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The guilt of that one unforgivable mistake lies festering in the recesses of your mind—or maybe there are several mistakes or bungled opportunities or lost loves. Whatever it is, it squats there behind your consciousness, perpetually reminding you that you’re not what you hoped you would be. You let yourself and probably someone else down.
We all have something hidden there—all of us who deal with reality and morality. That’s the ironic part. Perfection eludes us. Near the end of the book THE CHOICE by Dr. Edith Eva Eger (described in detail in a previous blog), I could feel Eger miserably whispering her personal unforgivable mistake. When her mother, her sister, and she were being sorted by Mengele into who would be murdered immediately and who would be worked nearly to death in the camp at Auschwitz, Eger was asked if the youthful-looking female with her was her mother or her sister. Mothers were murdered. A sister might survive. But the teenage Eger wasn’t ready for the question. She answered truthfully. Her mother was gassed.
Of course, the fact is Eger herself came as close to death without crossing over as humanly possible, and she was in superb physical condition as she entered the camp. Her mother most likely would not have survived even if she had avoided the gas chamber. But the mistake remained in Eger’s mind. She could’ve done better and she didn’t.
In her book and YouTube videos of her presentations, Eger talks about setting yourself free. You have to accept your past for what it was. You can’t change it. It simply is. She suggests you grieve the past as you wish it had been—grieve yourself as you wish you had been—and then release. The past doesn’t have to dictate your future. Start fresh. What are you going to do now? The truth is the guilt over whatever you did could have made you more compassionate toward others struggling with their own misdeeds. It gave you potential. What are you going to do with it?
Many who wallow in judgment, insisting on controlling the behavior and words of others, are those who haven’t forgiven themselves—for mistakes, for being less. We despair over those who seem impervious to the suffering of others, never hesitating to injure and destroy in blind service to personal agendas. In the film PATRIOT’S DAY, Mark Wahlberg’s character concludes we will never prevent all violence. Hate, insecurity, and revenge will always drive certain people to act out in cruelty. But love is faster and more powerful. The empathetic responded to the Boston Marathon bombing victims instantaneously. Strangers struggled to help one another. Love created “Boston Strong” and all the other positive reactions after subsequent tragedies.
In these dark times, we tend to forget that dark times give us a chance to shine with love and courage. Choices are clearer than usual. Selfishness is exposed for what it is. Some pretend they don’t see what lies before them. They see only opportunities to seize personal advantage. One of my college students shrugged as she handed me a description of herself as mean, hot-tempered, and self-centered. “That’s just how I am,” she told me.
I responded, “No, that’s just how you choose to be.”
Others will rise.
We’re here to grow. We decide what we will learn.