(adapted from USG September 2011 curriculum)

Chalice Lighting

“The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.”   ~ Marianne Williamson

Check in Share briefly what’s been on your mind lately or your highs and lows since we last met.

Forgiveness has been called the path back to the true self. It is essential to the healing of old wounds and letting go of old wrongs. In forgiving others, we do not deny or condone the wrongdoing. Instead, we stop the flow of pain, reclaim hope, and commit ourselves to beginning anew. As Lewis Smedes has said, “When we forgive, we come as close as any human being can to the essentially divine act of creation.”
This path need not be limited to individual people, however; communities can reap the same benefits with communal forgiveness, introspection and transformation. Imagine how much stronger a community could become by practicing forgiveness as a group.

Forgiveness begins primarily in our relationships with ourselves.
In the words of Rev. Barbara Wells of the Paint Branch UU Church: “All of us, if we can learn to accept our own limitations and ’fess up to our wrongs, can and will be forgiven. First, we must forgive ourselves. I know I was taught at an early age that if I made a mistake I was somehow flawed. As I grow and change, I am trying hard to see that mistakes are life’s way of teaching us. If we can’t let go of guilt and shame toward ourselves, then why should anyone else forgive us?” And if we can extend loving compassion to ourselves, we will naturally develop more compassionate relationships with others. This compassion frees us from hate and the desire to even the score, allows us to let go of shame or discomfort about the hurt, and enables us to recognize our capacity for healing.

Thoughts to Ponder

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi (from All Men are Brothers: Autobiographical Reflections)


“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.” ~ Anne Lamott (from Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith)

“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”
~ Steve Maraboli (author, Unapologetically You: Reflections o Life and the Human Experience)


“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
~ Mark Twain

“Listen. Slide the weight from your shoulders and move forward. You are afraid you might forget, but you never will. You will forgive and remember.”
~ Barbara Kingsolver (from The Poisonwood Bible)


“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Spiritual Exercises

1) Anne Lamott said, in her book Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, “Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare.”  Is there something that you’re hitting back? Perhaps it’s time to let go. Feel a wrong that has been making your heart ache and write it down on a slip of paper. Read it aloud, to yourself, but out loud, and follow that with “This hurt, but today I am letting it go”. Continue to say the hurt out loud followed by the letting go statement until the emotions surrounding the event lessen, and once you can say it aloud without feeling that hurt, burn the slip of paper, saying “I let you go. I forgive. I am moving forward.”  Reflect for a moment on how you feel and let yourself fully accept that you are no longer trapped with this hurt.

2) A well-loved USG responsive reading contains the words “We forgive ourselves and each other. We begin again in love”. These words align with a Jewish ceremony called Tasklikh, performed during Rosh Hashanah, in which bread crumbs or stones are thrown into a running body of water such as a river or creek, symbolically casting off sins into the water (forgiving ourselves and others) and starting anew (we begin again in love). This month, practice this ceremony yourself, and as you throw your stones or crumbs, say “I forgive myself and others. I begin again in love”. As you watch your offering being carried along by the water, feel the release in your shoulders and heart as you turn back to the world and truly begin again in love.

3) Make a fist with one hand. Imagine that all your anger, hurt, resentment, guilt, disappointment, bitterness, blame, grievances and attack thoughts are in that hand. Make the fist tighter and tighter. If you keep holding the fist very tight, after a while it will become numb. Then, at some time in the future, if you should choose to open it slowly you will notice you start to feel pain at first. Keep holding the fist very tight until you are ready to release the anger, hurt, resentment, guilt, disappointment, bitterness, blame, grievances and attack thoughts. Walk around with that fist very tight. Try driving with the fist very tight.

When you are finally ready to open the fist and release all those feelings, do it slowly. Notice the sensations you have. Notice the difference between holding on and letting go. Do this little exercise once a day for seven days, then write down you responses in your journal. (from The Forgiveness Solution by Philip H. Friedman

4) Don’t leave yourself out of the forgiveness exercises. Self-forgiveness is just as (if not more) important as forgiving others. Hanging on to your mistakes and self-judgment adds to your stress level, which can lead to a myriad of health issues. Try this guided self-forgiveness meditation to make peace with your inner demons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-7OzbeGud8

Questions for Contemplation

1. Forgiveness means remembering that everyone sometimes makes bad choices. Practice is needed if we judge and criticize others or ourselves. Have you made bad choices in the last year? What have you done, or can you still do, to correct wrongs that may have resulted? Have others made bad choices that have affected you? Can you see a way to forgive them? How would you acknowledge that forgiveness?

