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Aug 27, 2009

The Spirituality of Imperfection: on forgiving

Spirituality-of-imperfection-storytelling-and-the-search-for-meaning From The Spirituality of Imperfection - Storytelling and the Journey to Wholeness (Kurtz and Ketcham, 1992):

Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk was asked by a disciple how one should pray for forgiveness.  He told him to observe the behavior of a certain innkeeper before Yom Kippur.

The disciple took lodging at the inn and observed the proprietor for several days, but could see nothing relevant to his quest.

Then, on the night before Yom Kippur, he saw the innkeeper open two large ledgers. From the first book he read off a list of all the sins he had committed throughout the past year. When he was finished, he opened the second book and proceeded to recite all the bad things that had occurred to him during the past year.

 When he had finished reading both books, he lifted his eyes to heaven and said, "Dear G-d, it is true I have sinned against You. But You have done many distressful things to me too. 

"However, we are now beginning a new year. Let us wipe the slate clean. I will forgive You, and You forgive me."

"Forgiving" has been showing up on my radar with some frequency these days.  Not as much as other themes, but sure enough plenty.  I've had this wonderful book for a few years and am reading it more carefully right now in a time that (coincidentally?) is full of struggles for my extended family.

One of my closests friends holds a PhD in theology, and I've often joked that the PhD means that when she meets her maker, her list of complaints will be longer, more detailed, and better written than the lists presented by us regular folk.

The Spirituality of Imperfection suggests that God can forgive unconditionally, but that humans can't. In addition:

But forgiving is not the same thing as forgetting.  "Letting go" of the past is not some kind of erasure; forgiveness is not an attempt to obliterate the past or wipe the slate clean. "The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive, but they do not forget," commented radical psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, echoing the nineteenth-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who phrased this core insight in another way: "To forgive and forget means to throw away dearly bought experience."

The Spirituality of Imperfection seems like an easy read at first.  But then you notice little things like the above paragraph and its seeming contradiction with the prior story about "wiping the slate clean."  In any case it's a worthy read.  I recommend it to anyone -- whether or not you have a G-d in your world.

12:14 PM in Quotables | Permalink