“Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.” (Wikipedia.org)
Yom Kippur has just finished and as it finishes, so does another cycle of the Jewish year. This time last year my world looked so different than it looks now. My two grandchildren, Parker and Samson were adjusting to life, beginning to walk, explore, and speak. Our newly built house was completed and Paul and I moved in! My sibling relationships seemed strong and solid and my children were all talking to one another (and to me). Last year, at this time, I celebrated the first Jewish High Holidays without my mother in this world and I remember sending her prayers as I gathered with my spiritual Jewish community in Toronto.
The “Days of Awe” in Judaism begin with the first evening of Rosh Hashana and culminates ten days later with the solemn and reflective holy day of Yom Kippur. During these days, it is said that God’s gates open up providing us opportunity to reflect upon life and death. We are given time to sit quietly, to introspect and to consider some things we might have done during the past year for which we need to repent. We ask openly and authentically for others’ forgiveness for anything we even might have done to cause distress. In fact there is a prayer that asks forgiveness for unintentional acts of which we might not even be aware.
Today, I have people in my life who have cut off a meaningful relationship with me and I don’t know why. It appears that I’ve done something to hurt them, and I don’t know what it is. I’m sorry for the lack of contact. I’m sorry for the loss of love between us. I’m sorry that as I much as I reach out, nothing comes back. I’m sorry that I can’t let go of those I just love so much. I’m sorry I love them so much even when it hurts. I’m sorry for any hurt I might have caused them. And…if I knew what it was, I could change my behaviours to never let it happen again.
I am not perfect. I have made many mistakes in my life. I try hard to be a good person, and even so, go figure… I still make mistakes. It’s not intentional. I mean no harm. I never did! And yet, sometimes, I tend to beat myself up for my mistakes.
Perfect parenting, for instance, is impossible! Without intention, I have done things that have hurt each one of my children. Scars that fade and never really go away are something we all have. Abandonment issues, perceived neglect, and traumatic events from our childhood create body memories that continue to hurt. Old experiences from childhood trigger negative emotions today that actually come from our formative years. I know, as a parent and stepparent of seven children, that I have been an active player in those occurrences and now, as I age, I cherish the moments when my children share those experiences with me. I want to know! I want to be aware of how what I did or said affected them. And I want to let them know that I am sorry for the hurt I’ve caused them and, ultimately, to thank them for sharing it with me.
If I could give my children just one gift, I think I would choose to give them acceptance…even acceptance of imperfection. I want them to participate fully in life, share deep and meaningful relationships and remain open to constant growth. That requires vulnerability and being open to making mistakes. I would encourage them to try, to assess, to reflect and decide. And to know that, sometimes it is necessary to say “I’m sorry” when you’ve hurt somebody. Ultimately I would hope they would feel grateful for the opportunity for growth instead of feeling trepidation and fearfulness.
I find myself lately in a deep state of gratitude. I don’t say “I’m sorry” as much as I used to. Instead I am opening up to the opportunities to recognize how the complications and challenges in my life push me through experiences to a clearer and fuller existence. I welcome these experiences and try to find the possibilities to say “Thank you” instead.