Yom Kippur and the nature of forgiveness

“The more we believe in judging by potential, that what people do is not the sum of who they can be, the more likely we are to create a society that can help people move past shame.”

In the New York Times’ op-ed ‘A Rabbi’s Guide on Making Amends and Letting Those Grudges Go,’ senior rabbi David Wolpe reflects on the nature of forgiveness during Yom Kippur. As the Day of Atonement in Judaism, Yom Kippur focuses on repentance for personal sins against God and granting forgiveness for the sins of others. However, Rabbi Wolpe notes that just because you forgive someone, that does not mean they have the right to be included in your life again.

Making this decision is something that many people struggle with, no matter their religious affiliation or lack thereof. Sometimes it’s a direct matter of personal safety and mental health, but what about other conflicts? How can we determine if someone has truly changed, or if we can fully forgive them? If necessary, how can we work towards changing ourselves for the better? These are all questions we ask ourselves during therapy.