What does all of this have to do with teshuvah? True humbleness and self-dignity are keys to a certain pathway to teshuvah. I would like to share with you a way to return Hashem and do a complete teshuvah – but I warn you that it is deeply emotional and requires you to believe you are special and deserve a complete relationship with Hashem.
There are five steps to this teshuvah process – change is not easy, but it can be exciting and rewarding – and life changing.
1. The first step is to set aside time for just YOU and Hashem. Turn off your phone, leave your computer, get a babysitter and take a walk or go for a drive – ALONE. Take time away from everyone (this takes humbleness and self-dignity). Be sure to take a pen, paper and tissues with you — you will need it.
2. Divide your paper into three columns. Column one — what I did right this year, column two — what I did wrong this year, column three — what I want to change this year. Look deep and honestly inside yourself and be sure to write things in each column. Often we struggle with the same issues year after year and this is a way to change that. While you write, talk to Hashem about your list. Be proud of what you have done right and ask for help with the things you want to change. This list making and conversation takes time and privacy — give it to yourself — you deserve it.
3. Charata (remorse) – Talk to Hashem and write how you feel about what you have done wrong. If you feel sad about your aveiros — say so. If you feel guilty — say so. If you feel shame, embarrassed, frustrated — say so. So often our well-meaning teshuva doesn’t seem to last because we haven’t faced our feelings honestly. Don’t be afraid to tell Hashem how sorry you are; don’t be afraid to take responsibility for what you have done wrong. Don’t blame others or make excuses. Review this real charata every month — so it will last. Then move forward in your relationship with Hashem and yourself.
4. Work every day to remember how much Hashem loves us and how much He wants us to love ourselves. Write down 10-20 positive affirmations about yourself. This is hard and you may feel silly, awkward or uncomfortable doing this. Teshuva and growth are not always comfortable, however, acknowledging the positive attributed we have will keep us from doing those things which we know are wrong. Review these affirmations every day (it is helpful to do right after davening Shacharis).
5. Make a choice to turn aveiros into mitzvos. Look at the specific issues you listed in your “want to change” column and turn those challenges into mitzvos. For example, if you have trouble remembering to make brachos, pick a specific bracha to concentrate on. If you are having trouble with shalom bayis, commit to complimenting and being positive with your spouse. Be as specific as possible — that is a key to real change. Don’t take on more than you can. Teshuvah is a journey we need to travel on slowly.
Teshuvah is the ability to have enough self-respect and love for Hashem and the Torah to leave behind what is wrong and move to an emotional and spiritual place where we like who we are, where we know Hashem is proud of who we are becoming, and where we do more of what we know is right.
The most famous acronym for Elul is Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li. The two beloveds are Hashem and Bnai Yisroel. I contend that another interpretation is that the two beloveds are us and ourselves. Aveiros pull us apart — Teshuvah brings us together. May this be a year of growth and kindness to ourselves and others, and may we each reach a state of complete teshuvah, feeling positive and proud of who we are and our relationship with Hashem.
Rachel Pill is a therapist in private practice in the Five Towns. She can be reached at Rachelcsw@aol.com.