Hi. I’m Maria. And I’ve made mistakes.
Some were by accident.
Others were thought-out.
Many were good intentions.
Several were because I’m human.
A few were almost insignificant.
Too many still weigh heavy on my mind.
All of them formed me.
I have an incredible ability to be extremely self-critical. Often times, when I miss the mark, I immediately disqualify myself from whichever category has been affected.
Was I too harsh in disciplining my kids?
Well, I am no longer fit to give good parenting advice.
Did I neglect to help the man on the corner abashedly gripping the handmade cardboard sign?
I can’t tell others how it’s important to give to the needy.
Did I abandon a friend in need so I could feel included with the “other group”?
I have no right to talk about relationships.
Was I late to a critical meeting?
I cannot preach on the importance of being on time.
These are seemingly “small” examples, but what about those of us who have experienced more “detrimental” situations - mistakes that may haunt us for the rest of our lives? They leave us feeling as if we are no longer fit to participate. Our lives are only good for some things and not for others. We want to hide the canvas our lives are painted on so no one will ever see the mess we are.
Unfortunately, somewhere along many of our growth paths, we have learned that making mistakes is inexcusable. We’ve felt the hostility of those affected by our poor choices or innocent accidents and have received our black marks accordingly. As a result, we walk around assuming everyone can see those marks and that they immediately place us in the “useless” category.
But, one of the common threads we all share as members of humanity is that every single one of us has, does, and will make mistakes. PERIOD. There is no room for negotiating this one – we are fallible by nature. From the start of creation, the first humans couldn’t follow simple instructions. If you’ll allow me to oversimplify and paraphrase: “You can eat all of these wonderful things… just don’t eat from that one tree.” (Gen 2:16-17) One tree out of how many?? 10? 100? 1000? Certainly there was abundant nourishment and yet, they couldn’t let that one go. And just like Adam and Eve, we all fail at one point or another.
But does failing mean we are hopeless and beyond repair? Absolutely not! What we need is a complete paradigm shift. We need to realize that failure and error can hold hands with opportunity. Our shortfalls add color to our life paintings. We can take those experiences and learn how to enhance our future. Take time to feel the pain and hurt it may cause you or others and use that pain to fuel amazing rediscovery.
“Many times what we perceive as an error or failure is actually a gift.
And eventually we find that lessons learned from that discouraging experience
prove to be of great worth.” – Richelle E. Goodrich
“When bad experiences create strong feelings in us, we either face the feelings and try
to change or we try to escape. It’s the old fight-or-flight instinct. We need to train ourselves
to fight for positive changes.” – John C. Maxwell -The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth
Sometimes opportunities are most evident when we have met defeat. In moments of frustration or exasperation, it would do us well to pause and reflect. What possibilities are available now that we know “that didn’t work”? How can we change what we do and say so we can show love and help others that may be struggling with the same situations? Our mistakes add depth to our canvases and speak volumes to others. We paint layers of experience that display understanding and build compassion. We may think our lives are a mess and wonder “if only I hadn’t done ‘that’, I’d be a better person”, or “I’ve got too much baggage to be able to have meaningful relationships”. But when we fail, we are adding the necessary pieces that relationships thrive on: honesty, humility, transparency, grace, forgiveness. As we learn these virtues, we add more pigment to our brushes and if we take time to learn, change, develop ourselves, the paint comes alive.