Crossing past my failures

It’s one of my worst traits.  It’s also one of my biggest failings.

And it’s something I’ve been working on and dealing with for nearly 55 years.

And by talking about it in the blog today, I’m hoping that I also shine a light on this problem – and if you’re either suffering from this failing, or know someone who is afflicted with this issue, that you understand.

The Underpass. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.5 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller. All rights reserved.

Over my lifetime, I’ve dealt with a very reactive temper.  Push me hard enough, push me long enough, tease me, taunt me, and I lash out.

It’s not anything I’m proud of.  In fact, it’s something I’ve grown ashamed of.  There have been too many times where I’ve acted before I’ve thought.  Or I’ve acted with a minimum of evidence.

I can blame this on a number of factors – surviving child abuse and bullying, being a social misfit and outcast growing up, a dozen different causes for a thousand different effects.

But I can’t go back in time and repair those moments to fix my own.

You can say to me, “Hey Chuck, we all make mistakes, forgive and forget.”

Not for me.  It doesn’t work that way.

For me, my mistakes in action are like broken plates.  Once they’re broken, you can’t just magically put them back together as if nothing happened.  The only thing you can do is ask for forgiveness and hope that the other party is receptive in forgiving.

And if they’re not … well, you can’t just say “it’s on them.”  Because they didn’t break the plate.  You did.

Maybe it’s self-flagellation or self-deprecation, I don’t know.

But more often than not, I look back at my life and I see times where I over-reacted to bad things in my life.  Where I lashed out when people said horrible, miserable things about me.  Similar to when a dog is beaten by a cruel master, sometimes the dog lashes out with a bark or a bite.

The tough part about these moments is that I want to go back in time.  I want to erase my mistakes.  I want to undo when I’ve wronged people.  And I can’t.  I can’t undo my past any more than I can undo the damage that has been pushed upon me.

All I can do is try to learn from my mistakes and become a better person going forward.  That’s not always the easiest thing to do.  But you hope that in trying to fix what is broken, in trying to repair what is damaged in the present, you’re able to show penitence and reticence.

You can ask for forgiveness, but forgiveness isn’t a mandate.  It must be earned.  It can’t just be handed to you like a rebate for submitting three “I’m sorry” box tops.

So what can you do when you’ve screwed up?

What can you do to regain the trust of those you’ve wronged?

You do whatever it takes.  You work on the reasons for your mistake, and you show – in your words and in your deeds and in your actions – that you’ve learned from your failures.

And you do this without any hope that “If I do this, they’ll forgive me.”

You have to do this with the idea of “If I do this, then maybe at some point in time, I can forgive myself for allowing myself to make those mistakes in the first place.”

We all make mistakes.  Every single one of us.

How we react after those mistakes – how we show that we are penitent and remorseful and how we truly want to get better –

That’s the important factor.  And we may never receive that forgiveness…

But we always have to try, if for no other reason than to acknowledge that we can do better than what we’ve done.

We can always do better.

And we should.

And we must.

So I’m starting with me.  I’m working on my own personal failings and errors.  I’m going to stumble.  I’m going to screw up.  But I’m still trying.

And hopefully, someday…

I’ll be in a better place and in a better emotional and psychological frame.

I’m not perfect, by any means or by any stretch of the imagination.

That being said … I can’t guide my life by my mistakes.

I have to guide my life by making myself better than those mistakes, whether they were thrust upon me, or whether I caused those errors myself.

One step forward.

Every step forward hopefully will allow me to walk away from the past.

And in walking away from the past, I hope to walk away from my reactions to those moments.

One step forward.

One step.

One.

Step.

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6 thoughts on “Crossing past my failures”

  1. I can remember almost every time I’ve lost my temper, even going back to childhood. I have a very long fuse, so when it blows, it blows. It always felt justified in the moment, and it almost always ended badly.

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  2. Oh Chuckles, I have witnessed this many times throughout our friendship and I can tell you that your wonderful, caring, kind, thoughtfull heart shines way brighter than your outbursts (however unpleasant they are at the time). I have always marveled at how you have made it through everything life has thrown at you without loosing your kindness and humanity. And that’s why I am proud to call you my friend!

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  3. Chuck, you have had many challenging experiences in your lifetime. And you care enough to really look at yourself and find ways to improve and become a better person. And from my prospective (although you probably wouldn’t say I’m a friend, a acquaintance more likely) you a doing a great job. Like you said no one is perfect but trying to be best person you can be and knowing you have flaws but are willing to face them & try to get better. Bravo to you.
    And although I’m not an official friend I think all the blogs you have been kind enough to share has made me a better person. You inspire me in many ways. And I’m sure there are many, many people you have inspired. So, don’t get down on yourself. You surely have made up for your flaws hundred times over and have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.
    Take that final leap Chuck from the past and this time don’t ever look back.

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