I was in a discussion and the topic of forgiveness came up. I had recently heard a great quote so dropped it in. “Forgiveness means giving up on a better past.”

Someone asked me who this quote was from. I couldn’t remember so I Googled it and found two possibilities, both of which were better nuanced than I remembered it.

“Forgiveness is giving up the possibility of a better past.” –Unknown

“Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past”. — Lily Tomlin

If I was editing it, I would use  “Forgiveness is giving up hope for a better past.”

This is not about how forgiveness effects the transgressor, about letting someone off the hook for their karmic reactions. It is about how forgiving affects the forgiver.

Here are a few more quotes from a long list at:


“Not to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business. Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another’s control… to be locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always. The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver. It extracts the forgiver from someone else’s nightmare.” – Lance Morrow

“Forgiveness is the final form of love.”  –Reinhold Niebuhr

“A Christian will find it cheaper to pardon than to resent. Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, and the waste of spirit.”  –Hannah More

“Forgiveness is . . . accepting God’s sovereign use of people and situations to strip you of self importance, and humiliate your self love.”  –Martha Kilpatrick

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” — Alexander Pope

Forgiveness means giving up lamenting for the past.  The following are devoteespeak for the same concept.

“So brahma-bhutah… Brahma-bhutah means one who is above these two principles, hankering and lamenting.”

General Lecture — (location & date unknown)

“When one actually is self-realized, that “I am not American, not Indian, not
Hindu, not Muslim, not man, not woman. I am spirit soul. Aham brahmasmi,” at
that time, he does not lament. Na socati na kanksati. We are fighting with one
another, lamenting and hankering due to this misidentification of the self with
this body.”

The Nectar of Devotion — Vrndavana, October 23, 1972

“A sadhu, a devotee, is never angry. Actually the real feature of devotees who
undergo tapasya, austerity, is forgiveness.”

SB 6.4.5

“The duty of a brahmana is to culture the quality of forgiveness, which is
illuminating like the sun. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari, is pleased
with those who are forgiving.”

SB 9.15.40

“‘When the seed of ecstatic emotion for Krsna fructifies, the following nine
symptoms manifest in one’s behavior: forgiveness, concern that time should not
be wasted, detachment, absence of false prestige, hope, eagerness, a taste for
chanting the holy name of the Lord, attachment to descriptions of the
transcendental qualities of the Lord, and affection for those places where the
Lord resides — that is, a temple or a holy place like Vrndavana.

“These are all called anubhava, subordinate signs of ecstatic emotion. They are visible in a person in whose heart the seed of love of God has begun to fructify.”

Madhya 23.18-19