9/7/15

All Apologies . . .

It is, once again, that "magical" time of year where we Jews start racking our brains for all the stupid, hurtful, malicious, insensitive, and sinful (no - not like a dark, dark chocolate bar with sea salt accents but actually violating of commandments) things that we've done in the year 5775 and start trying to make it right.

Let me back up - for those who don't know - the Jewish High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah / "Head of the Year"and Yom Kippur / "The Day of Atonement/Judgement") are biggest days of our year . . . and they span less than ten total days. The belief is as such . . . at Rosh Hashanah our names are found in the books of the righteous (not very likely, statistically) or the wicked (not very likely, statistically) or we're left somewhere in the middle and we have the span from the end of Rosh Hashanah to the sunset start of Yom Kippur to make things right from the last year and ensure another year of opportunity to become righteous. It is simple and beautiful and important.

So I've been, like a diligent Jew, making an actual list (literally - on paper) of the people I know I need to get in touch with to make things right. And I truly intend to do it. I'm going to call some of the people, I'll be reaching out, by text or email to ask for an in-person conversation with some people and, for others, I'll be simply emailing my sincere apologies and hoping they will respond.

I'm taking a tiered approach for a reason. I know, first and foremost, that these things are awkward and uncomfortable and I know there are obstacles (some are geographic, some are maybe people not being ready to hear from me or talk something through, some are people that I don't know the best way to approach to have an honest conversation). NONE of my tepid outreach is, in any way, a minimization of that person, the harm(s) I feel I've done them, or how much I want to make it right. If I didn't want to put real energy in to it - I wouldn't bother at all.

But for all 17 people currently on the list (there are others likely to emerge) I am ready to apologize and ask for forgiveness. But there is a catch to this . . . I've lived pretty well this last year (5775 - going back to last September) and most of my ducks are in a proverbial row but the year before that . . . before I was converted and my life was back on track . . . I lived "out loud" and hurt some good people along the way. So I'll be taking some liberties to try and make things whole with those people, too.

So how am I going about this? There are, I figure, four basic elements to a good apology:

  1. Is the incident truly over - Is it time to start healing and repairing and whatever?
  2. Am I ready to apologize and face my part in the blame/responsibility/outcome?
  3. Can I clearly articulate what I'm sorry for without making it about me or my woes?
  4. Do I know what I want to get out of the apology (forgiveness, another chance, my favorite sweater back)? 
For all the people on my list - I can answer all four and I believe that I can get forgiveness from almost all of them. Certainly everyone has a different take on it and my own approach and want/need to do it are not entirely in line with my faith or the scholars of it. Here's a terrific podcast from Tablet Magazine (with my mental/writer/good Jew crush Marjorie Ingall - and her five part apology process - included) on the subject of laying out a good apology and how to approach the subject and how Jewish text and custom instructs:




In the meantime (and probably for the time it took you to listen to that - or not) I'll keep working on my list AND trying to get a jump start on the apologies and how to best handle them the right way. I can do my homework and I can apologize but I cannot force the person to accept my apology nor, more importantly, give me their forgiveness. I need to allow time for them to process and - hopefully - be given enough time to move forward.