Once again it’s Thanksgiving in America. After enduring long lines at the liquor and grocery stores, and before deciding to slam a relative’s head in the cranberry sauce, here’s a thoughtful article on forgiveness. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, and to all our friends outside the U.S., have a great November 27th!

“Forgiveness can be a very beautiful and healing act. We can learn to forgive ourselves for some perceived inadequacy, or set aside rancor as we come to terms with the harm someone has done. Nonetheless, forgiveness is not something we should either universally or casually hand out. The word “forgive” comes from an early Germanic word meaning “to give whole-heartedly,” and was first derived from the Latin perdonare, meaning to pardon. A pardon is a release from penalty and obligation, something that may be highly inappropriate in the cases of repeated spousal abuse or the continued logging and burning of the world’s vital rainforests.If anything, surely those who cause harm out of self-interest or greed should be held accountable. Perhaps criminals should do acts of service for the people they have robbed, or vainglorious Wall Street managers should pay restitution to the public that they’ve wronged.

It’s important to remember that the opposite of forgiveness is neither hate nor holding a grudge, but holding someone responsible for their words, acts and omissions. And we need to hold each other as well as ourselves accountable for those things unworthy of being excused or condoned, not by punishing wrongdoers or submitting to punishment ourselves, but by insisting that they, like us, are honest about their actions, doing everything possible to rectify, heal and thereby be redeemed.

Redemption through caring and courageous acts is one of the most ennobling and compelling of human accomplishments, which is why it has been a core theme of much of our finest literature and film. This is not to say that it can nullify what we’ve thought and said before. Though I might wish otherwise, doing something right or even noble can’t erase the reality or the results of prior harmful actions. Redeeming ourselves does not “wipe the slate clean” or allow us to “start over,” the acts of which may not necessarily be desirable to us, since we distinguish ourselves through willful shift and conscious transition. We gain inner power not only from what we do, but from how far we have come.”

(via Vision Magazine)