Friday, May 30, 2014

Week 20: Learn from past mistakes

It’s graduation season.

Last week, I attended a local high school graduation. The ceremony was held in the school stadium at 5:30 in the afternoon – a very SUNNY afternoon. For just over an hour I was squeezed like a sardine on a concrete bleacher and slowly dissolving under the sun’s spotlight.

I’m convinced I melt. Seriously…

Oppressive heat scrambles my cognitive function, dramatically limiting my ability to concentrate. Although preoccupied by my own misery, that afternoon, I managed to focus long enough to hear when the name of the graduate I was there to celebrate was called and this advice:

“Learn from your past mistakes to improve your life now and in the future.”

In those few minutes I wished I could have been transported back in time to my high school graduation, with someone standing behind a podium sharing those simple words of wisdom with my 18 year old self. I’m not even sure I would have paid attention back then. Not sure those 18 year olds paid attention on that hot Wednesday afternoon, either.

For years I lived under the ominous cloud of my past, feeling unworthy of simple things like good jobs and healthy relationships because of the guilt of previous mistakes or poor decisions. Subconsciously, I thought past mistakes defined who I was, and I acted accordingly.

In time, I began to learn valuable lessons from my past. Notably, I learned that mistakes are universal. Everyone makes them. Although some mistakes felt paralyzing and the shame alone threatened to bury me, I learned I could recover and move forward.

The most important lesson I learned of all was this:

The mistakes we make are only WHAT we’ve done. They are NOT WHO we are.

I believe a large part of “being completely you” rests in our ability to make peace with past mistakes and confidently move forward, armed with the wisdom of lessons learned. We can use what we’ve done to do just as the speaker encouraged the graduates to do on that steamy Wednesday afternoon – “improve life, both now and in the future.”

I pray, if you haven’t already, you will come to a place of peace with past mistakes. I encourage you to take some time to ponder them, mine them for hidden lessons, and then use those lessons to pave a better path for your today and for your tomorrow.

Until next week.