Saturday, June 1, 2013

Making the most of mistakes

We all screw up. It's fact of life. Some mistakes are tiny, silly little things that just cause a blush, and others are life altering.  For every mistake we survive, we have to decide what we take away from the episode to prevent relapses.  We also have to decide how and if we should forgive ourselves for the mistake.

I feel excessive guilt over most of my mistakes.  I used to accept guilt for other people's bad behavior ("Did you know your brother did this?" was the same thing as saying "You did this".), and I tend to remember mistakes well past the when everyone else has forgotten the incident.  Sometimes this is good, because it prevents me from doing something similar.  Other times, this is very, very bad because it prevents me from moving past a mistake and moving on.  It can be debilitating to remember little mistakes with great clarity. The feeling of shame and embarrassment can force me back into my shell, and it keeps me from trying new things.

I try to put my mistakes in perspective when they happen, or when something old pops unexpectedly back into my mind, by reminding myself that I did learn something from the event.  Then I cut the cords and let the energy drift away. After that, I box up the memory and put it back on the past event mental shelf.

Mistakes allow us to learn. They mark boundaries of behavior and remind us that we are fallible human beings.  It's not healthy, however, to dwell to long or too hard on mistakes.  Like any other negative feeling or experience, the best way to deal with them is to allow them their space in your life, and only that space. Next time you make a mistake, I hope you can apologize to anyone injured, identify the lesson you learned, and then let go of any negativity associated with that mistake. Don't let the fear, pain, frustration, and anger of mistakes grow larger than it needs to be. Forgiving your self is an important step to growing as a spiritual person.


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