I had a bit of an enlightening moment earlier today talking with a friend over Twitter. We were discussing music and I mentioned not having listened to a particular artist in a while because I couldn’t deal with the emotional place that music takes me to. I went a little deeper and owned up to the fact that the music reminds me of someone I used to be. Someone that I believed I was and someone that I feel like, because of my mistakes, I have no right to be anymore.
But that’s really not true.
Our mistakes do not define us.
Our mistakes do not outweigh the good that we have done or the good that we can still do in this world.
Other people will try to tell you that they do. People will tell you that you are made of your mistakes, but those people are wrong.
You are made of your glory, your goodness and your potential.
You have to own up to your mistakes, yes. You have to learn from them. But you can’t drown in the guilt. Guilt is a destroyer of souls. Guilt eats potential for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Don’t let guilt make a meal out of you.
Be Aware of Your Own History.
When you make one mistake (or a few) people love to label you responsible for mistakes you never made. They rewrite history and embellish the truth to shift blame or make them feel better about their own life choices – which, according to them, they made because of you.
And of course, people love to gossip and speculate about mistakes and the people who make them. They love to vilify and dehumanize because then they don’t have to deal with themselves and their own issues.
Don’t take that on. Don’t let someone put blame on you that isn’t yours. Know your own history and don’t take on an identity that does not belong to you.
Don’t Let Someone Else Define You Through Your Mistakes.
When I look at my mistakes, they were all made out of a place of fear. When people i loved began to define me by those mistakes (and also by my illness) I became a person who was afraid of everything. I was afraid to be myself, because I viewed myself as “bad.” I was afraid to speak my mind, because my mind was “bad.”
It’s the classic case of how a lion becomes a mouse. Or in my case, how a phoenix becomes a pigeon.
I know I’m not the only person to have done this. We make missteps and all of the sudden we feel as though we have no right to walk the path. We give up who we were, who we believed we could be, because we believe that our mistakes make us “bad.”
But we can’t forget the good that we’ve done. We can’t forget the people that we have inspired (even if we’ve later let them down). We can’t forget the positive impact we’ve had or can still have on the world.
You Have a Right to Be Who You Want to Be
We think that if we don’t move, if we don’t live, that we are in no danger of repeating our mistakes or hurting the people that we love.
When I was in a very dark place a few years ago, my brother Jake and I spoke almost daily. Once I told him that I didn’t like the person that I was, that I thought I was a bad person, beyond repair. He told me to figure out who I wanted to be and then be that person. I told him that I felt I had no right to be whoever that was. He said,
But that’s who you already are.
I don’t think we can ever really lose ourselves. The core of who we are does not change. All we can do it is hide who we are under layers of guilt. But that is a waste of potential.
Mistakes don’t wipe out our wisdom or the lessons we’ve learned. They don’t disqualify us from the things we know and they don’t invalidate the important things we have to say and share with the world.
So whatever you’ve done or think you’ve done – don’t let the guilt of that hide who you are. Don’t let the guilt of those things shame you into not living.