On Atonement and Amends
Beyond Apology, Regret & Forgiveness
By Zur Institute
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The Day of Atonement, which was just last Wednesday (Sept. 26th), has brought to the fore the ideas of apology, regrets, forgiveness, and atonement. We are all aware of the importance of forgiveness but often do not think it through to the realm of atonement. The distinction between forgiveness and atonement (at-one-ment) has been extensively explored by award-winning TV host, writer and filmmaker, Phil Cousineau. Cousineau makes a critical distinction between apology and atonement.
It is important for the offender, whether an individual, tribe, or a nation, to move beyond expressions of regret and apology for their transgressions. The step beyond is the act of atonement. The key word here is "act" which means taking action. It is this action which has the potential to bring about healing in both the victim and the transgressor.
The transgressor and the victim(s) of that transgression are two sides of the same coin. Sincere acts of atonement, making amends, are necessary for the healing of the transgressor. These acts of atonement have the potential to bring healing as well to the victim(s), but only if they are able to activate their deep capacity for forgiveness. Forgiveness, like atonement, is an active process, one that demands empathy and compassion and, ultimately, the ability to overlook the transgression.