I have a lot that I want to say under that title, but am having a hard time really organizing my thoughts. In the last month I’ve had several experiences that lead me back to the phrase, “the sum of our mistakes.” It’s been reading the work of my students and them sharing pieces of their past. Pieces of their past with stories of pain, poor decisions and triumph. It’s been observing people I love overcome their past. Seeing them take positive steps forward everyday. Knowing that everyday it both a struggle and success. It’s been me reflecting on my own shortcomings and thinking how I can be a better person. How can I look toward the best in people and situations and not be tempted to only remember the bad.
Why are the mistakes the easiest to remember? I know for me I can beat myself up over mistakes for years. I can replay the “what I wish I would have done” over and over. Why is it that you can see someone you haven’t had any contact with for YEARS and yet the only thing that comes to mind is what you may have known about them 20 years ago? Why is it we can so easily believe someone is only the sum of their mistakes and not see the totality of what they have overcome?
Some might argue that is having rose colored glasses or rewriting history. I disagree. To acknowledge the past is one thing. To understand the mistakes made. To acknowledge the hurt and pain they may have caused. This is necessary in the path to healing. To make people continually relive their past by our actions and our judgement is unacceptable.
I fall short everyday. I allow past prejudices and hurt enter my mind as I deal with people. I fail to acknowledge my own mistakes. I recognize this. I also recognize that The Creator never intended for us to be the sum of our mistakes. It is this that allows me to cherish the beautiful times I’ve had with people that haven’t always been perfect. It is this that allows me to put into perspective the hurt they may have caused. It is this that allows me to forgive myself for my own shortcomings.
For me, the Thanksgiving and Christmas season are always time of deep thought. And, whether we are the sum of our mistakes has been heavy on my heart. I don’t believe we are no matter how people may treat us.
As I finish this blog, while sitting in my office on a Saturday grading papers, I almost feel like I want to go back and add it onto the papers of some of my dearest students. I want them to know that they are not the sum of their mistakes. I want them to know that just being in the classroom and succeeding is proof they are not the sum of their past–no matter how hard it may have been. I want them to know they are valued and that their progress is recognized. Who can you help to recognize this today? Who can you encourage that has walked a hard path? How can you better forgive yourself for the mistakes? It’s a season of thanks, love and giving. How can we be more giving to those around us and ourselves when it comes to forgiveness?