On Friday Jews around the world will confess their sins. One of the central prayers of the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) worship service is Ashamnu, which means "We have sinned." The prayer consists of 24 lines describing sins we have committed.
I have no problem with confessing. We need to look honestly at ourselves. But my experience as a parent and a human being tells me that positive reinforcement often works better than negative condemnation. Why not highlight what we did right in addition to what we did wrong?
The following, then, is a prayer acknowledging the good we have this past year. If we haven't done all of them, let it inspire us in the year ahead.
God, we are not so arrogant as to pretend we are perfect. Yet, we have tried to live our best. We have tried to change. We acknowledge, then, the times we have sought to live with ethics, faith and love:
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The times we let new people into our lives.
The times we forgave.
The times we spoke honestly when fudging the truth would have made us look better.
The times we shared what we had with those who needed it.
The times we gave without having to be asked.
The times we did what was right instead of what was easy.
The times we refused to gossip.
The times we listened without judging.
The times we cared for God's creation.
The times we let others take credit.
The times we let go of our anger.
The times we did not give up.
The times we opened doors instead of closing them.
The times we did not separate ourselves from the community.
The times we did not hide from ourselves.
The times we spoke words of kindness.
The times we spoke words of justice.
The times we brought peace to our home.
The times we apologized--and meant it.
The times we lived for something larger than ourselves.