain a sense of wholeness and restore the light within.
Excerpt from The Bridge to Forgiveness: Stories and Prayers for Finding God and Restoring Wholeness (Jewish Lights Publishing) by Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar
Rabbi Kedar is the senior rabbi and spiritual leader of Congregation B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Deerfield. In addition to writing The Bridge to Forgiveness, she is the author of God Whispers: Stories of the Soul, Lessons of the Heart.