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 it for the world.”
I applaud her for owning the good and the bad in her life. I think it’s healthier than denying our infallibility or the opportunity 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 of which I regret. Many I would take back in a minute. That doesn’t mean I don’t like or love who I am now, or wish I were different. That just means I don’t like some of the choices I have made. I’ve hurt people. I’ve hurt myself. I’ve done some really dumb things that only the grace of God saved me from. You bet I wish I could take some of them back.
For me, it’s not my mistakes that made me who I am today, but what I did after I made them. 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—all of these things define me.
Saying my mistakes have made me who I am means that growth comes from messing up. Now, 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 learn to empathize, to love, and to learn. Our mistakes are a by-product of our human state and stupid choices, not the sole purpose we are here. They 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 it to Him that changes it, and us.
I own my mistakes and wrong choices. I am keenly aware of bad choices I’ve make throughout my life. Oh, how I have some regrets! It pains me that I’ve hurt people and myself. And no, I wouldn’t 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, among other things. I am also 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 I wouldn’t change that for the world.