The great martial artist Bruce Lee said: “Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them.”
How many of us turn our mistakes into life-long regrets because we lack the personal courage to forgive ourselves?
If I Could Turn Back Time
In my life, I’m sure yours, I have known people who made terrible personal mistakes and could never forgive themselves. Mistakes that resulted in the loss of relationships, employment, money, or prestige.
Examples of such mistakes, and subsequent regrets, are all around us, from people who trusted stock swindlers, athletes who were found to have been taking performance-enhancing drugs, to those who were inappropriate in their workplaces. The mistakes may have led to a loss of their money, humiliation, or termination from prominent jobs.
To those who have committed mistakes, therein becomes a significant challenge in the form of a crossroads. In the days and weeks, the person who has lost their savings, or suffered the humiliation of having their batting average questioned, or felt the staring eyes of co-workers as they headed out the door with a cardboard box containing a potted plant and a few knick-knacks, the crossroads become evident.
The cowardly will come up with excuses: “I know what I’m doing, I’ll get my money back,” “This was a setup, I have never taken a performance-enhancing drug in my life,” or, “My bosses were out to get me, I never said anything suggestive to her.”
While there is always the slight chance that the “respondents” were telling the truth, the bravest are those who admits: “I am sorry to say that I trusted people who said they would double my money, I will forgive myself with time” or “Yes. I was stupid. I took a drug that is a banned substance,” or the employee, facing his accusers, “I am sorry. I accept the consequences of my mistakes. I hope you can forgive me.”
Mistakes happen. They are part of life. Mistakes require hard introspection and understanding. Jails are “packed” with fraudsters and scam artists who promised naïve individuals with colossal investment returns. Does the naïve investor wish they had gone after safer investments recommended by a prestigious firm? Absolutely.
The professional athlete fully understands where their mistake had led them: a loss of reputation, endorsement money, and possibly, contract renewal.
The inappropriate executive must face themselves in the mirror, or even a spouse and family members. It is a terrible pain that has far-reaching effects. It is not easy to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong,” or I was stupid.”
The courage to fully admit mistakes must come from a place deep within our souls. We must recognize we will never be right with ourselves unless we face ourselves. It is why it’s so dangerous to “jump back in” to any new situation before we fully understand what we did to ourselves in the past case. If we don’t learn from our mistakes, we will probably repeat them.
However, this “forgiveness of mistakes stuff,” must also come with another type of warning. If we fully admit and take ownership of our mistakes, if we have apologized and have done our best to make amends, we must avoid those who keep reminding us of our failures.
Negative people will often be more than happy to remind us of how we erred, or mock us, or keep dredging up our mistakes to demean us. We can only pay the world so much in guilt and regret. Negative people are toxic, and they will want to use our mistakes as a poison against us. The antidote is to walk away from them.
On this journey of life, once we have made our mistake, fully admitted it, and made the right choice at the crossroad, allow no one to make you suffer their continuing judgment. Make mistakes. Learn from them. You make mistakes. Mistakes don’t make you.