What is the first mistake you ever made?
For this blog post I tried to think of the earliest memory I have of making a mistake. It was nearly impossible and not because I never made mistakes. Being the runt of my siblings made me not only the most annoying of the three, but also the most likely to piss my brother off. Still, today I couldn’t remember the bloopers of my childhood, those mistakes were just too minimal to register. Don’t you just wish you could go back in time to when the biggest mistake you ever made was recording over your sister’s favorite 90s mix-tape?
The memories that screamed out at me the loudest were those epic fails from my teenage years and the others that ensued. See, it seems the older we get the larger our mistakes become. They’re etched in our minds and hearts and seem as though they will scar us indefinitely. In reality, we are none of us infallible. In fact, I have messed up pretty bad in life and more than once. I have committed errors of monumental proportions. I have schemed heinous and elaborate schemes. Acts so inexcusable I wondered if I’d ever bounce back.
If you are anything like me, the hardest part of messing up lays in the mess that’s left in the aftermath of it all. I think of all the hundred thousand possible alternate endings had I done this or that differently and I use these to beat my heart mercilessly. But I’m learning that having a proclivity to feelings of excessive guilt can actually be counterproductive because it makes us more likely to commit the same mistake again. So, how can you forgive yourself for the mistakes of your past?
How to Forgive Yourself
Step 1: Recognize your mistake and what led you to make it. Think of it like tracing your steps when you lose your keys. You walk yourself through everything you did prior that led you to that moment. This requires honesty and humility. You have to be willing to air out dirty laundry and then put the work in to clean it.
Step 2: Make a conscious effort to correct it – for you. Sometimes our apologies come wrapped in phrases like “I’ll never again…” and “That’s the last time…” But do we ever apologize to ourselves when we’ve mucked it all up? Do we promise to never …? If you resolve not to retrace the steps you identified in step one, you have a chance of actually becoming better.
Step 3: Cultivate love – for yourself. Negative thoughts are motivated by a negative heart and a negative heart has difficulty loving. So, work on recognizing the things you could have done better in symmetry with the things you’ve done well. Dedicate some time to loving yourself like I did here.
None of us are immune to making mistakes that someone else might deem unforgivable. Making mistakes is just our nature. If we are fortunate enough to err against a truly forgiving person, their forgiveness always feels like winning the lottery. We feel indebted to them; as though a fragility will always exist so we strive to be better. Usually, their forgiveness refines us. But, just as in playing the lottery, most of the time the odds are against us. Saying I’m sorry can feel like a game of Russian roulette because we have very little control over the way others will react to our mistakes. What we can control is ourselves and how we react each time we fail.
What do you think, what other things can we do to forgive ourselves and heal our hearts?