Inner peace, the feeling of deep tranquility, is often sought after, yet seldom achieved. At the core of inner peace is acceptance: accepting ourselves and the life our Creator has given us. We achieve acceptance by making peace with ourselves over past mistakes and by making peace with our Creator over life’s challenges. After we have made peace with the way life has unfolded on the outside, we can find peace on the inside.
Making Peace With Ourselves
Forgiving and accepting ourselves is challenging. Yet, when we berate and harshly criticize ourselves, we do more harm than good. If we view ourselves as worthless and bad, that is how we will act. The more compassionate and accepting we are of ourselves, the more we can be of others.
Do damage control: Before attempting to make peace with yourself for a mistake – whether as minor as burning dinner or as major as getting scammed – first take responsibility for the error and repair the damage as best you can. Depending on the situation, see if you have to first ask for forgiveness from others and/or from G-d.
Reflect: Consider what you have learned from the experience and the changes you will make to prevent, as best you can, a recurrence; you may want to write these down. Once you have done so, see if you can let go of the blame or guilt you feel about the event.
What if you cannot let go?
Acknowledge G-d is guiding your life: Unless you willfully did what you knew was wrong or negligent, your mistakes come from G-d for your highest good; nothing, not even our errors, happens without His permission. What you thought was a mistake was just one step along a path leading to where you need to go. Mistakes are how we learn and grow. If we want to succeed, we must be willing to make mistakes.
Embrace your imperfections: Who gave you your flaws? Who made you prone to error? G-d. We need to accept the way He created us – which is the optimal setup to fulfill our life’s purpose – and to know that no one is perfect, we all have challenges. Ask, “At the time of the incident, was I doing the best I could in a difficult situation? Am I certain that if others where in my position they would have done any better?”
Treat yourself as you would others: Frequently, we are harder on ourselves than on others. We may overlook a wrong someone else has done, but we consider our mistakes unforgivable. Don’t we deserve the same compassion and acceptance? After repenting, G-d forgives us; shouldn’t we forgive ourselves?
Forgive: When you are ready, look in the mirror, think about the mistake you made and say out loud, “I forgive myself.”
Making Peace With G-d
When life does not go the way we expect – especially when we experience physical, financial or emotional pain – we may feel that we have been treated unfairly by our Creator. We may even be bitter, resentful and angry. How do we handle such strong emotions? How can we become more accepting of the life our Creator has given us?
Express your pain: Nothing is wrong with respectfully questioning G-d. Throughout Psalms, G-d is asked why, at times, He is silent and appears to have abandoned us (Psalm 13, for example). We need to express our hurt to Him. We need to ask Him to reveal His sometimes hidden love. At the same time, we need to realize that G-d never promised a pain-free life – that is not the purpose of this world. Although everything G-d does comes from His love for us and is for our eternal benefit, we do not understand the mystery of His ways. He is, after all, infinitely wise and we are not.
Expand your perspective: We can learn to be appreciative of the blessings G-d has given us, now, and throughout our lives. When we do, we will view the times we did not see His guiding hand in context with all the times He was clearly present, providing and protecting us. The periods of our lives marked by dark clouds do not reflect a change in His involvement, just a change in our ability to perceive His providence.
Accept unconditionally: The aspects of our lives we like – the gifts – and those we do not like – the challenges – both come from our Creator; they mesh and form a unified whole. As Job said (Job 2:10), “Shall we accept the good from G-d and not accept the bad?”
In order to fully tap into our gifts, we need to accept our challenges. Struggles open us up and allow us to discover and use our inner gifts; the more intense our struggles, the more intense the gifts waiting to be uncovered.
Weave your unique tapestry: In truth, everything is a gift, some sugar-coated, others very bitter. G-d gives us the strands we require to fulfill our life’s purpose; we need to weave them together, the sweet and the bitter, into an exquisite tapestry that only we can make. If one strand was prematurely removed or absent, our life’s work would be deficient. At the end of our lives, we will present our handiwork to our Father in Heaven, with the hope that we have made our Father proud.
Reveal your inner sweetness: Sometimes, we call out to G-d in pain and ask, “Why? Why this suffering?” In the Next World we will understand. For now, a metaphor can give us some clarity. Only when an orange is squeezed does incredible sweetness pour out. Within each one of us, emanating from deep within our souls, is incredible sweetness. When life is difficult – when you are squeezed and “hugged” by G-d – let your soul burst forth, returning His embrace, with an outpouring of heartfelt faith, sincere repentance, fervent prayer, and selfless acts of kindness. When G-d hugs you, hug Him back. When you hug G-d, out pours from the Heavens healing and blessing; not always when we want or in the way we want, but always when and what we need.
Pray: When you are ready, say to your Creator, “I know my suffering and difficulties come from You; they are out of Your endless love for me and for my ultimate good. I know You are all-powerful and infinitely wise and that I cannot understand Your ways. Help me accept, grow from and transcend my challenges.”
Discovering Inner Peace
You have an oasis of peace inside. Your ability to discover the peace within, through unconditional acceptance, is rooted in your belief that G-d is guiding your life; every aspect of your life comes from your Creator for your eternal benefit. He is with you at all times, protecting and strengthening you, giving you exactly what you need for each moment. With faith comes the awareness that nothing bad will happen to you, ever. Painful events? Definitely, but always for your highest good. You realize that come what may, “G-d is with me, I have no fear…(Psalms 118:6)”
While making reasonable efforts to improve your life, rely on your Creator to take care of you. Let go of worry, let go of fear, and relax into your Father’s support.
For further discussion on faith, acceptance and how to come closer to G-d, please see Yaakov’s blog,yaakovweiland.blogspot.com.
Yaakov Weiland has an MSW from Fordham School of Social Service and lives in New York City. He has been published in The Jewish Press, Arutz-7 and Aish.com. To read his other articles, please visit yaakovweiland.blogspot.com.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.