Wisdom and knowledge are found in the mistakes we make along the way. Mistakes are just as much a part of us as our triumphs are.
There is a quaint old church I pass by every day on my way to work. Recently, they installed a sign in their parking lot and have been using it to write short, insightful phrases meant to invoke thought in all who pass by. I have come to appreciate the phrases each week, especially the ones I find rolling around in my thoughts for the rest of the drive into work.
The most recent one read: “You are not your mistakes. Let it go.”
My initial reaction to this was nodding my head in agreement as I drove past. However, that agreeing head nod was quickly followed up by the little voice inside of my head saying; “You don’t really buy that now, do you?” I had to pause and ask myself pointedly; “Am I my mistakes?” The ego part of my mind was quick to shout out no, but my heart whispered to slow down and really think it through.
Are we our mistakes?
I wanted to say no. I mean, who wants to own up to screw ups, bad judgement or colossal mistakes? No one. Mistakes mean we aren’t those perfect creatures we pretend to be in a world more accepting of faked perfections than of reality. Yet, I fully appreciate there is not a single perfect human being on the planet. Not on the outside, not within their actions or reactions, and certainly not one who has never made a mistake. Personally, I make mistakes all the time. Life doesn’t come with an instruction book; we have to figure it out as we go, and while I try to learn from my mistakes, I usually stop focusing on them just as soon as I have made it right, made amends or figured out another way to do whatever it was I screwed up.
So, the question is: If we make peace with our mistakes; own up to them and make them right, then, let them go – do we become the culmination of our mistakes or are we in the clear?
Upon reflection, it occurred to me that I am just as much my mistakes as I am my successes.
I needed to make mistakes to find out something didn’t work. I needed to date the wrong people, to find the one who fit. I had to walk away from certain people to figure out how much I needed them. I needed to let people in who didn’t have my best interests at heart so that I could see them for who they really were and to learn to trust my gut more. I had to do a lot of wrong things in order to find the right ones for me. Some of my mistakes hurt my heart, and unfortunately sometimes my mistakes hurt others. If I didn’t become the culmination of my mistakes, if I didn’t embrace them and learn from them and absorb those lessons into my soul – I would make them again and again and not be any further ahead.
So, yes; after some serious thought I do believe I am the culmination of my mistakes.
A while ago, I took something a friend told me at face value without checking facts. I trusted this person (my first mistake) and became incredibly angry at what I had been told. That anger led to a confrontation with someone I care for, respect and admire. I was hurt, angry and in no mood for excuses. Then, when the expected excuses did not come, I grew silent. My anger stilled, and I saw the pain in my friend’s eyes. I remember whispering; “It’s not true, is it?” And, she shook her head no. I knew immediately that I had been given false information meant to destroy a relationship I cherished. I was angry for allowing myself to be misled and immediately apologized for my rant in hopes to heal any damage or hurt I had caused by not giving this person a chance to speak their truth of the matter.
Afterwards, I spent some time finding the lessons in my mistake. Aside from a clear indication of the type of friend I had with the one who gave me the false information, making this mistake taught me the importance of not allowing my emotions to overpower my intelligence and my heart. It also taught me that people we love and respect deserve the benefit of the doubt before we leap to any conclusions.
Once I had wrung all the lessons I could out of this particular mistake, and made amends with my friend – I let it go. I didn’t obsess over it. I didn't beat myself up over it. Yet, at the same time, my mistake became a part of me. It didn’t go away just because it was over – it happened and therefor became part of my story. I chose to embrace my mistake because it taught me. It gave me lessons I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Lessons I filed in the; “things-to-never-do-again” portion of my soul. For the record – it’s a pretty big file.
I want to be the culmination of my mistakes, for that is where the wisdom lies.
If we don’t, own our mistakes. If we don’t, spend time with them and find the lessons. If we don’t fully absorb them. How will we ever become better? How will we even know what better looks like? We won’t.
Making mistakes in life is nothing to be ashamed of. Actually, you should be proud of them because it means you are trying, reaching and growing. Wisdom and knowledge are not found in our successes. Wisdom and knowledge are found in the mistakes we make along the way. Mistakes are just as much a part of us as our triumphs are. We need both in life to learn and become more than we were yesterday.
Embrace your mistakes. Learn from them. Don’t beat yourself up or obsess over them. Make them right, make amends and above all if you hurt someone do everything in your power to make it better; then take what you learned and be better for it.
We are the culmination of our mistakes when we become a better person for them.
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