‘The fault you find in others exists because of one you fail to see in yourself’.
I read that once, it has stuck with me. It seems fitting to start this post by highlighting that little nugget.
Next week is the holiday of Yom Kippur. As a non-Jew I can choose to let this day pass but I don’t, I remember it. Not as a Jew, I don’t fast, but as a person who can see the benefit in taking at least one day out of the year to spend time devoted to self examination and reflection with a mind to share the results with the Creator.
The Tanakh is full of the repentance message, the return theme. From Cain in Genesis 4 to 1 Kings 8 to Ezekiel 18 and on and on the message is clear, we have a Creator who wants us to guard our own minds, tongues and actions and who gives us the chance to set things right with Him even if we can’t set things right with our fellow man.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to Yom Kippur and I confess (no pun intended) that on previous years my focus has been on confession and praise. There is nothing wrong with that of course but what of forgiveness? We are after all counting on our Father in Heaven to remember His promise to forgive so why am I avoiding that in my own Yom Kippur dedications?
In some ways giving forgiveness is more important than asking for it. It’s a fact that in most cases the people we have issue with or hold a grudge for don’t even know we have a problem with them. The ‘problem’ we harbor in our minds and hearts does no damage to them, we can’t scoring any points.. but it will eat away at us. Our interaction with that person or anything to do with them (be it a singular human, company or family line) will start to change and the way we think and act soon start to change. The venom we think we are injecting into the ‘guilty’ party has started to poison us and slowly it will eat away until we are scarred for life.
But just what are we so annoyed about? The noisy one in the office? Maybe we need more patience. Maybe they feel they aren’t heard. Low self-esteem. Are we really annoyed at their level of activity? or are we frustrated that we aren’t the center of attention? The family member that has been so mean to us? Perhaps they are hurting over a choice we made, is it time to be the bigger person and take step forward? Even if that communication is permanently eroded, is it possible to let the bad feeling go and move on?
Most bad feeling comes from a place in with we feel slighted, some times it comes from defending another person or group. Often someone else has acted in a way that ‘I would never do anything like that!’ and the bench mark used to take the measure of a person is actually your own opinion of you. That foreign party, having failed the test, is now a sub-par person and you have them on the list. Another stone to carry in the pit of your stomach, stones with names like anger, hate, fear, sadness, frustration and panic.
Giving yourself a chance to reflect on these feelings is not only healthy in regards to your own life and enjoyment going forward but it’s also healthy in regards to your personal faith life and walk with the Creator. Taking a few minutes to remember those who you have a personal gripe or full blown war with then giving some time to ‘why’ what they did means you feel that way might, if you explore your own dark side and faults, lead you to a place in which you can say, ‘enough’.
That person might never know you have decided to let it go and forgive, but erasing that wedge of your emotional hard drive can and will leave you a better person with less stress, less hate and a lighter perspective on life.
If you decide to take this tack on Yom Kippur then it’s really important to remember one specific person. You.
Forgiving yourself is probably the hardest act. You will have made choices, committed deeds and said things to your self and others that you have been dwelling on for days, months and maybe years. You ask the Creator to forgive but you aren’t willing to do that yourself? Maybe you don’t ‘really’ believe the King of the Universe will keep His promise?
We are all left to do our own thing. He gives us the tools, brain, free will and conscience to build a life on this amazing planet. He didn’t make us robots. We make bad choices, some tiny and some huge. From rudeness to aggression, selfishness to jealously, pride to hate. BUT we are built to deal with those things. How? By examining what we did wrong, changing our ways, fixing the error and apologizing to those involved. When ever you do something ‘wrong’ – you are also an injured party and deserve the same soft wards and forgiveness as the others you have hurt.
Yom Kippor is a time when we, Jew and Non-Jew alike, can take time to get down and dirty in the muddy bits of our history, conscience and heart and give it a good clear out. Polish up those good feelings, wash off the bad ones and kick out the junk. You have another 365 days till you might do this again, so take your time, examine your own issues and throw those stones into the deepest sea.