It is sometimes difficult for us to see our own faults, when we are frequently inundated with the faults of others… or, when we refuse to look for our own faults. Regardless, they are still ever-present for each of us. Whether it is a tendency to talk over another person, a quick temper, a sullen disposition, or difficulty expressing our thoughts and/or feelings in a healthy way; we each have a special collection of faults which often mark the passage of time and relationships for us over and over again in our lives.
Similarly, we each have social, mental, and emotional characteristics which are beneficial to others, and which draw others closer to us and make them want to keep our company in spite of our faults. The duality of humanity lies in this sort of yin/yang-ness. The extremes of kindness and selfishness which crop up intermittently in each of our social interactions; and whichever extreme is dominant will determine the tenacity with which others attempt to maintain their relationships with us.
But, there is a third relationship for us to invest in. Not the relationship that drives away those we love. Not the relationship that draws in those who love us. No. This is the relationship we have with ourselves. That is where I want us to focus our attention here.
"I never made a mistake in my life; at least, never one that I couldn't explain away afterwards." - Rudyard Kipling
As a general rule, I believe people try to be fairly honest with themselves; regardless of their level of honesty with others. Certainly, we don’t wish to over-estimate our ability to jump across a crevasse, or underestimating our abilities when it comes to overcoming physical obstacles. But, it never ceases to amaze me how often our level of honesty with ourselves veers away when we make a catastrophic error in judgment.
Salvador Dali once said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” And, I think few if any of us would sincerely try to argue against his position. And, yet, the more painful an experience we are responsible for is, the more likely we are to turn away from looking at our responsibility for it; and the more ferociously we are likely to assign blame to others.
This only leads to heartache for ourselves and for those around us, as we struggle to avoid taking accountability for our past mistakes and misgivings. But, the real well-spring of liberty and freedom from the misery we cause ourselves and others under this trying perspective lies within our ability to own our mistakes.
I know from personal experience how difficult it can be. My reputation as someone who loves to be “right” is a long-standing matter of record, I assure you. But, I have discovered over the last couple of years that there is a certain freedom that only comes from admitting a mistake, making amends, and moving forward. No guilt. No recriminations. No violent outbursts. Just, “Oh, yeah… I do apologize for what I said earlier, and I would like to take this opportunity to make amends.”
There’s freedom in that, my friends. There is freedom in not having to constantly “turn off” that little voice in the back of our minds whispering that we’re taking our frustrations out on the wrong person. There is freedom in not hurting others for having committed no greater sin than loving us enough to stay and put up with our tantrums. And, there is freedom in being able to learn from our mistakes.
It takes a great deal of personal character to own our mistakes. It takes a higher quality of character to follow-through and to make amends for our poor decisions. After all, what good is a healthy body, if the mind and spirit within are still toxic?
So, I want to take this opportunity to encourage each of you to really look inside of yourselves and to think about the most difficult relationships in your lives. Then ask yourselves – very honestly – if you have been an active participant in the de-evolution of those once-healthy relationships. Ask yourself if you have contributed to the toxicity in your communications with personal attacks, or stubbornness born from a desire to avoid personal accountability. Ask yourself if you have it within you to de-toxify your relationships to any degree. And ask yourself if you are willing to do so, in order to re-establish a healthy dynamic between yourself and the other party.
If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then please, by all means, do so. But, if the answer is "no." to even one of these questions, consider the possibility of moving away from anger, malice, and toxic thoughts… and try to place yourself into a neutral mental and emotional place with respect to those people.
Carrying grudges gets heavy, my friends. It weighs our hearts and minds down. It prevents us from moving into the future with a light heart and an easy gait. But, it is up to us to determine how we move forward with the lives that lay before us. Do we want our backs bent, and our gullets weighted down with counter-productive and self-destructive thoughts and actions, or do we want to really break through into a future full of – and fueled by – the positivity of knowing that we have set down each burden as it was acquired, and taken personal responsibility to not perpetuate misery where we could have sown peace or joy?
The only way to heal an emotional wound, is by honestly examining it, cleaning out the infected material within, and cauterizing it so that it can't keep growing.
"Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment." - Rita Mae Brown
Everyone has an ego, and all egos resist guilt and blame, because it would mean we did something wrong. But, the worst mistake anyone can make, I believe, is not to learn from our mistakes. If you are ready to lay down your burdens, pick a grudge you’ve been carrying along, and really try to find a healthy way to set it down…even if it means the other person gets to walk away without the burden of that grudge, too.