Forgiveness No Longer Required

 During Elul (the last year in the Jewish calendar), we often focus our efforts on self-assessment, goal setting, and forgiveness. When asked what the difference is between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) and the secular new year is for me, my answer (to some people's shock) is that Rosh Hashanah is the ultimate Jewish guilt trip. We spend a whole month entering a sacred space where we make herculean efforts to really dig deep and understand ourselves, just to reach Rosh Hashanah as the jumping board for Yom Kippur, where we enter into the "forgiveness debacle". What have we done that requires atonement? how do we plan on mending those cracks that we have inflicted in our souls and in others? how will we enter this most sacred period in Judaism ready to forgive ourselves and others?

But what if forgiveness is not what we want?

I am a deeply flawed individual. I am sure that the count of people I have wronged in my life exceeds others perceptions of who I am. I have also failed to care for my self in the ways we are mandated to, with countless times when I have been overly critical of myself and others, or times when I have been so disconnected from my own needs that I have allowed others to take advantage while I overlook my own body's pleas for help. I have made decisions in life that have pained others in ways that I may have not intended.

But see, I am tired of the forgiveness guilt trip. I don't take pride or joy in causing pain as a result of my decisions, but I also will not apologize for making decisions that may have kept me and my heart and soul safe.

As part of my Creative Arts Therapy training this week, we practiced emotion scribbles. For this, you are given an emotion as a prompt and you are asked to choose the color/colors and use your non-dominant hand to scribble away during 90 seconds, which is intended to allow your emotions to flow without the burden of the critical side of your brain that inhibits creativity through internal criticism. When it came to forgiveness, my hand froze. I could see the rest of my cohort scribbling away while I just stood there frozen. 

The truth is, after years of struggles, I am no longer in a place where I feel compelled to forgive for the sake of forgiveness. It's not that I don't believe in forgiveness, or that I refuse to forgive anyone. I am just no longer willing to compromise my feelings solely for the purpose of forgiving someone because we are expected to do so. The only person that I will always forgive is myself. 

Yes, this sounds selfish, and no, I don't expect to live the rest of my days refusing to forgive. This isn't about holding grudges or living in a perpetual state of petty resentment. This is an exercise in boundaries; I am purposefully exploring what my own boundaries need to be so I don't put myself in a place where forgiveness is required. We have become so reliant on the act of forgiveness that we have neglected the need for boundaries; why would we need to have them if we have forgiveness to clean the mess?

As I enter the High Holy Days, I invite you to join me in exploring what boundaries you need to establish to keep the joy in and the pain out. There will be times that those boundaries will be tested and forgiveness will be required. However, my personal goal this year is to avoid forgiveness at all costs. The goal is to establish boundaries that are strong and healthy enough to keep pain out and invite growth.

May you find peace, joy, and healing in the coming weeks, and strength for the year ahead.

Shana Tova!


Popular posts from this blog

Comfortably Uncomfortable: Let's Begin

What Is Joy, And Where To Find It

The Stolen Journey Home