Lessons From Leonard Cohen: “Growing up involves forgiving – not using relationships as an alibi”

A Manual For Living With Defeat

Lessons From Leonard Cohen – A Manual For Living With Defeat is a collection of Leonard Cohen’s observations that offer insight into living in this imperfect world. (For information about how this series differs from other collections of so-called lessons from Leonard Cohen, see Lessons From Leonard Cohen – Introduction.)

Lesson #10: “Growing up involves forgiving – not using relationships as an alibi”

“It’s a mistake to blame things on other people, especially your parents. Everybody suffers, but growing up involves forgiving – not using relationships as an alibi”1

Leonard Cohen

“I don’t think about my childhood much. I don’t think that it’s a legitimate explanation of one’s life. I think that in order to survive one must be reborn, one must overcome one’s childhood, the injustices, and recognize the privileges. You can’t use your past as an alibi. In the Orient they say ‘to awaken.’ The Christians say ‘to be reborn.’ Whatever the metaphor, I think there comes a moment when we must do it if we want to survive, have self-respect, and take advantage of our new circumstances that we have not yet even touched. The people who die are those who refuse to recognize their new life circumstance and continue to use the old one as an excuse for their shame or laziness. Of course one learns strategies and techniques of survival as a child and I’m not saying one must throw away all they have acquired. But I think there comes a time when the old strategies stop working and life crumbles.”2

Leonard Cohen

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More Lessons From Leonard Cohen

All posts in this series can be found at

Cohencentric Lessons From Leonard Cohen
A Manual For Living With Defeat

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  1. Leonard Cohen: Thoughts Of A Ladies’ Man by Elizabeth M. Thomson. 1979 interview reposted to FolkTracks: Jan 12, 2017. []
  2. Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Throat Culture magazine, 1992) []