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When bombs exploded in the Underground in London in July 2005, the 24-year-old daughter of the Reverend Julie Nicholson was among the dead. In the wake of that tragedy, the Rev. Nicholson resigned as a vicar because she felt she could no longer encourage others to forgive, since she could not grant forgiveness to the man who murdered her daughter.

This agonizing dilemma summarizes what we know about true forgiveness: It is painful, difficult, and easy to encourage but hard to do. As you work through this journal, I hope you will keep in mind that although the Rev. Nicholson may never forgive, time changes our feelings about others, sometimes softens our hearts, or broadens our understanding.

Forgiveness is not something we can be forced to do, but it can liberate our souls.

The purpose of this journal is to work toward that forgiveness by sharpening our appreciation of its meaning and what it can create in our lives. Over the next several months, I will send you discussion topics to consider and questions to help you to write about this crucial and complicated topic.

Religion is centered on the idea that human beings will struggle, that none are perfect, and that we have to seek to be better and learn to forgive. As a rabbi, I mediate between families at weddings, funerals, and other central times of life. Often the families cannot release grudges that go back for years. While they acknowledge the importance of forgiveness, something stands in their way.

Together, step by step, we can release the built-up anger, hurt, and frustration we have with our friends, spouses, children, parents–the stuff that blocks our spiritual development and injures our happiness.

Let’s begin.

–David Wolpe

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