iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Karin Kasdin

GET UPDATES FROM Karin Kasdin
 

Forgiving Yourself Is Oh So Hard to Do

Posted: 10/08/2012 10:14 am

On Yom Kippur Eve, a few hours before the holy Kol Nidre service began, I made the requisite phone calls I make every year... those suck-it-up-and-make-amends phone calls to anyone I might have hurt or slighted in the lunar year just past. I am not an intensely observant Jew, but I am a deeply committed one. Though I am selective about the rituals and traditions I choose to observe, I have never shirked my responsibility to repent for my sins on Yom Kippur and to ask forgiveness of those who have not seen me at my best. Whether or not one adheres to the belief that on Yom Kippur our fate for the next year is sealed in the Book of Life, contrition for one's misdeeds is always a good idea, so I made the calls.

The responses of my family and friends were identical to the responses I received last year and every year of my adult life. All were variations of, "Don't be ridiculous. There is nothing to forgive. You are a wonderful friend and did absolutely nothing to offend me, nor could I ever imagine you being hurtful. No forgiveness necessary."

It is the same stock response I give to all who look to me for clemency. Though I've been accused of being overly sensitive all my life, I don't carry grudges. I have always been quick to forgive, and the older I get, the faster I forget. It is difficult to nurse a grudge when you can't for the life of you remember the incident that hatched it in the first place.

This year, with no one to forgive for offenses real or perceived, and no one to be forgiven by, I took a new tack altogether. I decided to beseech myself for forgiveness and then grant it. As I approach my sixth decade on this plane, I determined it was high time to show myself some mercy.

I know myself better than anyone else. I know I am capable of hurting people and probably have. I have broken promises to myself. I have made some poor decisions on my journey through life. I have made mistakes with my children and I have not visited my mother enough. I have sometimes done the easy thing instead of the right one.

A week has passed since I faced this challenge and here's what I've learned. It is waaaay harder to forgive yourself than it is to forgive the infractions of others. And forgiveness can sometimes be confused with making excuses.

Once, when one of my teenage sons was being horribly teenager-y, I hit him. I hit him on the arm and he didn't even wince. For years I told myself I was exhausted that day and at my wit's end, and he drove me to it, and every parent loses it once in a while. Those are excuses. Hitting your child is just plain wrong and not every parent loses it in the way I did. This year I am not justifying my behavior, nor am I absolving myself from responsibility for it. I am simply and finally, forgiving it.

I am forgiving myself for not allowing my youngest to skip school on the day the city threw a parade for the victorious World Series winners, The Philadelphia Phillies. Zack was a high school junior at the time and everyone knows junior year is the most important and he wasn't doing well in one of his classes, and blah, blah, blah. The kids who stayed home could be counted in single digits. Even the faculty didn't show. School was cancelled when it was too late for Zack to make it to the festivities, and the Phillies have been godawful ever since. I know Zack won't be scarred for life from this, and he hasn't held it against me, which is more than I can say for myself. Nonetheless I feel compelled to ask the smart woman in me to forgive the stupid one.

Those are examples of the easy things. Forgiving yourself for who you are instead of what you've done requires vast reserves of honesty and fortitude. This year I forgave myself for not being as talented as Jonathan Franzen, as thin as Jennifer Aniston, or as driven as Hillary Clinton. I forgave myself for not making it to Broadway, and even more for not having the nerve to try or the perseverance to keep on trying. I forgave myself for not writing a bestseller and for not being someone who rushes to the scene of a natural disaster to help with muscle instead of money.

Yom Kippur left me exhausted this year, but somehow lighter. Forgiving oneself is a daunting proposition, but it is a cleansing exercise. All of us with a half a lifetime behind us should grant ourselves a day of reckoning before moving on to greet a new dawn, rife with possibilities for enlightenment and also for screwing up anew.

EARLIER ON HUFF/POST 50:

Loading Slideshow...
  • A Good Friend

    Better yet -- a few: one who makes you laugh, one who listens without judgment and one who challenges you.

  • A Good Book...

    ...always on hand to return to.

  • At Least One Great Love Of Her Life...

    ...and preferably more than one. Letting go of the idea that there is a "one and only" person out there for you is a sign of maturity. By opening your mind and your heart to the possibility -- the reality -- that you can fall in love again, you remove a big obstacle to happiness.

