Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Living With Our Mistakes

When I was a camp director, I felt like I did a pretty decent job. But one mistake I made haunted me for a long time. It was the last day of camp and we were and we were just about finished the end-of-season clean up of the facility. I was with my assistant director and a group of guys who were taking refuse to the garbage dump. We had a really heavy little trailer loaded up with things but when we got to the gates of the dump they were closed and locked. Our little trailer was quite heavy but some of the guys came up with the bright idea of picking it up and lifting it over the gate. My first instinct was that this was too dangerous but I waffled. We were so close to being done and to wait for someone to track down the key (or to unload the trailer, throw it over, and reload it) seemed like an eternity. Everyone was in a terrible hurry to get it done. My assistant director chimed in "Let's just do it." Against my better judgment I agreed and we tried to lift it over.

The first time we tried I realized the trailer was much heavier then I thought and it scared me to think what could happen. At that moment I wish I had put a stop to it but I didn't. On the second try we just about had it over when something slipped. Suddenly a sharp piece of metal slashed my hand as myself and our maintenance man for the week tried to catch it. I heard a scream and noticed that the maintenance guys fingers were drenched in blood and a few looked half severed. My own hand was dripping blood as well and I felt panic rising in me. A few minutes later the nurse came by (an incredible blessing) and we asked her to patch up our man's hand as best as she could and rush him to the hospital. Then I sat down and promptly passed out (at least that is what I was told, I don't honestly remember).

Back at the camp I was sitting, still in shock over what had happened and getting my hand patched up and I remember feeling a powerful wave of regret and anguish come over me. I felt so terrible for what I had allowed to happen that I was momentarily overwhelmed with the burden of it. My staff person Dayna was there to offer support and encouragement but I could barely hear it. I was already into full-blown blaming and self-loathing. I had made a terrible mistake and someone else had suffered for it.

It took me a couple of months before I fully forgave myself for my lapse in judgment - my failure to stop what my gut told me was too risky an action. When something like that happens to you, you start to beat yourself up. Strange and toxic thoughts get stuck in your mind, things like "I deserved for this to happen," "I'm a failure", or "I'm incompetent." Eventually I had to dispute and challenge these thoughts. With the help of friends and family, I tested these beliefs and found them to be . . . lies. I trusted in God for his grace and chose to forgive myself. I had to accept my imperfection and move on. It was hard work but with it came freedom.

Is that where you are? Are you beating yourself up over some terrible mistake you made? If so, I encourage you not to keep your struggle to yourself. Share it with someone and expose the secret to the light of truth. Everyone makes mistakes, don't hold onto them longer then you need to.


Moxymama said...

Good post. I struggle with this. I am excruciatingly hard on myself and have a hard time forgiving myself for transgressions either real or perceived. This was a good reminder to do just that.

Mark said...

Thanks for you honesty Moxy, I think many of us needlessly bear heavy burdens of unforgiveness (some for many years) that sap the joy and confidence from us. The accusations stick in our minds - we need to fight them!