I like the title to this blog post. What do you think? Normally when we read about Yom Kippur – and various articles, they are usually titled “What is Forgiveness?” or “How to Forgive” …. For me – I’ll stick with the simpler “Forgiveness Sucks,” and I’d like to share why.
Of course, the holiday of Yom Kippur goes hand in hand with Forgiveness. The words Yom Kippur – Kippur comes from the word “kaparah” – meaning atonement, so the entire day is really all about this one key phrase here – forgiveness. G-d forgiving us for our sins, we forgiving our friends, our friends forgiving us …and we all live happily ever after.
Well, easier said than done.
I have great difficulty when it comes to forgiving someone who has wronged me. Sure I know I’m not perfect and neither are the people around me, but at the same time I have hard time “letting things go.” Maybe I can blame my mom for this one. As a child I remember her telling me how she held grudges against her loved ones and the various reasons for doing so. (and trust me, she had GOOD reasons to hold those grudges!) but I would almost say she “glorified” these grudges as if they were vital to be kept. Kind of like the feud between the Montague’s and Capulet’s (in Romeo & Juliet). Their attitude conveyed the importance of believing in these feuds – not even remembering what the dispute was about in the first place! Maybe my mom was part Italian or something. In any case, I think somewhere in the depth of my soul I too believe that these grudges are important. For me, it’s crucial to remember how these people have wronged us – most likely to serve as protection from them in the future.
So to me, forgiveness sucks.
And with Yom Kippur right around the corner – I decided it was time for a little introspection on the subject. And that’s when I realized that there is a part of forgiveness that often gets overlooked amongst all the Yom Kippur stuff.
Forgiveness of the self.
We’re not blind to our imperfections – we know where our faults lie – and they can be downright depressing. Whether it’s our short comings in our religious activities, or we find ourselves frustrated with our character flaws … the list can be endless…The truth is that it’s difficult to stare ourselves in the mirror and come face to face with our faults – and when we do, it’s even harder to “let them go.” It takes courage to look at our character flaws, recognize them, and yet say to ourselves: “I forgive myself.”
“I forgive myself for being unkind…”
“I forgive myself for not being a good friend …”
“ I forgive myself for being selfish…”
“I forgive myself for not being a good parent….”
(I could go on and on right?)
Why is it so hard to give ourselves leeway and the room to make mistakes? We are human after all – but how often do we really allow ourselves to be human and to make these mistakes? Everyone agrees that slip-ups are crucial to our self growth. This is why I feel so strongly that when it comes to Yom Kippur – we need to forgive ourselves. Before we are able to forgive our brothers and sisters and friends, we need to be able to forgive and “let go” of our OWN shortcomings and flaws. We need to remember that as long as we try our best and work hard – then we can leave room for us to screw up every once in a while. Because we are only human.
Once we are able to look at our flaws, straight in the eye – really look at them – and still be able to say “I forgive myself” … and “I am only human” and “this year I will try better” – only when we let this grudge against ourselves go, can we let go the grudge against our friend. It’s like the saying “to err is human, to forgive divine”. If we are able to forgive ourselves for our shortcomings and let them go, then ultimately we will be able to forgive our friends – because after all – they too are only human with flaws and aren’t perfect.
And then suddenly – the grudges will disappear.