It is that time of the year. If you are Jewish, chances are you’ll be spending these High Holydays feeling judged before God.
The idea of being judged by a higher power is an acknowledgment that our actions and behaviors have consequences not just for ourselves but also for others.
If we are in fact made in the image of God, then our relationship with ourselves and others is the direct connection with the all-powerful. “Will you forgive me for anything I may have done intentionally or otherwise?” To actually forgive is therefore truly divine. But, how to forgive?
Maimonides, the influential Jewish scholar of the middle ages, expressed that while atonement is between ourselves and God, forgiveness is between people. And that “we must not be cruel in holding back our forgiveness”.
Acts of personal injustice can be so hurtful and impactful on our lives, that the resulting emotional baggage can be back-breaking. Personal injustice can create the most confusing and conflicting emotions. It is easy to feel at fault, guilty, and as a result, alone. A crippling sense of emotional inferiority can develop, sabotaging your potential; dreams unrealized and talents under-utilized.
“The act of forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.”
Forgiveness does not mean that we excuse the actions of those who have hurt us. Ultimately, the vital realization that releases you from a cycle of pain is that the injustice is not about you. Recognizing you have been wronged is what demystifies the victimization and allows you to take back the power over your future.
A precondition for forgiveness is to relinquish the obsession with grieving. Why do we obsess if it is clear that our obsession sustains the hurtful cycle that started? When we are unable to reconcile what we’ve experienced, we return to the injustice over and over again. What is worse, over time, is that we can start to take a sort of unconscious pleasure in returning to an obsession that wreaks havoc on our lives. Neatly stacking our injustice collections in our emotional closets, lending comfort when we fall short of reaching our potential.
Forgiveness is a process. Recognize your hurt. You were wronged and what happened to you was unjust and undeserved. It is important to acknowledge the effect this injustice has had on your life. Allow yourself to feel angry, or vulnerable, or sad. By allowing these emotions to surface, you recognize that you are entitled to them; in doing so, you can take back the control that was lost when the injustice occurred. At the same time, depersonalize the act and take the grievance story outside of “you”.
Find a trusted person who will allow you to tell them your story of grievance. It is important to be able to vent and talk about our feelings and emotions. As social creatures, we gain strength and perspective from our interactions with others. The trick of telling your grievance story is not to stop with the terrible things that have happened but to insistently continue the narrative as you become a hero in your own story.
A point of caution here, stories of grievance have a shelf life. There is a point of repetition where you risk becoming a broken record. Don’t become trapped in this cycle. You get a limited number of passes before your story of grievance needs to evolve into a “hero story” — and this is the story you can tell over and over again. No one gets tired of hearing about a hero! It is motivating and positive. A story of overcoming your grievance gives strength to others. A positive story is a huge confidence builder. As you recognize your ability to overcome adversity, you unleash your creative potential.
Visit the Hero Wall https://israelellis.com/the-hero-wall/
Sometimes, the hardest person to forgive can be yourself. No one is perfect and we make mistakes, it is about being human. Give yourself a pass. Self-compassion is sometimes the greatest gift you can give to yourself.
Forgiveness unlocks your potential for personal greatness by releasing the blockages that impede your emotional health and creativity. As soon as you give someone else that power, they are back in control and you are once again codependent and a victim. You must own your power in the same way you get to own your forgiveness.
Finding forgiveness is a very personal journey and for you alone to achieve.
As I experience these High Holy Days I do so with a reflection of where I have been this year and contemplate where I want to be in the year ahead. If we are in fact made in the image of God then forgiveness is our faith.
…And just as I forgive everyone so should You grant me favor in the eyes of all persons that they should completely forgive me. (The Kol Nidre Prayer)