• Make a "confession of sins." List instances in your journal when you have hurt, betrayed, lied to, ignored, or used another being. Note times when you have failed to do the right thing and left good things undone. At the bottom of your list, add a prayer for forgiveness.
• Write a letter to someone who has died asking for forgiveness or expressing your forgiveness. Write another letter in the voice of this person back to you agreeing to or acknowledging your request.
Discussion Questions, Storytelling, Sharing
• Tell the story of one of your most vivid experiences of forgiveness.
• Do you think repentance-an admission of wrongdoing, a sign of remorse, or a commitment to change-should be a prerequisite for forgiveness? Why or why not?
• Are any acts unforgivable? If you think so, give examples and explain.
Household, Group, and Community Projects
• The need to resolve conflicts and forgive each other becomes very evident in the close confines of a home. Without discussing a particular grievance, talk together about some ways you can facilitate forgiveness. Some couples, for examples, don't let the sun go down on an argument. Others use rituals to reinforce a desire for reconciliation. Here is a good one from Ardath Rodale: Pull a weed to remove a grudge; then plant a seed to indicate the sprouting of new love in your heart.
• Groups also need to reinforce intimacy by practicing forgiveness. Sharon Salzberg reports that Buddhist teacher V Pandita says at the closing ceremony of his retreats: "If I have hurt or harmed you in any way, either intentionally or unintentionally, I ask your forgiveness. And if you have hurt me in any way, intentionally or unintentionally, I forgive you." This is a good way to end any meeting.
• Be representatives of the practice of forgiveness in political discussions in your community. For example, investigate alternatives to jail for criminals. Work for the abolishment of the death penalty. As Sister Helen Prejean asserts: "People are more than the worst thing they have ever done in their life."
Upcoming E-Course with Practice Circle:
Forgiveness: A Growth in Love
From August 4 - 29, 2014, Spirituality & Practice and Contemplative Outreach will offer a one-month retreat on forgiveness as a divine gift of love and a movement of love that reveals the truth of our nature. Emails three times a week contain essays on various aspects of this practice, step-by-step instructions in the contemplative Prayer of Forgiveness, mini-practices for daily life, Q&A with the retreat leaders, and links to an online gallery of quotations, audio and video clips. Participants will have access to an online Practice Circle for discussion with other participants. Register here.