This post is part of the #blogelul project started by the inimitable Ima On (and off) the Bima. I am using it as my motivation to rejuvenate this site and get myself back into the swing of things.
A friend once confided in me, that if you want to stop a bad habit, tell everyone. If you want to start a good habit, don’t tell anyone.
His theory was that we tend to do the opposite, telling everyone that we’ve taken up jogging or a healthy diet, or yoga. And when, because new habits are difficult and consistency is one of the most difficult aspects, we miss the mark we fear the disappointment other people will have for us. Even if their standards are too high. Even if we got 6 out of 10.
Meanwhile, when we attempt to stop a bad habit (but tell nobody, because do I really want to broadcast my bad habits in the first place), we lose out on the moral support (or positive peer pressure) that could get us back on track after the inevitable lapses.
My point is that change is hard, no matter what strategy you adopt. To expect anything different is to set yourself up for failure.
Teshuvah is no different. However, a thought from Rabbi Moshe Adler (http://www.bethelheights.org/rabbi.php) sticks with me. He teaches that Teshuvah means “to return”, meaning to return to God. But we can feel like we’ve strayed so far that the distance to return can be daunting, and it keeps us from making the effort. But, he says, Teshuvah doesn’t work like that. As we travel on our path away, God is quietly walking behind us. All we need to do is turn and God will be right there. The act of return – of teshuvah – is simply the act of turning around and taking the first step.
There are just nine days left in the month of Elul. Nine days to look inward. And when we find what must be changed, we need to know in advance that it will be hard, but that God is right there, waiting for us to turn around and find Him.