Today is Yom Kippur, a day of atonement and forgiveness, a day of coming home to the truth of who we are. It’s a day to release the stories and the sins of the past and clean the slate for the future.
We learn that before we ask God for forgiveness we must apologize to our fellow humans, and if someone asks us for forgiveness we must grant it.
We can’t be in integrity if we are asking for what we refuse to grant others.
But there’s another aspect of forgiveness that nobody talks about:
Before we can forgive or seek forgiveness from others, before we can seek forgiveness from God, we must seek it from ourselves.
This is not an easy task. Of all the forgiveness, self-forgiveness might be the hardest.
Why Self-Forgiveness is So Difficult
First, it is difficult because it requires cultivating deep compassion and love for ourselves. Somehow, we find it easier to give compassion and love to others. Self-forgiveness demands us to turn that instinct inward, to declare that we are worthy of forgiveness, of a second chance, a clean slate.
Second, it is difficult because we hold such identity in our stories, even in the stories of our failures and our wrongdoing. Sometimes it helps to hold on to the stories of our failings, as a way of avoiding the same mistake again. But those stories too easily become a part of our identity, the north star to which we always gravitate. More than our human needs, identity is what drives our behavior.
Self-forgiveness requires us to release the stories and the identity we cultivated around them.
What are the stories you tell about why you can’t do the thing you want to do? What are the stories you tell about how you’ve always been? Or how you never were?
What if those stories aren’t even true?
Third, it is difficult because it requires us to release. And we don’t like to let things go. Especially about ourselves.
What would it mean to release all the stories?
The Path of Return Starts With Release
Releasing the grip that we allow our stories of our past to hold on us is the only way to move forward. It’s the only way to uncover the true identity that lies beneath.
This is how we come home. This is how we find freedom.
Self-forgiveness establishes our self-worth. It is how we choose life.
When we can extend compassion and loving-kindness to ourselves, we show others that we are worthy of compassion and loving-kindness. When we can forgive ourselves, we show God that we are worthy of forgiveness.
This is what today is about. It’s not about prosecuting the sins; or defending ourselves.
Although we are on “trial,” this is a courtroom of love and compassion.
No matter how consciously we live, it’s easy to separate from ourselves and our truth. There is no doubt that we hurt others in this place of separation, but we hurt ourselves more.
The Yom Kippur Task
Today is about releasing the sins we committed against ourselves. The commitments we made to ourselves that we didn’t keep. The vows to never and always that we failed. The crimes of self-aversion and self-sabotage.
Today is about reconnecting within, returning to our truth, and releasing what’s in the way.
Yom Kippur is about coming home to who we are. The identity buried beneath the masks.
Compassion. Loving-kindness. Forgiveness.
It starts within.