By The Rev. Dr. Stephanie May

What does forgiveness mean to you? Pardon for wrongdoing? Saying “I’m sorry”? What is the difference between being forgiven and forgiving someone else? Which is harder or easier for you to do?

At First Parish we will explore the spiritual theme of forgiveness during the month of October. Through a book discussion on October 6 at 7 p.m., small group conversations, and a sermon on October 18, we’ll reflect on the role of forgiveness in our lives and our world.

In life, not everything goes the way we wish—either our own actions or the actions of another. Part of our spiritual journey is learning how to respond when life does not meet our expectations and we feel harmed or experience a sense of loss. Sometimes we find ourselves looking back and wishing this or that event had been different. Sometimes frustration, resentment, or even rage can linger for years after an event. Maybe you’ve found yourself saying, “if only,” and wishing for a different outcome.

In his book Forgive for Good, Dr. Fred Luskin describes such events as moments when we get a different answer than we wanted. No, your spouse did not meet your needs that day. Yes, the diagnosis is cancer. He describes forgiveness as accepting that we did not get what we wanted.

Such acceptance does not deny when a wrong has been done or an injury made. Nor does such acceptance mean that you must forget what has happened—indeed you may need to learn from the event to change your behavior and/or your interaction with another person.

What such forgiveness does mean is that you accept what has happened in order to let go and move forward.

Forgiveness is a rich topic for personal exploration and/or group discussion. Click here for further thoughts, quotes, and discussion prompts on forgiveness.

I invite you to join in this community-wide reflection in whatever way is best for you.