In the weeks leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement in the Jewish religion, we hear a LOT about asking forgiveness of people we have wronged. For me, that list seems to grow year after year. Some years I do a good job of making amends; other years, I fall short. This year, as I’ve thought of those who I’m sure I owe apologies to (my husband, my son, my co-workers), one person keeps coming to mind…
Now, before you call the rabbi to tell her I missed the point of repentance, hear me out. During these ten days of reflection between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we are supposed to think about all the transgressions of which we’ve been guilty, seek forgiveness, and contemplate how to better ourselves so that we avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
When you grant someone forgiveness, assuming you are able to (for we all have limits to what we’re willing to forgive), you grant that person peace of mind and help them to — hopefully — become a better person. All too often, though, when we are the ones needing forgiveness, we deny ourselves that peace of mind.
How many times do you lie in bed, unable to sleep because you’re replaying the few moments you lost patience with your child amidst the countless moments you were an awesome mom that day? Do you forgive yourself and reflect on how to be better, or do you speak lashon harah (negative comments, aka “the evil tongue”) about yourself? Instead of endlessly berating ourselves, what if we channeled that energy into constructive reflection and strategies for change?
I don’t want my son beating himself up for the mistakes he makes. I want him to work through it and figure out how to do better next time. And, as with most other things, I have to lead by example.
So as I ask almost everyone I know — and some I don’t — for their forgiveness, this year I also am striving to forgive myself.