Monday, October 10, 2022
We all make mistakes. We have all made mistakes that have inadvertently or thoughtlessly hurt others and ourselves. In this season of atonement (Yom Kippur was on Wednesday), we are supposed to confess our misdeeds, ask for forgiveness, and most importantly forgive those who have apologized to us. Forgiveness is a power we all have, but unlike some other super-powers (like laser eyes and Hulk-like strength), it is one we should never use sparingly.
I spend a lot of time telling students to give themselves a little grace. I am guessing we have all told students that they need to stop beating themselves up over the circumstances (or actions-or omissions) that led them to academic distress. Owning whatever the issue was is a great first step but dwelling in the shame of it is not a productive way to achieve success. That being said, I also think that students who do not own their role in getting into academic distress--people who blame the professor, the administration, or anything else without taking on some of the accountability--are less likely, in my experience, to turn things around. We can only change what we control-and if the circumstances that led to academic distress are out of their control, they cannot plan to do better.
One of my favorite traditions of Yom Kippur is something called tashlich where we symbolically cast our transgressions of the past year (in the form of bread) into a body of water (for my family, the Muddy River in Boston). I always joke that our local geese are extremely cranky from having eaten all those sins. It is an exercise in physically controlling our errors and then not letting them take up space in our lives anymore. Does it mean that throwing bread into a river will change your life if you’ve, let’s say, committed murder? Absolutely not. But it does let you give yourself some grace from smaller errors-even where the person who was affected has not used their super-powers to forgive you.
To that end, I will throw my breadcrumbs of misdeeds out to you all and ask for forgiveness. And I will also engage my super-power to forgive others, even those who have not asked for it. I cannot control how others have behaved, but I can control whether or not I let it live in my head, so consider my forgiveness an eviction notice.
 I will also always answer the question of how my holidays were with, “Sho-far, sho-good.” You’ve been warned.