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This Yom Kippur, Forgive Yourself

Yom Kippur starts at sundown on Sept. 25.

So much for the sweet taste of apples and honey we enjoyed during Rosh Hashanah.

Now, it’s time to ask for forgiveness. Traditionally, Jews are told not to ask just once for forgiveness, but three times. I guess the scholars really wanted to make sure people owned up to their mistakes.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, starts at sundown and goes all the way through the next day ending at sundown. For 24 hours, the faithful meditate on the meaning of atonement. We are not supposed to eat, wear leather or even brush our teeth.

It is not a day of comfort, but of repentance. I can’t say that I have been any worse this year than I have during any other year. I’m sure I told the usual white lies, been quick with a sarcastic comment, driven over the speed limit and stolen the last cookie out of the package.

I am no better or worse than the next person. However, I had coffee with a friend recently and we talked about forgiveness. He asked me in all seriousness when I had last forgiven myself. Every day, I forgive others their shortcomings from the person who cuts me off in traffic to the accidental bump in line at the grocery store. Without a second of hesitation, I absolve people when they say something hurtful or cancel plans at the last minute.

I hate losing friends, so I will go out of my way to fix a mistake I have made because it bothers me to lose someone I care about for a foolish reason. But I never look in the mirror and think, “It’s ok, we did not have the best work out at the gym today, there’s always tomorrow." Or, "I know you messed up this time, but we’ll work on it and next time we’ll nail it."

This year, I feel like I need to forgive myself for every time I have said, you should have done it better, faster, harder. Yes, apologizing to others is extremely important, but you have to forgive yourself too.

Without forgiveness, you cannot love yourself and if you don’t love yourself who will?I also made a very conscious decision to say I’m sorry to my husband for all of the big and little issues we have had this year. In January, we will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary.

It’s not a huge number, but I am proud that we’ve made it this far and we’re still going. He was by my side when I buried both of my parents, lost a baby and brought two healthy girls into the world.

“I would forgive you for anything,” my husband told me with a smile. “You are my everything and the light of my world. You are the only wife I want and my best friend.”

In the coming months, I will try to remember not to judge myself so harshly and hold myself to unattainable standards. And hopefully others around me can find the fortitude to let it go, too. 

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