When it comes to making bad decisions, I am probably no worse than the average person.
Indeed, I am probably ahead in some cases. For instance, I have never been in trouble with the law, I have never had a substance abuse problem and perhaps most important of all, I’ve never hurt another person so badly that it was impossible for me to make atonement.
With that said, I have a tendency to look back at some of the things I did and ask myself, “How the hell could you have done that?!”
For instance, there was the time when I got involved with a man when I was in my early 20s and was totally unaware of the fact that he was married. Looking back, the signs were there: he never gave me his home number, only his cell phone number, and never once did he ever introduce me to any of his friends.
Even though I ended the relationship as soon as I learned about his other life, I blamed myself for years for being so “stupid” to ignore these obvious signs that he was hiding something from me.
Granted, that wasn’t the only relationship that ended badly and that I blamed myself for, but it was the most memorable.
However, even though I gained some valuable knowledge and looked back at the whole thing as a learning situation, I did not gain a lot of empathy for myself and others. For example, a few years after that experience I happened to befriend a woman who had two young kids under the age of five by two different fathers.
As we got to know each other better, she shared that both fathers of her children had fled and had nothing whatsoever to do with her or the children. While I felt sympathy for her situation and admired her moxie at providing for two young kids on her own, part of me still wondered,“Why did she ever get involved with men like these? How could such a seemingly smart woman make the same mistake twice?”
Even though I would have never have admitted it and would have denied it had someone called me on it, part of me felt that I would never have made such a mistake…or at the very least, not two times.
However, nearly a decade later, I had someone very close to me experience something remarkably similar and as it happened, was there to observe the situation from beginning to end. As painful as it was, I learned something. Namely, that very few of us go through life with the benefit of a crystal ball. Sometimes, despite our best intentions and the best precautions, we find ourselves in situations we could not have foretold much less ever volunteer for. To put it bluntly, shit happens or perhaps more correctly—and less crudely—life happens.
I have yet to meet anyone, no matter how charmed their life appears, that has never had regrets or made a few bad choices. Sometimes we habitually make the same mistake and can only break the cycle with professional support and/or a lot of hard work.
While it’s important to be aware of patterns and repeated bad choices, beating ourselves up or worse, having others do it to us is not helpful.
Making mistakes and even screwing up royally at times is part of the process of being human. Sometimes we hurt ourselves and others. While taking responsibility is an essential part of being an adult, beating ourselves up is counterproductive.
Therefore, the next time it happens-and it probably will happen again-the most important thing we can do is practice forgiveness starting with ourselves. Despite being non-religious for most of my life, I have always taken comfort in the passage of the Lord’s prayer that goes, “Forgive us for our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against ourselves.” I often repeat that but with the modification at the end, “including ourselves.” Regardless of any religious or spiritual affiliation, it’s something we can and should all get behind.
Author: Kimberly Lo
Editor: Travis May