Mistakes and Forgiveness

I’ve been thinking a lot…and I do mean a lot…about the mistakes we make and our ability to forgive the hurts those mistakes cause.

In all honesty I don’t know where to start. So I’m going to dive in and see where it takes us.

We all make mistakes. It’s part of the human condition and experience, right? Every single one of us has made them. Some of those mistakes are tiny. We screw up and then we say sorry and move on. Others are a little bit bigger and we have to atone in some way. Pay the price. Others are so big there’s just no way we can make up for it. No words that we can say that will ease the hurt we’ve caused or that we feel. Sometimes all we can do is hold up our hands and say ‘yeah, I made that mistake. I did it and I wish to God I could undo it, take it back, turn back time or whatever, but I can’t. Can you forgive me, or not’ and then we wait.

And the waiting causes its own ache, doesn’t it? That feeling where you’re on the edge of a cliff, your arms pinwheeling so you don’t fall, and time seems to slow to a crawl. That waiting to find out if that one mistake you made is the one that will change the life you’ve built irrevocably.

So we wait.

For judgment.

For forgiveness.

For the sword to fall.

But forgiveness is a hard thing for some people to give. Withholding it can protect us from more pain, while we unintentionally cause a whole other set of wounds to form in our wake. Forgiveness. Its a beautiful word. For a beautiful concept. But forgiveness can’t happen without trust. And trust is such a fickle and fragile thing. I kind of think of it like an egg…the old Humptey Dumptey thing…Is trust just the same? Or is it more like a car engine? Fixable if you can find the right parts, tighten the nuts and bolts just right, or even find the right kind of fuel.

A few years ago I made a mistake. A huge one. One of those where you wait to see if forgiveness can happen. And for years I waited…wishing for it…hoping for it…feeling that every moment it was witheld was deserved. I bore every jibe, because I deserved them. I shouldered every rebuke, because the mistake was mine.

But every little hurt cut. Whether I deserved it or not, they cut…and they cut deeper every time.

Until it cuts so deep that you have to cauterize the wound or bleed to death.

So you do. And slowly you stop feeling anything. Bit by bit you turn off every emotion until there’s nothing left that can hurt.

But if there’s nothing left than can hurt…what is there at all?

Is there an ‘on’ switch to just turn it all back on? If there is, I haven’t found it.

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12 Responses to Mistakes and Forgiveness

  1. Barrett says:

    This is a tough one. We’re told that forgiveness is a balm to help heal deep wounds. Of course wounds will usually not be forgotten, but forgiving the wrong-doer when asked can be restorative.

  2. Mary Anne says:

    There comes a point where no matter what you’ve done, no matter the mistake you’ve made, that you must forgive yourself. If you’ve asked for forgiveness and it is being withheld there is not much you can do. If you’ve tried to make amends and changed whatever it was about you that caused you to make that error in judgement you have done everything that you have the power to do.
    If you are in a situation where you are constantly being made to bear the weight of the past and your guilt and there is no end in sight then get out of the situation. At some point self preservation has to come into play. The past can’t be changed but the future can. If the offended party cannot forgive and move on then you must or you will surely strangle your spirit.

    • Mary Anne, I can’t tell you how much that makes sense. Thank you.

    • Yvonne Heidt says:

      I’ve been on both sides of this situation. I’ve made huge mistakes and I’ve cut someone to pieces by withholding forgiveness. Truthfully, I believe that withholding forgiveness is the bigger sin.
      When I’ve made mistakes and I own them, I can only bring the wise, wise words of Maya Angelou to mind. “Do your best until you know better, then do your best.” I think that’s paraphrased but you get the point.
      To make mistakes is part of the human experience – as well as being able to forgive someone.
      Andrea, the egg can be put back together – but it takes time – and it never gets put back exactly the same way. But both parties have to be willing to stop the cycle 🙂

  3. Linda Bale says:

    Wow ! Forgiveness is something I struggle with both in the giving and receiving This is one to make me thing. Thanks Andrea

  4. The way I look at it is that there are several elements to any situation like this. As you rightly say we all make mistakes, that is the nature of being human and that is how we learn. The learning though is an important lesson for both parties involved. The first thing to learn is that it was a mistake it was not a planned and deliberate act with (to use that lovely legal expression) malice aforethought. You have apologised from your heart for it and there is nothing further you can do other that for you to forgive yourself. As for forgiveness from the other party. If they were a true and genuine friend/relative they would want to try and understand and to forgive if only to let themselves move forward. If however they are not wanting to be genuine and have an honest discussion and to try and move forward then you have to ask yourself are they using the situation to have power and/or control over you and are they enjoying watching you squirm? If that is the case do you really want to be friends with them? Genuine mistakes should be forgiven, doesn’t mean they are forgotten but that is a different thing.
    So the only thing you have control over is forgiving yourself. When you can do that then you can look for the on switch. Good luck.

  5. Kieran York says:

    Very interesting blog, and responses are extremely wise. My only response is that I’d need to look at it on a situation by situation case. Some things are forgivable offenses, and others….well, depends on contrition, etc. So for me I’d need to know more. I enjoyed the blog, Andrea. And the responses too.

    • I get what you’re saying, Kieran. Talking about it in the abstract is very difficult, but so are the details. Maybe one day I’ll be able to face the darkness within me without fear of being taken there again. Thanks.

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