Monday, September 8, 2008

Elul 8, 5768

The high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are about T'shuvah -- repentence -- with the attendant promise of renewal and return that true repentance promises.

The medieval philosopher Moses Maimonides wrote that there are three stages of t'shuvah: regret, rejection, and resolution. Today's meditation prompt is from Maimonides' Laws of Repentence 1:1.
"How does one acknowledge sin? One says: I implore you G-d..., Behold, I regret [what I did] and am embarrassed by my deeds. I promise never to repeat this act again."

This does not refer to being embarrassed in front of people -- whether one's family, one's friends, one's coworker -- but embarrassed before God, and before our own inner spark of the divine.
To be embarrassed on has to be aware, to be conscious, to notice error when it occurs. One has to own one's faults.

I have frequently found that it is easier to recognize my past faults, my sins of years gone by, than it is to recognize those of the present moment. But I have been working on this.

Less than rational fears--fears of someone else gaining control over me or my work, of someone else exerting dominance or taking away my ability to make decision, provoke me at times to retaliate or even make preemptive attacks with criticism and complaints.

I am noticing that I am becoming embarrassed (in the sense Maimonides meant) more often and more quickly. Sometimes quickly enough to stay actions that I will regret, but not always. Not always quickly enough to prevent me from sending that rude or critical e-mail, or prevent me from making the hurtful retort, but at least to acknowledge, admit my fault and make amends when possible instead of hanging on (sometimes for years) to my self-justifications and rationalizations.

I read in a blog recently about one family's tradition of "the groundhog" do-over. They got the idea from the movie "Groundhog Day." In this family, when there is something that goes wrong, when someone does something that is unacceptable or offends other family members, and they immediate proclaim a "groundhog" and start over, and do it right. Say, that mom is tired at the end of the work day, and when son comes into the kitchen to inquire about dinner she snaps at him impatiently. Rather than allowing him to slink off hurt, and her to simmer, then regret later what she said, she immediately announces a "groundhog" and has her son replay his entry into the kitchen. Then she greets him the way she feels she should have in the first place. This family discovered that after a while, it became less and less necessary to declare a "groundhog" because they learned to think before speaking and acting and not do or say things that needed amends.

I tried doing a "groundhog" once with my husband, but it seemed awkward and forced -- and I think John thought I was nuts. So instead I'm trying to apply the general principle instead of literally using the technique -- which I think is recognizing and confronting when one has erred, and making amends as soon as possible. I have a long way to go, but I think I'm on the road...

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