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The Pre-Rosh Hashanah Apology: Think First!

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"Nothing can bring you peace but yourself." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

An apology seldom puts the kibosh on unsettling feelings, whether they stem from anxiety, guilt or anger. Often we look for absolution when we apologize so we can "move on" and feel positively about ourselves once again. During this time of the Jewish month, we are considering and reflecting on how we may have hurt others. However, before we utter an apology, we have to consider whether we genuinely wish to bring peace to the other person (who we feel we may have wronged) through our words or bring peace of mind to ourselves.

Realistically, an outside source can't wipe the slate clean for you. As a Jew, I happen to love the concept of the Catholic confession in confessional booth, and I really wish we had such a thing, but even a priest will tell you that it is not a total panacea. Forgiveness ultimately comes from within. It takes the ability to dismiss the past and immerse yourself in the present combined with the passage of time to shed shame. Shame is difficult to live with, especially in a case where you know you've done something highly regrettable. But don't worsen your shame by apologizing when the word "sorry" is wasted; really consider what the other side wants to hear first. Is an apology appropriate or is it being uttered for your own personal gain?

Trust your intuition when you sense that an apology is not going to cut it, when it will be scoffed at, when it will seem insincere or just not big enough to fit the crime. Then start forgiving yourself by beginning with a list of goals for your new life starting tomorrow. And when you create that list, focus on the things you can do for others. Begin with your immediate family and close friends who you may have neglected during a period of self-absorption. Rumination has gotten you nowhere except in circles like a hamster on a treadmill.

Forgive yourself.

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