It’s the eseres yemei teshuva right now – the ten days of repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It’s a time that we should be asking for forgiveness from those we wronged and letting go of hate and grudges towards those who wronged us.
There are obviously different levels of hurt that a person can endure, and while the deepest forms can be the hardest to let go of, even lighter offenses often stay with us as being petty and unforgiving is a difficult trait to eradicate in many people.
So I have some advice for you if you’d like to try to improve this year. Pretend the person who wronged you is running for office on the political side you have chosen. Suddenly, his or her shortcomings will be more manageable and easier to excuse.
As a person who is politically moderate (despite aligning more with one party), I constantly see hardliners on both sides of the aisle repeat their party lines. They berate the politicians on the other side as they turn a blind eye to the shortcomings of their leaders. From this I have learned that human beings have the capacity to judge less harshly and forgive more easily.
I believe we are able to do this because we have our eye on the prize. That prize is our political goals coming to fruition, even if our leaders who bring those goals about are less than desirable. (“They’re all dishonest,” we say. “I don’t love him, but it can’t be the other guy,” we conclude. “I’ll vote holding my nose,” we resolve.)
What prize do we need to value in order to give the benefit of the doubt to our friends, family, and acquaintances who wronged us?
“Be among the disciples of Aaron—a lover of peace (ohev shalom) and a pursuer of peace (rodef shalom); a lover of all people, bringing them closer to the Torah.” -Ethics of the Fathers
Of course criminals should be locked up and toxic people should be avoided, so don’t go around making peace with every single person out there. But for the run of the mill not nice interactions we’ve had to put up with, if we made “peace”’our number one goal this year, we could each have such a transformative experience and even change the world. This should be a bi-partisan issue. This should get an overwhelming number of votes.
And then everyone would be a winner.