Like I promised yesterday, we are trading places for this exercise and will now be looking at the people we have hurt. The first few steps of the process are similar to what we already did:
- Begin by making a short list of people you know you have hurt. Some in big ways some in more benign ways. Here too, there could be 3, 5 or up to 10 names on this list. See if you can rank them, putting at the top of the list the person you know you have hurt the most and the others in declining order.
- Take the person at the bottom of the list (whom you have hurt the least).
Write out what happened as factually as possible (without layering your own story or your emotions over it). Remember to write this part like an “incident report” or like a reporter would.
- What was the reason(s) for your hurting that person? What emotion(s) did they bring up in you (i.e. anger, resentment, jealousy, guilt, etc)? Did you act from a place of fear? If you felt threatened, what felt threatened? Here, too, let yourself be as peevish and self-righteous as you need to be. No one else will ever read this but you.
What aspect of what they did, or their way of being, brought up such hurtful reaction from you? What was your opinion of them at the time (i.e. arrogant, loud, obnoxious, dishonest, evil…etc)? Please consider that, perhaps, these qualifiers may be parts of yourself that you dislike or have disown, but that you, sometimes, act out as well.
- How did you benefit from acting in such hurtful ways? What did you gain by reacting this way? What was it about for you: feeling more powerful, asserting your authority, maintaining control?
Remember that this is not about beating yourself up. What happened happened. This is about being aware of, and taking responsibility for our behavior as a first step. Later we will work together on taking appropriate action for healing, and to make things whole again in our life.
I see this exercise as the “applied Al Chet,” the vidui, or confession at the center of our High Holy Days liturgy. Click here for a copy of the Al Chet from our prayer booklet. Feel free to use it as a reading practice for these remaining days, or for inspiration for today’s exercise.
Tomorrow we will talk about “Deciding to Forgive.” I invite you to read again what you wrote yesterday about the person who hurt you. Are you ready to forgive him/her?