Mistakes: Guides in Learning and Growing

It is not humanly possible to lead a life of perfect love (or perfect choices) in this world. Life is a journey of choices, challenges. We make good choices. We make bad. We make informed choices, non-informed choices, reactive choices. Sometimes, we need to do whatever appears needed at the moment, for better or worse, and deal with the consequences later.

We and others are going to make mistakes. This is not a “cop out” or an excuse for evading responsibility. Love is a responsibility as well as a joy. But Love’s primary message is a call for prudence, learning, understanding, teaching, support. We are able to grow, be better people, and help others on the basis of our strengths and experiences.

Life is a process of life management, an exercise in learning. It is unrealistic to expect or demand perfection. That would be counterproductive to Love of Self (and Others) since it would be a setup for constant failure. Events happen. We react or need to act. Consider actions, but do not beat yourself up for mistakes.

Instead, learn.

In all things, learn. Further mistakes. Learn harder. Repeated mistakes: work even harder. Why and when do they happen? What are the triggers? How to avoid? How to change? How to repair the damage. Visualize and rehearse different response. Prepare a plan. Accept responsibility. Renew determination not to repeat history. Never, ever, ever give up.

Love of Self does not berate. It instructs us to learn and grow. Love is about love. Responsibility and care: Yes. Those are as part of our love of Self/Others/God. But at the end of the day, Love is positive, constructive, supportive. It is not judgments and recriminations.

Love provides tools of prudence to avoid mistakes—the mantras. It provides tools to address mistakes when they happen. We learn and build. We increase our value and strength through the process, and our ability to be understanding and help others based on our experience. Rather than being subsumed by guilt and powerlessness, love whispers: “learn.”

We have and will make mistakes. Our goals:

1. Avoid them in the first place to the extent possible (the mantras of love may help in this).
2. Accept responsibility and learn when mistakes occur.
3. Ameliorate, make amends and repair any damage to the extent possible.
4. Avoid similar mistakes in the future.
5. Help others, if possible, as a result of our experience.
6. Exercise self-kindness and self-compassion. We make mistakes. Others make mistakes. We are not alone.
7. Be more understanding when others make mistakes—just like us! Rather than judge, share compassion and experiences. Do not enable. Do not berate. Teach.

Remember: refocus always! What can we learn? How can this be used for good? Mistakes refine us. They do not define us.

And what of regrets?

Along with mistakes, we have and will have some regrets. Should we then live a life of berating ourselves, or suffer the crushing weight of guilt? A life paralyzed by fear of further mistakes? No. That is not Love of Self, and is antithetical to growth and sharing. Exercise some self-compassion! Learn and grow.

Regrets are a very real part of the learning process. They reflect awareness, accepting responsibility. They are reminders of prudence along our path. Only the self-righteous do not see or acknowledge their errors. Only the self-righteous or callous would not understand a wrong, would not care, or, worse, enjoy the pain of others.

Regrets are essential to learning, just as the pain from a cut teaches us to be careful in the future. Painful? Yes. Educational? Very. Repress them? Definitely do not dwell on them, but understand them as guides. They may bite at first. But over time, the sting “ages”: mellows into wisdom and compassion. Briefly say “thank you” for their teachings and reminders-in-action when and as they arise and move on.

And what of guilt?

Regrets can teach and guide. Guilt. Simply. Diminishes. We learn nothing. It only crushes our soul. Guilt is oppressive rather than a teaching experience. It is sometimes instilled or prompted by third persons, by scripts, by doctrines (largely for purposes of control).

Whatever its source, guilt burdens, de-energizes, wears down, demoralizes. Love uplifts, energizes, guides. Choose the better path.

If caught in a cycle of guilt—with consequent loss of energy, self-worth, loss of confidence—understand and strive to break the cycle. Use the same refocusing techniques that are used to grow from mistakes. Learn. Grow in prudence. Share the experience if helpful, and move on.

Love does not preach guilt.

In all things, learning. In all things, opportunities. Mistakes are to be avoided if possible. But, when they happen, they are useful guides and teachers. Love refocuses from guilt to growth.

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