Images + words

from many human and religious traditions

Please note that some images are linked thumbnails (with border) to a full-size picture; some are not

The biggest adventure of all

"Life is an adventure in forgiveness."

(Norman Cousins - author,

editor Saturday Review)

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Direction, not taking a position 

"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving."

(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - dramatist, poet, scientist)

"It is not the place we occupy which is important, but the direction in which we move."

(Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr - Supreme Court justice)

"It is only necessary to know that love is a direction, and not a state of the soul."

(Simone Weil - French philosopher and mystic)

The humanity of a wrongdoer "Forgiveness is not to condone or minimize the awfulness of an atrocity or wrong.  It is to recognize its ghastliness but to choose to acknowledge the essential humanity of the perpetrator and to give that perpetrator the possibility of making a new beginning."

(Desmond Tutu - Nobel Laureate, SA archbishop)

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Seeing with better eyes  "We can recognise that the offender is a valuable human being who struggles with the same needs, pressures, and confusions that we struggle with.   We will recognise that the incident really may not have been about us in the first place.   Instead it was about the wrongdoer’s misguided attempt to meet his or her own needs.

"As we regard offenders from this point of view (regardless of whether they repent and regardless of what they have done or suffered), we will be in a position to forgive them." 

(Margaret Holmgren - psychologist)

Strong to forgive  "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

(Mohandas [Mahatma] Gandhi)

"There is no instance in the New Testament of a person’s being forgiven by someone lower in the power hierarchy.  Only someone with greater power in the relationship could perform an act of forgiveness."

(Fred Keene - Christian mathematician)

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Grief doesn't comfort grief "Grief can separate people. I've seen it happen. Even the closest, healthiest, relationship can come undone through grief. People split up. Or there is a distancing. They can't help it. The fact is that grief doesn't comfort grief. It's just one of those hard facts."

(Filmmaker Nicholas Roeg on his masterpiece Don't Look Now)

Every time we fall   The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.

(Nelson Mandela - Nobel Laureate, SA president)

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Words and compassion

"I walked away from Africa with nothing.  No brother, no family, no lover - nothing.

"Just a belief that words and compassion are the better way.  Even if it's slower than a gun."

(Nicole Kidman's character Silvia Broome, from The Interpreter, 2005)

Renewing peace   "Renewing peace between two aggrieved parties surpasses ritual praying, fasting, and almsgiving."

(The Prophet Muhammad, as reported by Abu Darda’a - Hadith)

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Revenge   "We should not seek revenge on those who have committed crimes against us, or reply to their crimes with other crimes.

"We should reflect that by the law of karma, they are in danger of lowly and miserable lives to come, and that our duty to them, as to every being, is to help them to rise towards Nirvana, rather than let them sink to lower levels of rebirth."

(The Dalai Lama)

The Marriage of Figaro

Count Almaviva (to Susanna & Figaro): "Do not hope for pardon"
The Countess
(appearing): "At least let me ask you to forgive them"
(chastened, suddenly aware of his own arrogance): "Forgive me"
Countess: "I am more generous, and I say yes"

(Lorenzo da Ponte / Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)

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Prayer and a new point of view   For a Christian, forgiveness will be imbedded in prayer, which involves letting go of one's own point of view - regarding the situation, oneself and/or the victim, and the offender - and entering God's point of view ... God is ultimately concerned with the growth and reform of the offender [and the victim] into a person who shares in His projects."

(Marilyn McCord Adams - Christian philosopher)

Compassion and disgrace  "Take to compassion and abstain from oppression and obscenity. Compassion is grace and the lack of it a disgrace."

(The Prophet Muhammad, as reported by A'ishah bint Abi Bakr - Hadith)

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When we point a finger   "When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself"

(Louis Nizer - lawyer)

Rekindling inner light  "Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by an encounter with another human being.  Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light."

(Albert Schweitzer)

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Being alive  Jack Osborne to Investigator Arkardy Renko, “Be forgiving. You want to survive, don’t you?”

(Martin Cruz Smith - Gorky Park)

Helping people to become better Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.

(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

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Discussing evil    "All evil is mysterious and appears greatest when viewed in solitude. Discussed with others it seems more endurable because one becomes entirely familiar with that which we dread, and feels as if it had been overcome.

(Ludwig van Beethoven - diary entry 1817)

Absence of passion   "The Bible locates the source of evil not in passion, in the throbbing heart, but rather in hardness of heart, in callousness and insensitivity."

(Abraham Heschel - Jewish teacher)

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Jesus Laughing,  ¬© 1977 Praise Screen Prints
used with permission

All beggars  “God be merciful to me a sinner,” the words of the tax collector in Jesus' parable (Luke 18).  No one can go beyond this.  Happy is the person who enters into it, rests in it, and continually returns to it.  “We are beggars, that’s the truth,” as Luther put it.  

