Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Call Me, Tweet Me: After an apology, forgive and let go

Published: September 21, 2012
Section: Featured, Opinions

As the High Holy Days come to a close with Yom Kippur, the Jewish community’s focus turns to making amends for wrongs we have committed in the past year.

We are commanded to ask forgiveness. During services we chant prayers like Al Cheit, a list of mistakes we have made, whether “under duress and willingly,” “through having a hard heart,” “through immorality,” or for any other reason.

Our focus differs from Catholicism’s, in which practitioners confess individual sins to their priest and receive penance from God weekly. While we publicly beg forgiveness from God during the services of Yom Kippur, the focus remains on apologies made directly to the person or group we’ve hurt—apologies that actually affect our relationships.

Ten days before Yom Kippur, we observe Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. One tradition of the holy day is Tashlich, in which we recall Micah 7:19, which reads that God will “cast [our] sins into the bottom of the sea.” Using bread crumbs or slips of paper, we symbolically cast our own sins into a body of natural, flowing water, relieving ourselves of our burden and reminding ourselves to atone for our transgressions.

While it is certainly beneficial to cast-off the indiscretions we ourselves have committed through apology and repentance, we must equally be able to cast-off the negativity placed on us by those who have hurt us.

After a dispute that ends a relationship, no matter how serious or lasting the connection, we are left with a profound sense of loss, both for the person we’ve lost and for that person’s potential to affect our lives. We have no way of knowing who could have become a life partner or a lifelong friend, had there been no fight.

Depending on the dispute, and from which side we face it, we might feel betrayal, disappointment, regret and countless other emotions, but we will always feel just a little bit of heartache that will remain with us until we are able to let it go and move on.

One of the hardest emotions we must cope with is hope. Hope that they might change; hope that we might be able to move forward; hope that we still mean as much to them as they always have to us. To wait endlessly for proof of love is truly devastating.

Often, whether the cause of the dispute was intended or inadvertent, the person at fault also feels this pain. Unless the conflict was caused with the goal of ending the relationship, the person at fault has lost someone they likely cared about, and might one day apologize.

While a study published by “Psychological Science” showed that apologies are much less effective in soothing tensions than they are perceived to be, they remain an effective part in restoring peace between two parties.

Upon apologizing, the guilty party may be hoping their “victim” will feel the social pressure to accept the apology and move on, but in extreme cases it is, of course, much more complicated.

When we are on the receiving end, we are faced with several choices. Do we accept the apology? Do we remain friends? Do we let the incident change our relationship in any way? Do we let ourselves once again trust the offender? Do we know that we’d be better off without them in our lives?

Of course, the offender could have ulterior motives or be manipulating you for their own benefit. If someone, however, extends an olive branch and they are genuinely apologetic, you have nothing to lose by taking it. Recognizing and acknowledging their mistake or faux pas does not make you weak.

When someone breaks your heart, platonically or romantically, the best thing you can do for yourself is forgive that someone. You don’t have to advertise your forgiveness, and you don’t even have to tell the person who hurt you. At that point, you deserve to be completely selfish. By letting go of that pain, you open yourself up to new experiences and happiness without focusing on the past.

This Yom Kippur season, search yourself for wrongs you may have committed. No matter how small the transgression, it’s never too late to apologize to someone you care about. If someone you care about has hurt you, forgive, forget and let go for the sake of your own peace of mind.