Yom Kippur starts tonight at sundown, it is the holiest day of the Jewish year – the day of forgiveness. Though I used to dread fasting, I have come to appreciate a day to reflect, reach out, and repair damaged relationships.
The act of seeking forgiveness and the gift of granting it are both incredibly challenging at times. Whichever side of the relationship you are on, the communication can be so rewarding.
When I was a teenager, I had a best friend. She and I were inseparable, we did everything together, and were each other’s closest confidantes. I don’t remember anymore what happened to make me pull away, but I remember feeling so hurt.
After college, we started to become friends again and talked about living together. However, I was tentative. I didn’t trust that she would be the friend I wanted or expected, and I was asking her to jump through hoops to regain my trust and friendship. Her words stick with me to this day. She said, “My other friends don’t make me prove myself to them, they just accept me.”
That was pretty much the end of our story. It always bothered me how things ended and it took years before I realized that she was right. It was unfair of me to make her work to earn my friendship.
I found her on Facebook in 2010 and left this message:
“I have thought about you often and about the fact that I wasn’t a very good friend to you. I am very sorry for that. I would really like to reconnect with you – I have learned how to be a better friend.”
There was no response. She wasn’t very active on Facebook, so I chalked up her lack of response to her never having seen the message. I tried again, sending birthday wishes every year. In 2014, she responded with “So nice of you to remember. Wish you nothing but the best.”
I tried to get a conversation going but to no avail. So when my mother passed, I was stunned to hear her voice on my answering machine. She said she was sorry for my mom’s passing and left her phone number so I could call her back. I was stunned, moved, and excited at the possibility of reconnecting with this friend. I called her, thanked her for reaching out, and before I let her get off the phone, I made my apology, then we made plans to get together.
She canceled the plans. I reached out to reschedule, and she has never got back to me. It’s been a year since then.
I’m realizing that sometimes you can only put out your best effort, acknowledge the pain you’ve caused, state your plans to change or how you’ve changed, and then accept when someone has made the choice that is right for them.
I feel okay knowing I said my piece and apologized, and even got a little closure. I’ve learned through this experience that apologies don’t always get you everything you want but making them can help reinforce behaviors in yourself that you feel good about. And that makes every apology and the seeking of forgiveness worth it, no matter how the other party responds.
Whatever faith you follow, you can borrow a lesson on this day of forgiveness. Reach out to someone you have hurt with your words or deeds. You and they will feel better for it.