It’s a foreign experience, taking stock for the new year. I’ve made it a habit for the past several years to do a year in recap type post somewhere on the internet at the turn of the calendar year, but this year feels different. Perhaps it’s because part of reflecting in the lead up to Yom Kippur is thinking about those you may have wronged, and asking for their forgiveness. Perhaps it’s because it’s easier to reflect on things accomplished and goals to achieve than thinking about yourself as a person, doing a self-inventory and figuring out where you come up short and what you would like to improve in the next year.
My rabbi set me the latter as my task for this season of Elul, and it’s a struggle, honestly. I don’t know how to begin taking an inventory of how I’ve behaved towards others over the past year. Sure, there are small moments where I have caused hurt or pain, sometimes even frustration or anger, but I am someone who hates to have a conflict linger, and so I strive to make amends immediately. The forgiveness has been obtained, but how do I work to prevent the situations that caused the hurt in the first place?
What about striving to be the person I hope to be? Someone who is consistently kind, helpful and caring, someone who does not gossip or “snark,” (a real guilty pleasure of mine), or at least limits how nasty they get in their snark? Sometimes it’s hard not to go overboard when mocking things or people you find to be absolutely ridiculous and beyond the pale, but where do you draw the line?
It’s something I think about constantly, and maybe this should be the one thing I try and work on for myself for the coming year. I do think it is possible to criticize without being mean-spirited, but more than I’d like, I cross that line. After all, though I don’t strictly follow the Jewish laws of lashon hara (evil speech, the laws that govern speaking derogatorily about another), I think they are sound principles to keep in mind. Just because someone puts it all out there on the internet does not mean I have to rise to the temptation to be nasty and mock them as much as I possibly can. At least, that’s what I will try to do. My inventory is a work in progress, but that’s a good starting place.