At this time of year, as a Jew observing Rosh Hashanah (The Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), I’m flooded with reflections on forgiveness. Forgiving others when they ask (and even when they don’t), and most importantly, forgiving myself.
Looking back on this past year, I can recognize moments where I wasn’t always the human I wanted to be. I remind myself that I will never be perfect (and that’s okay), but I can do better. Sitting with the raw pain that comes from messing things up hurts—but being present and honest with myself, my community and the people I love is part of the process for lifelong learning and continuous growth.
I forgive myself for being the latest, last parent to pick up my weeping six-year-old.
I forgive myself for being consumed by my business at times when my family needed me.
I forgive myself for not living far enough outside of what’s safe to push my business and career where I know it can go.
I forgive myself for the times I was overwhelmed with the brokenness in the world and chose to do nothing instead of doing even something small.
I forgive myself for using my losses and struggles as excuses to hide instead of fuel for a fierce, bold life.
I did all of these things, but I will not be able to move on or do better until I forgive myself, without harsh judgment, without punishment, and without consequence. Within this place of honesty, healing and openness to washing ourselves anew, we discover opportunities to remind us of who we want to be and take actions to become those people.
The process of forgiveness allows us to say, “I did that.” instead of “I am that.”
Once you put that action in the past, you allow yourself to keep it there and become something different. If last year, you couldn’t find the strength to stand up to your toxic boss in the face of his harsh words, forgive yourself and see what happens. If you’ve avoided giving your team necessary feedback fearing you would mess it up, that was then. Acknowledge your fear, then forgive and run towards it instead of away.
One way to further explore forgiveness so that you can ignite the energy on the other side is to write a forgiveness letter to yourself. It may sound woo-woo, but you know me well enough by now to know 1) I go there and 2) That shit works.
Here’s how we do it:
- Take some quiet time and write in a journal, on fancy gifted stationary you never thought you would use, on your laptop or even on your phone.
- Think about the pain and shame you’re feeling.
- Acknowledge the ways you are responsible for these situations and these feelings.
- Grant yourself unbridled, loving forgiveness.
- Read your letter aloud by yourself or with anyone with whom you want to share.
- Be open to what happens next.
Of course you can make this more of a regular practice rather than focusing on it once a year. If you’re feeling stuck, one way to get into action is by simply focusing on forgiveness. Who can you forgive in your life right now? And how can you forgive yourself in your current situation? By starting with this approach, you will find a release and an ability to get back into the flow of ideas and possibilities you didn’t know were waiting for you.