for the record, this is supposed to be a blog about programming. and theres a lot of stuff here about that; in the previous entry i linked to an entire book about it: https://codeinfig.wordpress.com/2016/11/28/a-note-to-anna-and-a-link-to-the-book/
i started blogging in february, and it is now november; and as i get to know the community better, two things have happened: one, people are interacting with my blog more than ever. and two: its extremely tempting to talk about other subjects.
this isnt just because i have other things i want to say; its because i have people to talk to here on wordpress that make me think of other things i want to say. this will be one of those instances.
true forgiveness is always difficult– there are plenty of people with no awareness of the unnecessary pain theyve caused others (or themselves) that find it easy to “forgive” themselves for just about anything; theyre not really doing it, theyre just ignoring the thing they did or the effect it had. forgiveness doesnt have to linger or dwell on the past, but it probably has to face it to move on.
anyone who has dealt with substantial guilt has likely spent at a least a little time beating themselves up, in some fashion. its human, its natural, and to the person doing it, it just makes sense.
but to mistake the guilty you for the “real you” or the guilt for “reality” is ultimately a mistake. to drag your unhappiness with yourself (for something in the past) along as some kind of companion year after year, wont just drag you down and make great friendships impossible; it makes having a realistic perspective impossible.
who you are is shaped by your past. but your past does not (and should not) continue to shape you forever– especially the worst things you can find to criticise. the way mistakes in the past should shape who you are in the future is more like this:
- past mistake leads to life lesson
- life lesson leads to self-improvement (however gradually it may lead to it)
- life lesson and practice of self-improvement leads to continued betterment
i had to run “betterment” through a spell-checker. hooray! its a word.
if you are the sort of person who beats yourself up over every past mistake you can think of, here is what happens to the above process:
- past mistake leads to guilt, which discourages or diminishes the lesson
- guilt leads to anguish and self-pity
- guilt and anguish and self-pity prevent you from betterment
in many or most cases, guilt should be a stepping-stone, but not a stone around your neck. if you are too weighed down by it, you will never be able to lift up anyone else. your guilt will cost others, and it will cost you more than it needs to or should– but also, it will feel so real while creating illusion in your life.
you are not the sum of your mistakes. you are the sum of the lessons you have learned from your mistakes.
life is full of mistakes and guilt and unhappiness. it is also full of lessons and forgiveness and happy moments.
certainly some of us (trust me, this includes me) have lost a day or more to being terribly unhappy, or lost some happy moments to dwelling on the past mistakes of ourselves and others.
but subjectively picking out the worst misses an important part of reality– whether talking about life, or who we really are. you cant beat yourself up all the time, and also know who you really are. it will prevent you.
the practice of (truly and honestly) forgiving yourself and the practice of forgiving others is also the same practice. if you do not learn the importance of moving on from past mistakes, you will always hold other people to unfair standards.
simply for the sake of treating other people fairly, it is important to gradually let go and move on from the guilt you have about mistakes long since past. not dwelling on your imperfections and things you did long ago will actually make you a better person.
facing your mistakes, and being honest about them, may cause guilt. thats better (for you, and for the world) than never acknowledging your mistakes at all. but finding too many things to feel guilty about, or feeling disproportionately guilty, for too long?
theres simply no good in it. if not for yourself, then for the people you care about: learn to let go of those things. youll be happier, youll be better– and youll be a more fair and more realistic person. these are only good things.
- license: creative commons cc0 1.0 (public domain)
(part of the reason i license the blog this way, is to let you know youre free to copy it in whole or in part, and even to change it, anywhere or in any way you like. thats what the license says but i also point it out in this note here, in case youd like to do so.)