So it’s almost 2pm on a friday and I haven’t had a bite all day- just a tall mug of water kept my system running and my body was already reading ‘battery low’. I decided to step out for a quick lunch when this wave of thoughts ‘jumped’ on me and I had to quickly rush back to put it all down. It’s actually been brewing in my mind for a bit- guess it chose to ripen at an odd time.
What I’m about to share with you is probably one of the best attitudes I’ve learned in recent years. It has helped me bounce back from otherwise ghastly errors, nasty falls and regrettable mistakes. I pass it to you for free.
So I’m a young person. And I have the tendency to try new things. I bet you do too. As we move away from childhood, just being told stuff loses its’ appeal; we want to see for ourselves. We want the experience. Ehn, there may be nothing to it but at least let me still know what it feels like to…*coughs*(waiting for details? Sorry..loll).
As young people, our curiosity hits a new level as we seek to understand the world around us. Occasionally (actually not-so-occasionally), we get our fingers burnt; things don’t work out as we expected, what seemed harmless becomes a source of pain, hearts get broken, trust is cracked, a personal conviction is violated, we do things we swore we’d never, and then, those nagging questions haunt us: “how did I E-V-E-R manage to do THAT?, what was I even thinking?”
Feeling bad about mistakes is normal. Remorse, regret and even guilt in a sense are proof that our conscience is still alive and kicking. Frankly, I’d be worried if I did something wrong and no red lights popped up in my heart. That would scare me more.
But then, I’ve come to learn the need for balance. It’s okay to feel remorse for wrongs, but there’s a limit. Here’s how I found that limit and how you too can walk that thin line between healthy remorse and beating yourself up over the irreparable.
I think it all starts with owning up- quickly and sincerely. No need for unnecessary explanations or self-defense. I’ve found that denial (“I didn’t do anything wrong”), playing it down (“It’s not THAT bad”), giving lame excuses (“Am I the first person to ever do this?”), simply delay the getting-back-up process. Either to God or people, be quick to admit when you’ve messed up- it helps. When I pause to think of it, I ask myself “like really, how hard could it possibly be to admit our mistakes?” I’ve found that the answer sometimes is “very hard!” It’s easy to say “we all make mistakes, we’re all human”. But many times, we simply hide behind those words instead of doing the honorable (and ultimately the best) thing- admitting.
The other thing I also found that has helped me bounce back is the ability to radically limit the time I spent feeling sad or remorseful. King David also knew this. After his adulterous affair with Mrs. Uriah produced a sickly child, Dave wept, mourned and prayed for the child to get well. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. When he heard of the child’s demise, he got up, took his bath (which he hadn’t done in a while), changed his clothes and broke his fast. Obviously, David wasn’t heartless- he loved that child as any sane father would; but he knew something- further grief would only hurt him. The baby was gone and nothing else could be done about it (2 Samuel 12:16-23).
How do I manage to do this? I talk to myself (not literally!). But in my mind, I run through questions like “okay, now that you’ve messed up, what’s next?”, “Do you want to stay this way?” “What will you gain?” I know it sounds so easy but let me assure you that at first it wasn’t at all. I just could not get myself to shake off those sad feelings. Somehow, I felt I had to stay sad to actually prove my change of heart (afterall, if you’re really, r-e-a-l-l-y sorry, you SHOULDN’T get back to a joyful state too quickly – whatever that meant, I didn’t even know). It was just my way of thinking.
Also, I’ve had to learn that the worst thing to do after you’ve fallen is to stay away from God (or people). That’s the natural tendency (remember Adam?). When we make mistakes, a toxic combination of guilt and shame tries to make us feel unworthy of our heavenly Father’s love- so we ‘avoid’ Him (as if we really could do that). By constantly reminding myself that staying away only worsens the situation, I’ve come to the place where my new natural tendency is to run towards the Father when I go wrong. At such times, my prayers usually start with “Lord, it’s your boy- again…”
Like all habits, it has taken years to break wrong mindsets and enjoy the refreshing restoration of inner peace that comes with God’s forgiveness (and that of those I offended). What’s more? I now also know the extremely liberating power that comes with forgiving myself. Sometimes, that’s the hardest part- forgiving yourself. It hasn’t been a breeze, but it’s been worth every step in the process.
Dear young person, is there any part of your life where you’re still struggling to forgive yourself? Do you still feel you have to ‘pay’ for that mistake even after God (and probably the other person) has forgiven you? I have great news for you. You don’t need that. As long as you’ve sincerely admitted your mistake and asked for forgiveness, it’s done. Don’t take my word for it- here’s assurance from God himself “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)
Yes you fell. I have too.
Yes you made a mistake. I did too.
Yes you made a poor choice. I’ve done that too.
But you can get back up again.
Just like me too.
Forgive yourself- you’re worth it.
Live by Design.
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