“For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?” Bell Hooks.

Bell Hooks is a pioneering feminist scholar who wrote about women, race, love, healing, and pop culture. Her recent death at age 69 has prompted a flood of posts on social media, and this one has significant meaning for me. For I, too, believe that practicing forgiveness and compassion makes it possible to let go of self-defeating thoughts and emotions that prevent us from becoming our best selves and allowing others to achieve the same.

According to PositivePsychology.com, negative life events can get encoded in our memory and result in negative psychological and physical reactions. Conversely, practicing forgiveness helps foster understanding and empathy for someone who has hurt us. This, in turn, allows us to see situations from another’s perspective to help us understand what caused the perceived harmful behavior.

In Judaism, the new year commences and ends at the beginning of fall with a holiday that focuses on the practice of forgiveness of the sins of others and sincere repentance for one’s own’s sins. Living in a secular world, and having grown up with the traditions of Judaism, gives me two opportunities to reflect on these important life concepts. What better way to start anew in all of our relationships?

Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.