"The loneliest people are the kindest. The saddest people smile the brightest. The most damaged people are the wisest. All because they do not wish to see anyone else suffer the way they do." -Unknown
FACT: We are all broken.
Broken: (adj) physically and forcibly separated into pieces or cracked or split; having been violated or disregarded; lacking a part or parts; thrown into a state of confusion or disarray.
Again, we are all broken. How do I know this? Because if you're reading this you're human, and humans are vulnerable, therefor breakable. This is a HUGE topic that I wouldn't attempt to cover in one sitting, so I'm going to break it up into parts.
Part One; Broken by Our Mistakes:
First let's make sure we all understand that a mistake is different from an accident. A mistake implies bad judgement, an accident is an unfortunate incident that happens unintentionally. A mistake involves a choice. Meaning moments before the mistake took place there was one (or maybe several) opportunities where a choice was before us and we (as the knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade would say...) "chose poorly." Mistakes come in all shapes and sizes and have various levels of destruction, but the ones that effect us the most are those heavy duty life altering ones: marrying the "wrong" person, betraying someone's trust, poor financial investments, "why oh why didn't I take the blue pill" (Neo-The Matrix), the list could go on, but I think you get the idea. We've all made them, more times than we care to count I'm sure. The cold hard truth is mistakes are unavoidable. Wow, it almost sounds as though I'm contradicting myself doesn't it? You're wondering, if my mistake was driven by an avoidable poor decision then how can my mistake be unavoidable?
Answer: (drumroll please) We. Are. Human. There is not one of us walking this planet that chooses wisely every time. Don't get me wrong, some of us are much better than others. Take me for example, I have chosen poorly more than almost anyone I know, I mean seriously there could be two doors in front of me, one with a lit up flashing arrow above it reading "Pick Me" and a red carpet leading to it, and the other with caution tape, a stop sign, and a flag with a skull and crossbones that says enter at your own risk...and sure enough 9 times out of 10 I'll pull out my scissors and cut the caution tape, walk right past the stop sign and think "hey I'm feeling lucky" as I walk under the flag. Then at some point I am left picking up the pieces and bandaging my wounds with shreds of a pirate flag. Hopefully, you don't have to learn the hard way as often as I do, but everyone has had their share of dealing with the consequences of bad decisions.
What sets each of us apart is how we recover, or don't recover, from these mistakes. Again, I'm talking about the BIG ones here, not like the bad hair cut you got your senior year. The kind where the day will never come where you will look back and laugh about it. Those are the ones that break us. Those are the ones that leave scars. Those are the ones that alter our personalities, our beliefs, the way we see others, and the way we see ourselves. In a way, those are the ones that in one way or another become a part of who we are and change who we were, and have the power to shape who we are going to be.
FACT: Mistakes cannot be undone.
That sounds so harsh doesn't it? It may be harsh, but it's reality, life has no rewind, no undo button, no DeLorean with a flux capacitor to bail us out, life goes on post-mistake. So here we are, broken, in the aftermath, now what? More choices...yup, you read that right. A choice got you here and a choice will propel you forward.
Door Number One: Purgatory.
Purgatory is for the dwellers. The mistake has been made and they go through life dwelling on it. Never healing, remaining broken, not forgiving themselves. Quality of Life on a 1-10: 2. If you let your mistake haunt you every day it will permanently alter how you function in your everyday life. Dwellers become bitter, cold, and shut off the ability to enjoy life. Don't go there!
Door Number Two: The Maze.
The Maze is for the people that regret their mistake, and instead of dealing with the pain that being broken has caused them, they try and mask it with distractions. The best example of this is jumping into a new relationship before healing from the last one. (Guilty). Still not taking the time to forgive themselves and make efforts to find beauty in the broken, they end up taking wrong turn after wrong turn through an endless maze of confusion. Quality of Life: 3.5. If you try and take the approach of forgetting the mistake ever happened, or ignoring your feelings completely, you will end up lost. Pretty soon you will be so broken gorilla glue won't be able to fix you. Don't go there either!
Door Number Three: The Waiting Room.
The Waiting Room is for the people that acknowledge their mistake, recognize the brokenness, and take the time to sort through their emotions, hurts, and deal with the consequences. It's a grueling process and probably involves some tears and some heavy duty soul searching. Quality of life: 8. The people that do their time in the waiting room have the best shot at making a full recovery, and usually they exit the room better, stronger, and happier than they thought they could be. The other great thing about The Waiting Room is that the people that put in the effort while in there, are less frequent visitors than the people that choose the other doors. Why? Because properly dealing with your mistakes and accepting the brokenness helps make you more aware in the future. Healing makes you less likely to repeat. It doesn't mean you are incapable of mistakes, it just gives you better perspective.
Obviously those aren't the only available doors, those are just the ones I have found to be the most common. The good news is the doors have no expiration, so if you've been wandering through The Maze for awhile, don't worry, you can still back track and enter The Waiting Room. You want to know how I know this? I lived in The Maze for over ten years, and I just took my seat in The Waiting Room. Odds are I'm going to be here awhile, ten years of mistakes is a lot to sort through! I'm about as broken as they come. Here's the thing about me though, I keep moving forward, I keep smiling. I'm learning to forgive myself. I'm learning to let go. Yes, there are tears, but there's also hope. I can choose to view my mistakes as a negative thing, or as an opportunity to help someone else before they do the same thing. How's that for a bright side??
Do you have mistakes that are haunting you? Do you need to forgive yourself? Evaluate where you are in your healing process. Accept the brokenness while realizing it may be part of who you are, but it doesn't define you. Your future actions and choices depend on your ability to heal. So, if you're ready, pull up a chair and join me in The Waiting Room, there's no coffee or donuts in here, but I've heard the closure is delicious.
*Photo Credit: J Patrick Smith*