A friend of mine felt insulted by a comment I had made. Although the comment wasn't intended to be hurtful, was not said in anger, and was open to various interpretations, she felt slighted nonetheless. Over the course of the next two years, I apologized three times, including once in a formal letter. Finally she forgave me, acknowledging "At least you feel bad about it." But the friendship was over. In her mind, what I had done was unforgivable.
Since that friendship ended, I have decided that there is very little place in my life for unforgivable, especially among friends, and extra-specially among family. Most hurts, misunderstandings, and even hurtful acts can and should be forgiven. We grow, they grow, and we chalk it up to life experience. In this way, allowing for mistakes and imperfections, I have found that relationships can grow and flourish for years.
Most hurts can be forgiven I wasn't always like this. In fact, I suspect that once upon a time, I was very much like my friend. I was easily hurt, and I guarded my hurt tightly. The world was populated by people who could have and should have known better. I have had to learn how to push myself to say "I was hurt by what you said." Most of the time, the other party responds, "I had no idea. I am sorry." Or sometimes with the response, "Well I was hurt by something you said/did as well."
What pushed me to change, to learn how to forgive and move on, was a growing awareness that I, too, am imperfect. Perhaps once upon a time, I honestly expected to achieve perfection by age thirty. Now thirty has come and gone, and the elusive self-perfection that seemed just around the corner has faded into the distant horizon.
Now I am as old as my parents were when, as a teenager, I judged them so harshly, and expected them to be much more together than I am now. I am aware that one day my own kids will come to me with a list of my transgressions, and at that time I hope they will find my failings forgivable.
Yet how can I expect to be forgiven if I have not extended the same grace to others, if I have not demonstrated with my daily behavior that we can treasure our relationships despite their imperfections?
The Omer period is especially suited to the emotional stock-taking and spiritual stretching that long-term relationships require. Although the Jewish people were on the lowest level of spiritual imperfection, the long-standing relationship that Yah had established with our forefathers meant that Yah still found us worthy of redemption and forgiveness, and allowed us to develop a special relationship with Him through receiving the Torah.
Yah still found us worthy of redemption and forgiveness Sometimes it is hard for me to forgive someone when I recognize that she will probably make the same mistake again, and maybe in the same way, despite her best intentions. At that time, I find it helpful to remind myself that shortly after the Jewish people stood on Mount Sinai and received the Torah, we messed up and almost destroyed our new found spiritual connection with Yah. At that time, when unexpected setbacks delayed Moses from returning, it was the very same Jews who accepted the Torah and promised to keep it faithfully that immediately regressed to idolatry.
And Yah forgave them. Yah forgave us. If they worshipped a golden calf shortly after receiving the Torah, and Yah forgave them, then I can also forgive people. After all, that was pretty big, and Yah let it go, so I can let things go as well.
The problem is: how do you get there? How do you learn how to forgive when it is not an intrinsic part of your personality, and not just say 'that's Yah, not me'?
That's where counting the Omer comes in. Every day we count one day. We acknowledge that today, we are a little better than we were yesterday. A little more loving. A little more humble. Today I can be a little more forgiving, a little more understanding. I can acknowledge that even when people should have known, they didn't, or they felt pressured, or they just made a mistake.
For a long time, I hoped that my friend would forgive me if I just apologized again, or said things differently. But then, after awhile, I realized that it wasn't about me anymore. By that point, it was about her holding on to something that should have blown over a long time ago.
That experience taught me that forgiving isn't about the forgiven. It is about the forgiver. By forgiving, I move up the spiritual ladder. I climb up another rung.
These days, I don't expect to reach the top of the ladder. Perfection is somewhere up there in the clouds. But I can expect to keep climbing, and I can expect the Omer period to remind me to keep moving forward.
Each of these achievements deserves it own blessing The Omer teaches us that it is not okay to remain in the same place we were yesterday. When we count the Omer, we make a blessing on that day's count, which reflects the singular spiritual achievement of that individual day.
Unfortunately, many things in life are looked at only in their entirety, in terms of their completion. Little, if any, credit is given for the process, the journey. We don't look at how many days someone spent in the college library. We look at whether or not they received a degree. We don't look at how many buses or trains someone took to work, we look at whether they got there on time, whether they made it before the bell rang.
Yet the Omer teaches us to look at things differently. Did we move forward today? Did we come closer to our goal? Did we hold out a little longer before we blew our cool? Each of these achievements deserves its own place in our consciousness and awareness. Each deserves it own blessing.
Recognizing that I am growing, I can recognize the growth of those around me. I can smile. I can apologize. And I can also forgive.