2. Forgiveness means having the courage to face the truth. Practice is needed if we are afraid to look at our mistakes. In the past year, have you avoided dealing with problems or mistakes? What has been the result? Are there any problems or mistakes you wish to examine and work toward changing this year?

3. Forgiveness means honoring our feelings without taking revenge. Practice is needed if we take revenge or hold a grudge. In the past year have you held a grudge and been unable to forgive someone who has wronged you, or have you taken revenge? Has someone done this toward you? Is there a way to heal the wounds this year?

4. Forgiveness means not giving uncaring people opportunities to hurt us. Practice is needed if we allow careless people to keep hurting us. Do you need to set boundaries more firmly with certain individuals this year? What freedom would you achieve if you were able to do this? How could friends, family, or others help you do this?

5. Forgiveness means deciding to correct our mistakes instead of punishing ourselves. Practice is needed if we feel hopeless and helpless over bad habits. Are any “bad habits” affecting your quality of life right now? Do you punish yourself for these practices? Can you see a path to understanding and change in the next year? How could friends, family, or others help you?

Sitting in Silence Take a few moments to sit quietly and reflect upon your thoughts.

Sharing/Deep Listening Respond with your thoughts/experiences with the topic.


Reflection This is a time to supportively respond to something another person said or to relate additional thoughts that may have occurred as others shared.


Song  Here We Have Gathered, #360 Singing the Living Tradition (verse 3)
Life has its battles, sorrows and regrets, but in the shadows, let us not forget.
We who now gather know each other’s pain kindness can heal us, as we give we gain.
Sing now in friendship, this our heart’s own song.

Closing Words
A Litany of Atonement, Singing the Living Tradition #637
Each member takes a turn saying a line in regular type, while others say the response in bold.

For remaining silent when a single voice would have made a difference
We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.

For each time that our fears have made us rigid and inaccessible
We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.

For each time that we have struck out in anger without just cause
We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.

For each time that our greed had blinded us to the needs of others
We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.

For the selfishness which sets us apart and alone
We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.

For falling short of the admonitions of the spirit
We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.

For losing sight of our unity
We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.

For those and for so many acts both evident and subtle which have fueled the illusion of separateness,
We forgive ourselves and each other; we begin again in love.


Additional Resources:
The Path of Forgiveness
In September, we honored the celebration of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah). For many Jews, a crucial aspect of the ten-day period that begins with Rosh Hashanah and ends with Yom Kippur is the process of T’shuvah, which means both “repentance” and “return to our highest selves.” The High Holy Days, or Days of Awe, provide the opportunity for each individual, as well as the religious community as a whole, to become involved in introspection and transformation. Everyone is encouraged to closely examine the shortcomings in their lives and to develop ways to bring about changes in the coming year. It’s a time of looking inward in order to move forward toward wholeness with less baggage from the past.

At USG, we practice a modified form of this communal and individual reflection at our Jazz New Year service, where we “bury” our transgressions from the past year so that we can move forward in the new year. It is a symbolic ritual that clears our consciences and minds for new blessings and by engaging in this way, we walk the path to forgiveness together.

Adult Spiritual Development and Social Justice Opportunities


The Adult Spiritual Development committee has developed a comprehensive list of classes for this fall, you can get more information by picking up a brochure near the name tag board or going to their webpage under the Spiritual Development tab.

The social justice theme of the month is how UUs are working for justice globally.

Two important vehicles created over the years to empower UUs to act for justice at the global level are the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, UUSC and the UU United Nations Office (UU UNO).  More recently UUs have recognized that we must be organized on the state level in order to be effective advocates in many justice arenas. You can find activities to become informed and engaged by clicking the Social Justice tab on the USG website.