  • A Go-To Purse...

    ...that's never out of style.

  • Great Black Boots...

    ...to go with everything.

  • A Comfortable Bed and Bedding

  • A Good Vibrator

  • A Treasured Hobby

  • A Secret Crush

  • A Regular Exercise Routine...

    ...ideally one that involves friends.

  • At Least One Amazing Travel Experience

  • The Grace To Accept A Compliment

  • A Recognition Of Your Strengths...

    ...and how to use them.

  • A Handle On Your Buttons...

    ...and how to deactivate them.

  • An Appreciation That Gratitude Is The Basis For A Happy Life

  • The Experience To Know That Loving Is An Act Of Giving, Not Receiving

  • The Understanding That Money Is Not Happiness, Power Or Security...

    ...but just a tool to help you get the things you value; and that you can often get many of them without a lot of money.

  • A Love Of Life-Long Learning

    Life ends when your mind shuts down, not when your body fails you.

  • The Smarts Not To Be A Victim

    Self-sufficiency is part of wholeness.

  • The Awareness That The Grass Is NEVER Greener On The Other Side Of The Fence

  • The Ability To Laugh At Yourself...

    ...and with others. A sense of humor is a great tonic for the mind and soul.

  • Fearlessness!

    With decades of experience under your belt, you know how to move forward with courage and confidence.

  • Belief In, And Support Of, A Cause Higher Than Oneself

  • A Quiet, Verdant Place...

    ...to disappear and appreciate Mother Nature.

  • Eight Hours Of Sleep On A Regular Basis!

  • Louise Percy

  • nunimine

  • The Ripe Report

  • "That You Really Didn't Have To Put Up With All That Bs...

    ...and you are perfect just the way you are." --Esther Petrilli-Massey

  • "Hopefully A Wonderful Relationship...

    ...and 'true' self confidence and self esteem." --David M. Logan

  • "All Of The 'Stuff' Doesn't Matter."

    "The big house you wanted...well, as you get older it gets empty. Then you want to downsize and purge the stuff!" --Patti McGee Thompson

  • "Know That Spark Inside That Connects You To What Really Matters."

    "If you let it take the lead, you'll deepen toward more honesty, creativity, meaning, purpose and joy." --Christine Castigliano

  • "Their Own Bank Account"

    --Kathy Abriola

  • "That Beauty Is Not One Size Fits All!"

    --Patricia Crisafulli, Huff Post Blogger

  • "The Ability To Say 'No' Without Guilt."

    --Pam Darville

  • "Successful Adult Children Who Do Not Live At Home."

    --Pam Darville

  • Beth Turnage

  • Lori McCoy

  • Celeste Bateman

  • "An Expensive Piece Of Jewelry That Was Purchased By Herself."

    "A really good sex life with a least one partner (past/present) a knowledege that info. constantly changes and we have to keep moving with it." --Linda

  • "Have The Courage To Stand Up For What You Believe In Without Fear Or Apology."

    --Jennifer

  • "A Relationship With The God Of The Universe."

    --Cheryl Meglio

  • "Reconciliation With 'MOM' Whether She Is Alive Or Deceased."

    --Cathy

  • "What Other People Think Of You Is None Of Your Business!"

    --Irene Dittrich

  • 'Don't Sweat The Small Stuff', Don't 'Spin Your Wheels' Over The Insignificant....

    "The ability to prioritize what is important, will truly impact your life, or has significant negative consequences vs what is just an 'issue' that gets under your skin, or a perceived problem that is more trouble than it truly is worth. We often tend to get wound-up about things that really aren't as important as we think they are. If we stop and think---'Will this truly have a positive or negative effect on my life (or others'), or is it just something that is bugging me and I'm spinning my wheels trying to deal with it?'" --Chris

  • "Her Own Income."

    --Geri Brin

  • "How To Keep Her Heart Healthy."

    --Geri Brin

  • "Having The Confidence To Take Your Own Self Out To Dinner...

    ...when no one is available to go with you." --"Lucy and Ethel"

  • "By 50 A Woman Should Take A No Guilt Day At Home In Her Jammies Whenever She Needs One."

    --jbeebe92

  • "Regularly Scheduled Manicures, Pedicures And Fresh Flower Deliveries."

    --Anne Marshall

 
FOLLOW FIFTY