“What is there that forgiveness cannot achieve?”
An Excerpt from “Have A Little Faith” by Mitch Albom.
“Is there anyone you need to forgive at this point?” I asked him.
“I’ve forgiven them already,” he said.
“Have they forgiven you?”
“I hope. I have asked.”
He looked away.
“You know, we have a tradition. When you go to a funeral, you’re supposed to stand by the coffin and asked the deceased to forgive anything you’ve ever done.”
He made a face.
“Personally, I don’t want to wait that long.”
And now the Reb was urging me not to wait.
“Mitch, it’s not good to be angry or carry grudges.”
He made a fist. “It churns you up inside. It does you more harm than the object of your anger.”
“So let it go?” I asked.
“Or don’t let it get started in the first place,” he said. “You know what I found over the years? When I had a disagreement with someone, and they came over to talk to me, I always began by saying, ‘I’ve thought about it. And in some ways maybe you’re right.”
“Now I didn’t always believe that. But it made things easier. Right from the start, they relaxed. A negotiation could take place. I took a volatile situation and what’s the word…”
“Defused it. We need to do that. Especially with family.”
“You know, in our tradition, we ask forgiveness from everyone—even casual acquaintances. But with those we are closest with—wives, children, parents—we too often let things linger. Don’t wait, Mitch. It’s a waste.”
He told me a story. A man buried his wife. At the gravesite he stood by the Reb, tears falling down his face.
“I loved her,” he whispered.
The Reb nodded.
“I mean, I really loved her.”
The man broke down.
“And … I almost told her once.”
The Reb looked at me sadly.
“Nothing haunts like the things we don’t say.”
Later that day, I asked the Reb to forgive me anything I might have ever said or done that hurt him. He smiled and said that while he couldn’t think of anything, he would “consider all such matters addressed.”
“Well,” I joked, “I’m glad we got that over with.”
“You’re in the clear.”
“Timing is everything.”
“That’s right. Which is why our sages tell us to repent exactly one day before we die.”
“But how do you know it’s the day before you die?” I asked.
He raised his eyebrows.
What Albert Lewis, who Mitch Albom calls “Reb”, is hinting at is that since we don’t know when we’re going to die, we should treat each day we live as our last day on Earth. In doing so, if we get into a disagreement with a loved one, we should not let the day pass without the matter being resolved; because, we don’t know whether we, or our loved one, will still be alive tomorrow. “Nothing haunts like the things we don’t say.”
When we ask for forgiveness, it is not debasing ourselves. It is accepting the fact that we are flawed—we commit mistakes—whether intentionally or not, whether by action or omission. Asking for forgiveness is an act of humility and honesty.
And when we forgive, we are also acknowledging that we, too, will do or say something that will hurt another person. Subconsciously, we are also hoping that when it is our turn to ask for forgivenss, we, too will be forgiven.
So, I’ll take this opportunity to ask all whom I have wronged in the past, for your forgiveness.