The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur started tonight, and for those unfamiliar with the holiday, it is the holiest day of the year. The holiday is meant to bring about reconciliation - both amongst people and between individuals and G-d - and is the day that G-d decides the fate of our next year and whether we shall be written into the book of life.
Note: Im a believer in G-d, Judaism and what they stand for, but I personally don't actually feel that our fate is decided directly by G-d and only once a year, I think that we all have a say in our own destiny on a daily basis.
With that, the topic of forgiveness has been at the forefront of my mind so much recently, and not just because of the holiday.
What is forgiveness? Google defines forgiveness as "the action or process of forgiving or being forgiven". Okay, easy enough, but that doesn't really tell us too much.
If you look deeper into the meaning/process, it is generally defined as a "conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness"
And that is where forgiveness is hard! I can easily say I forgive someone, but that won't release the feelings, so how do I truly get to that point where I can forgive someone especially when they don't deserve to be forgiven.
I grew up with the understanding that forgiveness was a two-way street. The person who has done the wrong should understand what they did wrong, apologize and take steps towards not doing it again, and the person who was wrong forgives. For instance, in this scenario you don't tell a kid to say I'm sorry for hitting someone when that's the 10th time they've done it - they aren't actually sorry and aren't learning to stop hitting from stating those words.
So when the first part isn't there - especially all 3 aspects of them understanding they did something wrong, apologizing and taking steps to not do it again - and more so they continue to do the same "wrong" over and over and over again, as in the above scenario, how do you "let it go" and provide forgiveness?
I truly understand that forgiveness is less about them and more about the individual offering forgiveness (me), but no matter how much I want to be able to, I can't. I still feel that the act of forgiveness is about more than just me. If I forgive someone and just let their antics fall to the wayside, what lesson is this person learning other than that they can continue to act that way and get what they want?
Again, I know that's not what it's about, but when you have continuously forgiven someone only to have to forgive them for the same behavior, they aren't actually sorry or going to make changes. If I offer my forgiveness, all I'm doing is closing one door just for it to continuously reopen.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result - so if I'm providing forgiveness over and over again - even if I never express that forgiveness outwardly to the person - I'm just setting myself up for a different type of internal struggle.
What has worked best for me in the past is to just drop that person from my life and let distance and space provide the opportunity for everything to just clear the air, and if it's meant to be for that person to be in my life, eventually an opportunity will arise that brings them back in.
But what about when you can't just completely cut someone out of your life and you have no choice but to let them continue to hurt you? Maybe one day in the distant future I can find that place in my mind and body to forgive someone who truly doesn't deserve it for my sake. In the meantime, I will allow G-d to offer that person his forgiveness and I'll just continue to work towards becoming the best me I can be! Hopefully that will be enough to get me inscribed in the book of life for another year :)