For those of us who are Jews we begin our accounting of what we might have done to hurt others, to hurt God, or to hurt ourselves. At Rosh Hashanah the Gates of Heaven open so that our prayers might be heard by God. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we pray for forgiveness more fervently than we do all year long. During the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we ask forgiveness from the people around us: our children, our parents, other relatives, friends, colleagues. In a way, we are shedding our coats of sin, leaving ourselves as clean as a newborn baby.
But being human means we don’t stay in that state for long. Every day offers a new opportunity to fulfill our destinies and in the course of just being who we are we may say something that offends another, inadvertently causing pain, crossing the boundaries of what is appropriate and fair, playing favorites, acting in opposition to our better selves because it will help us get to where we think we should be more expediently.
And the year goes on, we keep repeating our human actions. In some ways, it’s like starting a diet where you promise yourself to “be good” on Monday. By noon on Monday you’ve already eaten that cookie or that bag of chips, you beat up on yourself, figure you’ve already blown it and wait for the following Monday to start all over.
52 Mondays in a year. 52 times to start over. 52 potential times to choose failure or success.
Once a year to apologize to God for our shortcomings, our self-deceptions, our mistakes. Once a year to apologize to the people in our lives. Once a year to start over. It doesn’t really seem like enough. It sure puts a lot of pressure on us in the month of Tishrei.
A wise man or woman once gave excellent advice to a group of teens with ADHD and their parents. This Wise One said, “trying to do a project all at once on the day before it’s due is common for a lot of us. But if we can break the project down into smaller steps, it becomes much more manageable.” And, I might add, more meaningful because we can really pay attention to each step rather than rushing through them without seeing what’s there.
Redemption, apology, atonement make us better people. We shed those guilty feelings that held us back so that we can begin again to journey toward being better each day, better than we were the day before.
If we save up our apologies, we end up with something unmanageable like that big project we do the night before it’s due. What if we forget something? Or someone? What about waiting to apologize so long after the event surfaced that the person has given up on us and won’t accept our apology? And what if an unforeseen event occurs and you never get the chance to ask for forgiveness?
We cannot wait to say “I’m sorry.” Today is always the day to repair the hurts, acknowledge being human with all our myriad “schtick.” Saying “I’m sorry” goes a long way toward moving past the regret in order to become that better self.