Being an observant Jew, my religious doctrine requires that I take an annual visit to the land of forgiveness. Our rabbi’s suggest that we spend the month before Rosh Hashanah preparing to ask for forgiveness from our peers, and then actually engage in the process during the10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. After weeks of thinking about and asking from forgiveness from others, Yom Kippur, the day of repentance, is spent in synagogue asking for forgiveness from God. Having engaged in this religious practice since the age of 13, I have grown familiar with asking for forgiveness from peers.
The same Jewish doctrine requires that if you are not forgiven the first time you ask, you must ask for forgiveness twice more before you are let off the hook. This illuminates two different points about the process. The first that it is important to sincerely ask for forgiveness sincerely, and with enough to commitment to give your peer time to actually forgive you. Secondly, it is the others person obligation to forgive you. A process that is not always quick and easy. Though even if they don’t, you are still eventually able to move on with your life.
My actions that require asking and giving forgiveness have matured as I have aged. Actions of talking back to my parents and hitting my brother have evolved into spiteful break-ups with significant others and prioritizing myself before my family. While maturation is a good thing, the increased stakes of life’s decisions means that there is more room to seriously hurt people and to hold grudges. Misjudged actions now seem to have more significant consequences. I also realize how cathartic the process is. Holding grudges is never healthy and tends to drag me down emotionally. It prevents me from fully moving forward from the actions of my past and from becoming a better and more mature person.
One of the areas of forgiveness that I have yet to acknowledge in my life is forgiving myself. It used to be that I could use my past mistakes and self-frustrations as motivation to push forward. However, the longer that I hold onto these past experiences and negative memories, the more they weigh on my sense of self. As I am growing older, I realize that holding onto mistakes that I have made previously is airing more on destructive than productive. These memories can help fuel the fire of self-criticism. I am now realizing that I need to learn how to forgive myself, and embrace my past mistakes, through concentrating on the personal growth they have catalyzed.
The other area that I need to work on, or at least start to consider, is forgiving the mistakes of my classmates. Over the past year I have realized that I hold myself, and my classmates, to a very high standard. While we are full time students, we are also already out in the world playing doctor and interactive with many members of the community. As such I expect us to present ourselves as professionals. When a classmate does something that presents them self as less than professional, whether it be disrespecting a professor, blowing off a service learning commitment, or getting drunk and proudly posting pictures of the experience on facebook, I loose respect. These are grudges and opinions that for better or worse, I hold onto. I am just starting to realize how much I (internally) criticize such behavior. While it motivates me to present myself in a different manner, it also requires a lot of energy. I am starting to consider what I should do about these emotions and how to forgive behavior that I don’t really have a right to judge in the first place. Maybe it needs a mixture of forgiving their behavior and forgiving my own judgment.