When feelings are hurt and emotions run high, it’s often hard to forgive – or ask for forgiveness. Often we don’t even pause to reflect on how our actions affect one another or take the time to formally apologize. But during Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday last week, we reflected on our wrongdoings over the past year, asked for forgiveness and began a new year committed to being better mothers and daughters. This week we talk about that experience:
Jenna has hurt me over the years more with her words than actions – a sarcastic comment, a criticism, a snub or even the silent treatment. While these sting at first, the pain goes away quickly and most of the time, I silently and almost subconsciously forgive her. I am not one to retaliate or hold grudges. It’s easy to forgive Jenna because I love her and our relationship is everlasting. I know that there will be times that we fight or get on each other’s nerves, but we will get past those dips and find the good in each other and our relationship again.
Because I have become more confident in Jenna’s love and respect, I will occasionally tell her when she’s hurt me and this helps. If I can express my feelings and better yet – if she says she’s sorry – all in the world is good again. This wasn’t always the case: During Jenna’s teenage years, I didn’t feel that I could point out times when she hurt me because I wanted to avoid conflict that might push us apart even more. I harbored my motherly pain in silence. In retrospect, I probably should have pointed things out more so that she could learn to be more sensitive.
I’ve always been quick to ask Jenna for forgiveness if I feel I’ve done or said something hurtful, even when she was little. I don’t let my ego get in the way of saying “I’m sorry.” And now, being an introspective adult, Jenna often realizes when she’s done something hurtful and will apologize.
Last week, as Yom Kippur drew to a close, I looked into Jenna’s eyes and asked for blanket forgiveness for anything I might have done or said over the past year that was detrimental. She gave me such a loving smile and we hugged. Then she asked me for the same. It was really quite beautiful.
When I reflect back on the biggest fights my mom and I have had over the years, I think they were most painful because we let our own emotions get the best of us. Rather than listening to the other person’s feelings, validating their emotions and potentially apologizing, we would feel personally attacked and fight back with harsher words. This pattern only caused more anger and hurt, ultimately taking us further away from a place were we could calm down and apologize for any pain that we caused each other.
But lucky for us, one of these major fights has not happened in a really long time. We have both spent a lot of time trying to understand each other’s perspectives and how to better respond to avoid hurt feelings. I have been trying to be more open and honest about how I’m feeling to avoid taking out my stress or bad moods on my mom; my mom has been trying to be a better listener and not interpret my comments as personal attacks.
Still, we are not perfect and we do still hurt each other from time to time. For example, when my mom has more time on her hands, she tends to flood my e-mail inbox with interesting articles, new ideas, random questions, and to-do lists. While all these messages are sent out of love, I get frustrated when I am busy and don’t have time to read them. One day I was very stressed and already a bit frustrated by my mom’s inundation of e-mails when she simply called to say hello; I quickly snapped at her and asked that she give me more space. I could immediately hear the sadness in her voice and recognized that I was way out of line.
A few years ago, I would have just let the conversation end and allow time to pass before our next conversation to cool off. This time, I immediately called her back profusely apologizing: I felt awful that I had taken out my stress on my mom. It felt really good to ask for forgiveness rather than letting the incident go. When I was younger, I definitely had more ego and always wanted to be right. But now when I stray from being the daughter (or person) I want to be, I am much more willing to admit when I’m wrong and actually say the words “I’m sorry.”
It’s exciting to see growth within myself and my relationship with my mom. This Yom Kippur was different because, while we both acknowledged our wrongdoings to each other, we also recognized how far we have come since last year. Regardless, I’m sure there are times where we hurt each other without even knowing it, which makes blanket forgiveness even more special. It doesn’t really matter if I was right or wrong in the moment – I appreciate this holiday for giving me the opportunity to ask for forgiveness and make sure my mom knows that I never have the intention of hurting her.