Years ago I was a camp counselor at a sleep-away girls camp. The night before the campers arrived each counselor would receive a packet containing the names of their campers and some helpful information from their parents (i.e. first time at camp, or parents are getting divorced, etc.).
On this particular day I was assigned a very well-known, likable camper I’ll call Maria. When I saw her in my packet I began loudly proclaiming that, “I got Maria! I got Maria!”
It is, to this day one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. Not because I tripped or someone pants’d me (which would have been totally understandable), but just because I was behaving so ridiculously obnoxious.
I replay this moment in my head – not every day, but it will randomly pop up – and get embarrassed all over again. I think about how rude it was to my fellow counselors, how dismissive it was of my other campers, who were all fabulous in their own rights…
I think we all have moments like this. Moments where our reasoning, good manners, and consideration of others just get away from us and we make total asses of ourselves.
The thing is, this moment happened 14 years ago, and no matter how much I’d like to, I can’t go back and have a do-over. So how can I move past this moment and let it go?
Well, I don’t know. But I started poking around Google, and here are a few ideas I found.
Apologize. You don’t have to be going through a 12-step program to apologize to someone, no matter how long ago the incident happened. If they accept then you can move forward with a clean slate. If they don’t, their refusal is on them, not you. A genuine apology, free from excuses, can work wonders to soothe your soul.
It’s not always possible to apologize though, is it? We lose touch with people, or they pass on, or maybe your action didn’t wrong anyone, but you’re holding onto it for some other reason.
Write a letter. To the person, to yourself, to God, to the universe. Who it’s addressed to doesn’t matter, really. It’s what you put into the letter that counts. Use it as you would the apology and fill it with sincere wishes to make amends and let it go. You can mail it to no one, put it in a drawer, or send it out to sea in a bottle.
Do something kind. You could say this is making amends, though your act of kindness doesn’t need to be for any one person. Just do something kind for someone else and let karma take care of the rest. Donate time or money. Start a pay it forward line at the Dunkin Donuts drive through. Send cards to people you haven’t talked to in a while. You don’t have to make it big, just make it kind.
Hold a cleansing. Get a group of friends together and have a night of cleansing. Drink some wine, make a fire and burn some stuff, and let your mistakes go up in smoke. If there’s lots of wine involved I don’t recommend having a drunken confessional, but it’s your call.
Forgive yourself. Remember that these moments of idiocy are just that; moments. If you are generally a good person, treat other people well, and behave in an ethical manner, you can forgive yourself a few small indiscretions. It’s easy to get stuck in these moments and forget all the good we did before and after.
Learn something. Make your mistakes mean something by learning from them and growing. If a moment of bad judgement can help you become a better person, then it wasn’t a mistake, it was a lesson. It’s up to you to figure out what the lesson is and do better next time.
Pray. For some people, this would be the first action, for others it will be the last. Personally I have found that the heaviest of loads, whether they are regrets or worries, can only be soothed by accepting my imperfection and praying for forgiveness (or help). In my darkest hours it was only through sharing my burden with God that I was able to find peace.
We all have things in our past that we’re not proud of. If we’re lucky those things are simple moments of uncharacteristic idiocy. Sometimes our embarrassments are bigger, longer, and harder to get over. I asked a friend of mine what he regretted and his response was, “1998.”
The truth is there are few mistakes that are so big, so bad, so unforgivable that you deserve to be haunted by them forever.
So give yourself a break. Apologize, make amends, and do better next time. We’re only human after all.
Linked up at Thrifty Thursday