If you’re reading this and you never fuck up royally, then you must be done evolving. The mistakes we make, especially the ones that tinker with our thoughts late at night, are what mold us from clay to creation. They are the single most important moments of our lives, the ones we will look back on as transformative and, believe it or not, pivotal to our development as decent human beings.
That mistake you made is not meant to define you. It isn’t meant to be woven into the fabric of your life story forever. It is merely a stepping stone to greater things, things you only have access to once you’ve memorized the lessons from the place you’ve left behind.
The problem is we love to torture ourselves far too much to even consider pursuing a steady incline of progression. We’d much rather harp on our misconduct and punish ourselves, broken-record-style. Forgiveness becomes a fleeting fantasy, one that we are undeserving of. Even after the person we’ve wronged forgives us, we lather ourselves with perpetual guilt.
I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to chastise yourself forever. You don’t need to hold your dukes up at your own reflection, ready to sock a blow to the mirror. You’re human, you’re allowed to have faults. You’re allowed to have a good thing and obliterate it. To duplicate slip-ups. To be on a path of righteousness and then take a sharp turn down Hell’s highway. I’ve been there. You’ve been there. We’ve all been there. And it’s okay.
There are no rules for how you occupy your time on this blue marble. But if you happen to find compassion for yourself along the way, you might be surprised at how rapidly you reduce your sentence, not to mention your healing time.
When you garnish yourself with your wrongdoings, people feel it. It becomes embedded in everything you do. Those who see themselves as criminals are far more likely to commit another crime. So see yourself as a hero lightly dusted with weakness, a wilting flower that’s reaching for the sun, a person who is half-child, half-ancient. Otherwise, you risk stranding yourself in the dark indefinitely. And everyone knows that the living cannot grow without light.
When you’re done beating yourself up about all the things you cannot change, forgive yourself. It’s easy to see in tunnels when judging our own behavior. You’re not a bad person, you just made a bad decision, and maybe a few too many.
You can always decide at this moment that you will be better. That you will rise above the smolder of remorse and greet a rehabilitated you on the horizon.