(Jurgen Moltmann - theologian)

The way you are  "So know that God loves you just the way you are. But he also loves you much too much to leave you the way you are."

(John Arnott/Leighton Ford - pastors)

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A crushed heart   "The heart, like the grape, is prone to delivering its harvest in the same moment it appears to be crushed."

(Roger Housden - writer and poet)

The bureaucracy    "If you’re going to sin, sin against God, not the bureaucracy. God will forgive you but the bureaucracy won’t."

(Hyman G Rickover - US admiral)

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Guilt and blame  "Some people are struggling with their own guilt; others have a sinful propensity to blame others and withhold forgiveness for wrongs done; and many people struggle with both guilt and blame."  

(John MacArthur - pastor and author)

More than healing  "The purpose of forgiveness is not simply to heal the guilt of the sinner but the purpose of all love: to come into communion."

(Jon Sobrino - South American activist)

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No perfect person  "There’s no perfect person out there, regardless of how upstanding and morally correct they might like to think they are.  People do crazy things, especially when they’re emotionally deprived and have no love in their life."

(Andie MacDowell - actress and model)

Forgiveness is Brahma  "Forgiveness is Brahma; forgiveness is holiness; and by forgiveness is it that the universe is held together.  Can one like us abandon forgiveness, which is such, and in which are established Brahma, and truth, and wisdom and the worlds?  Forgiveness is the highest virtue."

(Kashyapa, in the Hindu Mahabharata)

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The highest level  "Forgiveness unleashes joy.  It brings peace.  It washes the slate clean.  It sets all the highest values of love in motion.  In a sense, forgiveness is Christianity at its highest level."

(John MacArthur)

Grace and mercy  "I like to define it this way:  Grace is getting something that you don’t deserve; and mercy is not getting something that you do deserve." 

(John Arnott - pastor)

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Empty hands  Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era, received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?" 

(Zen tradition)

Love and forgiveness  Love really refers to the depth of relationship between two people, not the style of behaviour or emotion of one of them.  Love 'endures.'  Forgiveness is the face one person shows another in order to put love first, even to the point of loving of an enemy, aiming to effect a release for the other person.

(Andrew Knock)

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Welcoming change  "Dajeil pondered on how quickly change could come, even to something that had seemed set to continue as it was in perpetuity.

But then, as she knew too well, the more we imagine something will last forever, the more ephemeral it often proves to be."

(Excession, Iain M Banks - Scottish writer)

For freedom  The Wachowski brothers wrote and directed the remarkable movie The MatrixIn it the seer Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) says "As long as the Matrix exists, the human race will never be free," and "Free your mind, Neo."  He is expressing the most basic value for our own society - perhaps now for any. 

From Braveheart to South Africa, from urban design to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, creating freedom is our contemporary core standard for evaluating all plans and activities. 

(Andrew Knock)

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What is freedom?   "What is freedom?   The Chinese could never take away my freedom  ... 

I only want to approach them with compassion, to teach them how to love.  We will succeed in this."

(Tibetan Buddhist Yeshe Losal Rinpoche)

Into freedom and glory  "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free   ...    

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed    ...   

in the hope that the whole cosmos, like us, will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God."

New Testament :

Galatians 5.1    John 8.36    Romans 8.21

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Venom  "There are two courses of action to follow when one is bitten by a rattlesnake.  One may, in anger, fear, or vengefulness, pursue the creature and kill it.   Or one may make full haste to get the venom out of his system. 

If we pursue the latter course we will likely survive, but if we attempt to follow the former, we may not be around long enough to finish it."  

(Attributed to Mormon founder Brigham Young)

Staying alive?  One of the most powerful props we use to keep feeling 'alive' or purposeful is to criticise and attack others.   "At least I’ll show them how wrong they are!"   It is a way of trying to escape our mortality and give purpose to our lives. 

Henri Nouwen called this 'sentimentality' in his book Reaching Out, a 2oth century classic.  I think he meant the use of emotion - sentiment - to stir up an illusion of meaning in our lives - to make anger or bitterness (as well as romance and old movies) direct what we do.  

(Andrew Knock)

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Resentment  The Latin roots of 'resentment,' re and sentire, mean 'to feel again' -- to feel over and over again the pain caused by the wrong that was done.   Letting go of that resentment is a lot of the 'personal work' done in forgiving, and is often what takes the longest time. 

(Andrew Knock)

Self-pity  "We’ve got a lot of Christians that are trapped in self-pity.  See, self-pity is a stronghold that keeps all your wounds alive.   It protects your hurts from being healed."

(Pastor Francis Frangipane)

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The highest expression  "If we love only those who love us, we are doing nothing extraordinary.   In any disagreement, what is the use of trying to find out who was wrong and who was right? 

Forgive, and then forgive again.  That is the highest expression of loving.  There you make yours the final prayer of Jesus, 'Forgive them, they do not know what they are doing'."

(Brother Roger of Taizé)


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Last modified  19 Apr 2006