Regret, Repent, Rinse, Repeat

18 Sep

Yesterday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. On this day, we’re supposed to ask forgiveness both from God and from those we’ve harmed somehow. Last night I asked forgiveness in temple at Kol Nidre. This morning I tried again in temple and failed miserably. After about an hour and a half, I had to leave because there were too many thoughts swirling through my head.

This had nothing to so with not understanding enough to participate.  Services in a Reform temple during the High Holy Days tend to be more performance-oriented. The Rabbi and Cantor share the heavy lifting, and participation on the congregation’s part tends to be in English. This way, everyone can take part.

The thoughts in my head had to do with asking forgiveness from others and granting forgiveness to others. The Rabbi seemed to say that God will forgive when asked to forgive. People might not be so generous.  I’ve certainly found that to be the case.  Especially when the person from whom I ask forgiveness is myself.  With a long list of regrets, I have a lot for which to ask forgiveness.

Every now and then, I’m tempted to catalog my regrets — just take a sheet of paper and start from the very beginning and see what I’ve done that I regret. It seems pretty self-indulgent. Regret begets self-flagellation which begets self-pity which is self-indulgent which begets more regret. It’s a spiral that at best gets you nowhere and at worst leads you to embrace your worst habits as a coping mechanism.  Wonder how to organize such a list:  a) things I’ve said/done that I wish I didn’t say/do; b) things I didn’t say/do that I wish I’d said/done; c) negative qualities I wish I didn’t have; and d) positive qualities I wish I had?  Do I need to re-install Excel on my laptop?

Why can I not forgive myself? Is it spite? Cruelty?  If I forgive myself, will I finally be free to make some necessary changes in my life?  That’s probably the closest to an accurate answer that I’ll come.  You’d think that I’d allow myself to move on, but change scares me — even change for the better.  Even if nothing came of it other than feeling better about myself, it’s something I should do.   But tell me this, could you forgive the person who sent your life into a tailspin?



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