T’shuvah: Extended Definitions
I have been thinking lately about how t’shuvah can leave people feeling discouraged and defeated, and about the ways in which people find Yom Kippur and the process of t’shuvah heavy. I don’t think that’s what G-d wants for us. Our tradition teaches us always to look for reasons to kindle hope, so how can we frame t’shuvah in a way that makes space for that while still doing the serious work t’shuvah requires? This is an attempt to address that question.
Atonement: Examining mistakes from the past year and seeking to make them right. Whom have I hurt, whether intentionally or unintentionally? Where have I been dishonest? When did I say the unkind word? Where have I cut corners in my work in ways that placed more burden on others? When did I not stop myself from yielding to my lesser impulses? Who was affected by my actions in ways I regret now? Who might have been affected by my actions in ways I don’t even know about?
Alonement: Taking some time alone to search deep within. Where have I been dishonest with myself? Where have I cut corners in my work, that only I would know about? Where have I judged myself too harshly? Where have I judged myself too gently? Were there decisions I made that were expedient but not wise? When did I squash my own needs in order to make things right for everyone else? What did it cost? When did I prioritize my own needs over everyone else’s? What did it cost?
Alignment: Expressing gratitude for the people and events that have helped me grow in the past year. We spend a lot of time and energy in these Ten Days of T’shuvah looking at ourselves and our actions through a negative lens. This is necessary work that must be taken seriously. What happens if we also look through the other side? Who helped me see my actions in a new light? What events forced me to level up and be more thoughtful of others? Whom have I been watching as a model for how to do something I don’t yet do well? Who has offered me a kind word when I needed it? In what ways have I come closer to my center this year, and who has helped me get there?