January 9, 2020, Israel
We are taught to forgive others. This is difficult, challenging, and something that most people fail it, but it is far more difficult to forgive yourself. Rabbi Kook used to preach that when the Day of Atonement comes and you are commanded to forgive others, you must not forget to include yourself. Part of Atonement is learning to forgive yourself.
Over the years I have been told that I am very harsh on myself, very demanding. I have also been told that I am a control freak and a perfectionist, and that all these qualities, while having positive aspects, are also harming, to myself. We have to learn to let go a little.
Moving up the ranks under the watchful eye of Itay Gil, I was very hard on myself, although I did not realize it, until he himself pointed this out to me. Yes, my instructor had to point out to me that I was too demanding of myself. I was amazed at his keen eye and understanding. He said he watches me and sees that I am always dissatisfied with myself.
I did not know there was any other way.
After every class I would grade myself, a 6, at most on a great night perhaps a 7, often a 5, or less. And yet I reached the highest rank he ever awarded.
So what is the lesson; the lesson is that while we must push ourselves and strive to be the best we can be, at the end of the day we must also forgive ourselves. We must forgive ourselves for the crime of not being perfect. And, no one is perfect.
This lesson took me a long time to learn, I was never a Happy-Go-Lucky kind of child, always the serious one. This lesson now is valuable for my students. I want them to be kind, not only to each other, but also to themselves. To forgive themselves if they are not the most gifted, talented athletes in the world. To forgive themselves if tonight they were a little distracted. To forgive themselves for being imperfect humans.
I want them to be patient with themselves, to allow themselves the time they need to learn the technique, not to judge themselves by how fast someone else learns it. It does not matter how long it takes to learn, it matters only that you learn it, and retain it. Sometimes that which is learned quickly is equally quickly forgotten. Some of the greatest teachers, scholars and athletes that I know were slow learners. Certainly at the early stages when everything is new it may seem overwhelming. It may be frustrating to watch the more advanced students flying through the techniques, but remember they too were once awkward beginners, and you too will one day be as fluid and advanced as they are now.
I recall the first day I walked into the Oyama Kyokushin dojo in New York City. The guys all looked young, tough, flying jump kicks in the air. I looked at them and made myself a promise; I would work so hard that they would be proud of me. That day came, the respect was earned.
It does not matter where you are now, it just matters that you have started, and you are moving forward, one step at a time, and at times a step backwards, it is OK. Be kind to yourself, be patient with yourself, and forgive yourself.
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