I once overheard a woman say, “I have no regrets. Every mistake I’ve made has made me who I am today. I wouldn’t change that for the world.”
I applaud her for owning the good and the bad in her life. I think it’s healthier than denying our fallibility and our opportunities to learn and grow and change.
But … I wonder if we should take that line of thinking a few steps further.
I’ve made pleeeeenty of mistakes during my life – most I regret and many I would take back in a minute. That doesn’t mean I wish I were different or that I don’t like or love who I am now. That just means I don’t like some of the choices I’ve made. I’ve hurt people. I’ve hurt myself. I’ve done some really dumb things only the grace of God saved me from.
You bet I wish I could take some of my mistakes back.
For me, it’s not my mistakes but what I did after I made them that makes up who I am today. Positive growth only comes with positive motion. My mistakes don’t define me, but my response to them does. The sorrow for my sins, the humility in asking forgiveness from God and others, the understanding and desire for improvement, the courage to stand up and try again – these are the things that define me.
Saying my mistakes made me who I am is saying growth comes from messing up. But, I know a lot of people who mess up and are still messing up without learning a thing. They are the same now as they were five years ago. What they are doing with their mistakes (which is nothing) is making them who they are today (miserable, just like they were five years ago.)
Life is all about changing and growing. We are here to empathize, to love and to learn. Our mistakes are a byproduct of our human state and stupid choices, not the sole purpose we are here.
Our mistakes provide opportunities for us to turn to God and allow Him to make us better. For some of us, it takes real heartache for our hearts to be ready for Him. But, though the mistake prepares the heart, it is our willingness to give our hearts to Him that changes us.
I own my mistakes and wrong choices. I am keenly aware of bad choices I’ve made throughout my life. Oh, how I have some regrets! It pains me that I’ve hurt other people. So, no, I would not choose their pain in exchange for my growth.
I also own what I do after I make my mistakes. I’m learning humility and patience and kindness. I am learning who I am and what I can do with His help.
That is what makes me who I am today.
That’s what gives me purpose. It also gives me hope because my mistakes don’t define me. I am not my mistakes. I am my apologies and my fortitude and my faith and my love.
I am imperfect by nature but made whole by His nature if I choose Him. And I do – and that I wouldn’t change for the world.