Difference between T’Shuvah and forgiveness

Typically, forgiveness is viewed as a one-time act. Something you give or get. Which is not an easy thing to do sometimes. I’ve heard terrible apologies before where the person apologizing doesn’t center the person they’ve harmed, shift blame, or doesn’t understand the need for an apology.

The theme this month is not forgiveness, which is a bad translation of the theme – it’s T’Shuvah, which literally means to turn. To turn away from the things that harm the world and towards the things that heal it. It’s not a one-time act, but a life of spiritual principle to build up the community.

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman writes that T’Shuvah can have many different aspects, but there are four main ones. The first one is the most common, which is to make up for our mistakes. To repair the things that we have done wrong, be truly sorry, and make changes. This first aspect probably is the one we are the most familiar with as being forgiveness.

The second part is to look at our character flaws. To live a life of T’Shuvah is to think about the things about our personality that hurt others. We shouldn’t merely shrug our shoulders and say “Well, I’m blunt, so deal with it” but actually think about that character flaw and how we could transform it to help heal in our community.

The third part is to have a good outlook. To check out our assumptions and make sure that they’re actually correct. To believe the kinds of things that are on the right side of history. That too is important for healing and helping the community.

The last part of T’Shuvah is to live a life based on spiritual principle. Too often we get caught up in our careers or parenting Olympics when really, we need to have a life of deep meaning and purpose. To fulfill the destiny meant for us and to help others find fulfillment.

With these full practices of T’Shuvah, you can see how forgiveness is a hollow translation. T’Shuvah is not one act, but a lifetime of dedication to care for people that we love. We do the right thing not to be forgiven, but because it’s the right thing. We offer forgiveness to heal the other person, not for our own-self satisfaction and to no longer be angry. See if this practice changes your life for the better!