Elul is a time for taking stock of the past year- of recognizing all the good that we did, and those areas where we fell short. Perhaps we (I) may have even done some bad, even truly bad stuff, and not just failed to do good, or better. It is all to often to get caught up in all the areas that we fell short, where we feel that growth wasn't made, or even worse, where we went backwards. For me that list might include the following things:
Since Rosh Hashana 5772 I have failed to make noticeable or discernable improvement in the following areas:
Coming closer to Hashem
Being a better Jew
Being a better son
Being a better anything
Not being lazy
Studying the works of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
Focusing more on Emuna and belief in Hashem
The list could go on and on, the point is, we often get stuck in a trap where we focus only on what we failed to do; which is what the Yetzer Hara wants from us. He wants us to focus on where we fell short, not because he wants us to get down on ourselves and feel like a loser. However, that is not what Hashem wants, while Hashem wants us to admit where we failed, and be sad that by failing we brought displeasure to Him, He wants us to use those failures as a springboard to growth. However, we still have to admit where we failed, and often admitting, is both the hardest and the first step to real change. How can we change if we can't even admit to where we went wrong? A list of things that I need to do Teshuva for would include the following items:
Not always putting on Tefillin
Not always davening 3x a day, or even 1x a day!
Not always speaking nicely to my wife
Not always having full Emuna
Not having the best concentration when making a before or after Brocha
Now, while Hashem doesn't want you to feel like a loser, unlike the YH (Yetzer Hara) he does want us to cry at how far we have fallen, and call out to him and say "Daddy I have messed up. I really really want to come home, but I have screwed up so badly that I don't even know the way home. Please help me." After all, a parent really only wants the child to say sorry and admit where he went wrong- at the very least to say sorry!
He also wants us to admit and to realize just all that we got right. This is important to, Rabbi Nachman says we have to recognize the good in everybody, especially ourselves! Some of the things I got right this year include:
Guarding my eyes more (though I admit I have a long way to go on this)
Eating healthier (At times, it is important to celebrate even the small victories, even if you eventually fall, because remembering the small victories will help you get back up again.)
Saying pleasant things to my wife
We do Teshuva for the bad, we thank Hashem for allowing us to do all the good we did, and we keep trying. That is what Elul is all about, getting back up once we have fallen down.