We all make mistakes. No human lives without this truth. But are there good mistakes and bad mistakes? I think so. I know, I know, we’re all supposed to offer it up to the Oprah universe as ‘lessons’ but I’ve made a lot of mistakes–a lot–so I’m nearly an expert and I can tell you, there are some that I’m glad I made and others I’d rather not remember.
For instance, I hadn’t planned on getting pregnant at 27 and some would have called it a ‘mistake’–in fact, many did– but I am so deeply grateful that it happened and I am so very lucky to have an incredible child–now a man–because of it. But some mistakes I’m not so sure were ‘blessings’.
I once punched my brother in the face and ended up soaking my sister-in-law’s carpet with the resulting blood. I think he probably deserved it but my intent wasn’t to break his nose, just to make him stop teasing me. It certainly worked. But what about the time I took advantage of the fact my boyfriend had passed out at a party so I could go to another party without him? Yeah, I was 24, but I made a selfish choice to abandon his beer-soaked self and lied about it later. The next day his trusting, open face told me that he believed me. Bad mistake.
So, if we listen to the new-age gurus and absolve ourselves of our mistakes because we chalk it all up to ‘learning’ or ‘spiritual growth’ or ‘higher purpose’ then are we just shitty people camouflaging as ‘enlightened’ people? I was raised Catholic and we have a sacrament whereby you go to confess your sins and are absolved of them by the priest so that you can start anew. As a young dramatic type, I made up stories and dramas that weren’t even true, but was absolved of them with two Hail Mary’s and an Our Father anyway. The theatre of the confession was addictive. The feeling that you could be re-born as it were as a person who didn’t think those things, who didn’t intentionally hurt people, who didn’t make bad mistakes, was terribly compelling to someone like myself who wanted to be a perfect angel but was born with tiny devil’s horns.
But aren’t we all? Struggling with our own inadequacies, judgements, weaknesses? So what is the line that is crossed from a good mistake to a bad mistake? I truly believe intention is the scythe that divides this moral morass. For instance, I recently had the exceedingly painful opportunity to be on the receiving end of someone’s intentional duplicity, and while I am told by friends and family to move on, this is harder to do when people’s mistakes are intentional, directed, and very well-planned. Kind of like the difference between first degree murder and manslaughter. I told you I was dramatic. Relax. I’m just trying to prove a point here.
That being, that we all need to forgive mistakes, and forgive ourselves for making them but this isn’t to say that making ‘bad’ mistakes as in ethically suspect ones, is okay. Even if the priest gives you 20 Hail Mary’s, I am thinking the Buddhist monk will tell you that you got some big time karma to pay baby.