Forgiving yourself and the month of Elul — Tamara Mendelson
Soon, Jews all over the world will celebrate Rosh HaShanah. Literally translated it is the head of the year. One of the most important holidays. The one where we start reading the Torah over again from the beginning. Rolling the scrolls all the way back to the start. Telling the stories of the bible again from the beginning.
The beginning. A new beginning. Preceding this new beginning of the new year is a month of special blessings and prayers and activities to get ready for the holidays to come. The month is called Elul. Forgiveness.
So what is Elul?
Homes are cleaned and refreshed. Bread is tossed into bodies of water to symbolize casting out of sin and asking for forgiveness. Many wear white or lighter colors on these days to symbolize purity of thought. Extra blessing called Selichot are added to daily prayers and repeated on both Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.
Between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, there is a period of ten days where people are supposed to ask forgiveness from someone that they have wronged. There is a pretty good loophole here as you may ask forgiveness from someone three times and if they refuse all three times God forgives you and you are absolved. That’s the forgiveness free card.
This is my interpretation of what goes on in Judaism. There are so many more knowledgeable people out there. My apologies if I have offended anyone’s sensibilities. My point here is that this forgiveness thing is built into one of the oldest religions in the world. Maybe there is some truth to it? Something we can take away and use in our own lives.
This is the part of this practice of forgiveness I would like people to adopt and incorporate into their lives every day.
I have seen too many families with feuds with whole branches of relatives that don’t speak. This can go on from one generation to another when eventually, no one even knows why they don’t speak. The hatred and scorn and animosity is carried forward and in some cases, the kids don’t know why they don’t speak to those family members. The feud outlasts its reason.
I have clients who are so angry at their exes that they are stuck and the contempt just lingers and builds and bubbles up even though the relationship is long over. They carry the disdain into everything they do. Have adopted a victim stance and don’t ever examine why they make the same choices over and over again and wonder why their dissatisfaction and unhappiness lingers. They bring it with them like well to reuse an overused phrase, luggage.
I have clients with health issues and they are angry and ask the question, “Why me?” instead of “Why not me.” No one is immune to pain or disease or heartache. I have had other clients who would like to be thin or thinner and that consumes their energy. Healthy isn’t enough. Somehow we believe that if we were ten pounds thinner life would be better. Life would be thinner sure but not necessarily better.
It is a heavy load
People carry the burden of something they have done or said throughout their lifetimes. They often make the same mistakes over and over again because the original deed, choice, or action was never undone or brought to light and forgiven.
I propose to unpack our guilt and not lug it through another year. It can make us sick and rob us of joy. If you believe, as I do, that we do the best we can with the information we have at the time then it’s easier to forgive.
Make peace with it and then let it go. I recommend you to try to make amends. There are 12 step programs built on this principle, and most major religions are also built on similar tenants. The trick here is to forgive ourselves first.
The world is a scary place right now and we need to come together as humanity and move forward into light.
And if you had a forgiveness free card what would you use it on?
I know many parents who would have spent more time with their kids and less time at work.
How about forgiving yourself for not being home and getting less satisfaction out of raising your kids. They are still around and just because things have always been this way doesn’t mean they always will be.
If your adult kids don’t treat you well. Don’t allow it. You can limit your exposure. This is difficult and painful but may help you feel better in the short term. We all deserve respect especially from the people we are related to by blood and otherwise.
If a colleague is making you miserable, bring it to their attention or if that isn’t possible stop allowing them to get to you. Maybe they are very unhappy and this is the only way they can deal with their life. It doesn’t have to be your way.
Make a plan to do things a little differently in the future. No need to wait for a holiday. Fix it now.
Believe that you deserve happiness. It doesn’t have to be 10 on a scale of 1–10, but more joy than regret.
And if you need a little help on your journey to self-forgiveness, I’m around.
Be kind to yourself.
Now over to you: What would you use your forgiveness free card on?
Originally published at www.tamaramendelson.com on September 16, 2019.