#BlogElul 4 – Understand

BlogElul graphicWe think we understand things, but very often we are wrong. Reality is like the skins of an onion, there are always more layers underneath.

Physical scientists understand this, they make models and theories but never (if they are wise) expect them to be perfect descriptions and explanations of what is really going on. The expectation is that our understanding is limited, and that this is the best we can do right now. You never know when some new evidence will completely challenge our understanding and take us to a deeper level.

The same is true of emotional understanding, the kind that we need in order to prepare ourselves for the High Holy Days. We tell ourselves stories about ourselves and others, and we believe that they are true, and that we understand the situation.

But the emotional onion has many, many skins, and not all of them are based in reality. Sometimes when we ask ourselves those hard questions, we find that we have been choosing stories that cause us pain. It is OK to understand this, and to peel off that layer of the onion, and move on. Even if it just means that we choose a new story to explain what we see – we might think that a person is doing something to hurt us, but in reality, they are not thinking about us at all. They are doing things for their own reasons, because of their own issues. How much less painful is it to have compassion for a self-destructive person, than to be full of hurt and anger?

In the days leading up to the High Holy Days, and in particular to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, we are expected to make right all the wrongs that we have committed in the past year, to the best of our ability. Often it is very hard to apologise, and even harder to accept an apology. Hardest of all is to forgive where there is no apology.

But if we can work on our understanding, on our compassion for everyone’s many layers of the emotional onion, we can set ourselves free to forgive and to love.

Truly, isn’t that the best gift we could give ourselves? What do you think?

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