Somehow, I am surprised every year by the arrival of Yom Kippur. God knows why, since every year it comes 10 days after Rosh Hashanah. When I finally do accept that Yom Kippur is fast approaching, I think about the people I may have hurt in the past year. My mind turns back to the instances I’ve wronged someone, the ways I’ve failed others, the opportunities I’ve missed to be there for friends and family.

But mostly, what I think about in the 48 hours before Yom Kippur, and in the 363 days that don’t lead up to Yom Kippur, are the small mistakes I’ve made throughout the year that don’t really hurt anyone. I think about leaving my car in the parking garage and taking my keys with me, only realizing an hour later that I still have them. I think about the typo in the last blog post I wrote and the fact that there was no way to fix it in time. I think about buying my son the wrong size sweater and throwing away the receipt so it cannot be returned. I think about the forms that need to be filled out that are still sitting on my desk. I think of all the ways I’ve screwed up and I think about how it takes me so long to let go of those failings.

For the record, I think I do a pretty good job of living the values of communal responsibility and respect for human decency. I work hard to be mindful of others, not to jump to judgment or at least act on my judgments. I try to be compassionate and give those around me the benefit of the doubt that their intentions were good, even if their actions were not. So why can I turn that compassion on others and not on myself? Why don’t I deserve the same understanding that I offer others? While I don’t feel that I have truckloads for which to repent in the ways I’ve treated others, I do feel like I could use a lot of help forgiving myself for small ways I’ve messed up in daily life.

This Yom Kippur, I am certainly going to repent for any wrongs I have committed against others, wiping the slate clean for the new year. And for that Judaism provides many road maps. But for the first time, I am also going to offer myself something that doesn’t truly exist in the Yom Kippur prayers: absolution for the sins I have committed against myself. I will work towards forgiveness for the mistakes I have made that don’t really hurt anyone else, but of which I cannot seem to let go. This year, several times throughout the day of fasting, I am going to ask and answer my own call for forgiveness.

  • For the sin of mulling over small mistakes
  • For the sin of obsessing over minor failings
  • For the sin of carrying unnecessary burdens
  • For the sin of holding myself to unrealistic expectations

For all these, I will pardon myself, forgive myself, atone for myself.

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