Monday, September 7, 2020
Eighteenth Day of Elul 5780
We have now put together all the pieces of a good apology: a statement of what we did wrong, an expression of genuine remorse, and an offer to make amends. There is one more important step to make t’shuvah for your mistake or the hurt you caused someone. You have to make a long-term change in your behavior.
The Rambam, the great Jewish philosopher and legal authority of the 12th century, put it this way: “T’shuvah is completed when an opportunity to commit your original transgression again arises but you do not commit it and, instead, you commit not to do it” (Hilchot T’shuvah 2:1).
We can feel good about ourselves once we have said, “I’m sorry,” but that does not end the process. Hearing someone say, “I accept your apology,” should make us feel that we have taken a positive step, but we still have more work to do. We have to make sure that we have made a long-term change in our behavior so that we won’t keep making the same mistake over and over again. T’shuvah is about becoming a better person in large ways and in small ways – not just for a moment, but for good. It’s something we should always be working on.
We remind ourselves throughout the process of t’shuvah that our goal is not to become perfect. There is no such thing as perfect where human beings are concerned. Our goal is to be striving to become better and to appreciate the sense of meaning and purpose that we get from making that effort.
Practice for this day:
Think of a bad habit you have had in the past which you have managed to change. It can be something relatively small, like being late for appointments or leaving dirty dishes in the sink. What made you change that habit? What feelings do you associate with making that change? How do your reflections on that change affect your feelings about the changes you want to make now? Does it make change seem less daunting?