The most common answer from kids to Who Did This?!? is Not Me! It doesn’t change much as we grow up.
We’re quick to put distance from our flaws and failings, especially once they’ve been discovered. We try hard to be noticed for achievements, but are often surprisingly shy to accept praise, even when it’s well-deserved. Such a strange mix of seeking on the one hand, and hiding on the other.
Who did this? Not me. Ummm……., Yup, me.
We need to take credit for the good we do, and responsibility for the not-so-good. It turns out better in the end. Dodging rarely does, as politics often proves: It’s not the misdeed that screws you, but the cover up.
This week’s reading, the first of Leviticus (a book primarily about laws and rules) is about what to do after we’ve done wrong. Atonement rituals, specifically sacrifices, for spiritual transgressions, bad actions, and sins real or even merely possible.
Lots of places to set the bar. And many bendy, twisty things to do once you get there. I’m a metaphorist, so words are as real to me as offering up critters or grain. I’m hoping sincerity counts on the scales of justice, as well as literal sacrifice.
Regardless of form, it’s useful and healing to have atonement rituals. You might get there by truly saying Sorry, by making a peace offering, or by sacrificing in measure and kind, or with your time and energy. All to wipe the slate clean, or at least cleaner.
The first step is simple and necessary: taking responsibility for your words and deeds. First to yourself–in whatever squeaky voice of conscience you use. And then to whomever you’ve wronged. Even when it stings, it feels good to raise your hand and say Yes, me. And then to do what needs to be done.
We know we’ll feel better on the other side. So why’re we so slow to raise our hands?
I think because we’re used to hugging the midline. Dodging blame even when it’s due, and ducking praise even when it’s well-earned. We may feel guilty for saying Not me when we need to. So when we’re appreciated, we’re more modest than we should be.
That’s how karma accretes. Like a snowball getting bigger as it rolls downhill, the layers that shield our holy self grow each time we don’t step up. Jewish mysticism calls these layers klipot. Think of them as husks or veils. Coverings that conceal your inner holy spark. Every time you do anything less than be your highest and best self, you add more klipot to your holiness.
These rituals help thin those layers. They’re meant to happen soon after we blow it, not to wait for the annual fall confessional, when we core dump all our sins. Don’t wait; step up now.
There are wonderful website and postcard projects where people can take their darkest secrets and toss them overboard with anonymous confessions. Not as direct as an apology, but a good first step in saying Yes, me.
However big or small your sins, imagine how much lighter you’d feel if you did that. How much brighter would your holy spark shine? How much happier would you be?
Good words to ponder, Helen. Thanks so much.