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Asking the clergy about forgiveness

Forgiveness is a complicated issue for so many of the faithful. Does asking for forgiveness lessen the severity of the wrong? Does giving it come as freely as possible? Our clergy weigh in on why it is easier to ask for forgivness than to forgive.


The Rev. J. Gary Brinn, pastor, Sayville Congregational United Church of Christ, Sayville:

Our culture is "all about me all the time." If I'm asking for forgiveness, it is about what I need, what I'm receiving. If I am withholding forgiveness, it is all about me and what I'm feeling.

You can't take a closer look at the question without the understanding that holding a grudge isn't the Christian way. Jesus says (Matthew 6: 14-15, Mark 11: 25) that one must forgive in order to be forgiven. As Christians, we should be focused outward, not inward upon ourselves.

During times of crisis and transition, we resort to our basest instincts, the ties that bind us weaken, and we only think about ourselves. In those times, we lose the ability to self-reflect, looking only outside ourselves.

The exact opposite occurs when we are in deep relationships, in our family and in our community. The things we have done grieve us deeply, and so we find it difficult to articulate our need to be forgiven.


Rabbi Joel Levinson, Temple Beth El of


The question reminds me of when someone explains the difference between recession and depression. It is a recession when my neighbor is out of work. It is a depression when I'm out of work. The same is true of forgiveness.

We all believe we're entitled to forgiveness but are less inclined to forgive. But that attitude runs counter to scripture.

Look to Leviticus 19:18 "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord."

If we all followed this scripture, it would be easier to forgive the other person. How can I love you as myself and not forgive you, as I would have you forgive me?

I think it is also that we don't see ourselves as that evil, therefore what we did can't be that evil. Just as you can see into your own heart and know your intent was not evil, believe that the intent of the person who wronged you isn't evil. Act toward each other as God intended in Leviticus and forgiving one another will be easier.

Imam Alamin A. Latif, Masjid Allahu Akbar,


It is human nature to hold onto the hurt. There is the emotion and the pain that you have to overcome. We tend to hold on to past hurts and pain, making us reluctant to trust and to forgive.

From an Islamic perspective, we're taught to forgive others because God is a forgiver. What one must do is develop a "God consciousness," to be able to act as God would have us act. It is one of the attributes of God, that he forgives and forgives and forgives.

There is no sin that we could commit that he cannot forgive. If you are contrite and truly repentant, he will forgive. Just as God forgives us, we should be willing and able to forgive others. If we have God consciousness, we are able to trust that others are genuine and sincere when they ask for our forgiveness. It is not our place to judge them or what is in their hearts.

Why is it easier to ask for forgiveness? Because we don't want to hold onto the pain of having wronged the other person. We also know in our hearts that we're contrite when we ask for forgiveness.

In order to forgive, you must see the person as God intends us to see each other. And, you have to see yourself as someone who is trying to live as God intended. He wants us to forgive others as he forgives us.

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