The Work of Repair

Danya Ruttenberg

According to Maimonides, a person doesn’t just get to mess up, mumble, “Sorry,” and get on with it. They’re not entitled to forgiveness if they haven’t done the work of repair. (And they’re not necessarily entitled to forgiveness even if they have.) Another human being’s suffering is not magically erased because the person who caused it says that they didn’t mean to do it.

This is true in our personal lives, and it’s also true of politicians caught saying racist things, celebrities named as sexual abusers, human resources departments that cover up employee complaints, and governments perpetrating harm against individuals or groups. Fixing damage involves taking specific steps; there’s a process. We can’t ever undo what happened, but we can transform the situation and ourselves.

excerpt from On Repentance and Repair, p. 23