When Brittany Spears released her song, “Oops, I Did It Again,” she did more than make a hit. She easily captured the tag line for many of our lives. The tough thing, I’ve found, is not that I’ve made mistakes. I can make a mistake and apologize. The harder thing is when I do it again.
And though I am only in my third decade, if the next few are anything like the last few, most of my mistakes are going to feel familiar. It’s not that I am incapable of learning. Really, I know I can learn. Nor is it that I lack the desire to learn. I really hate making the same mistake.
It’s just this one thing.
Truth be told, I’ll never be perfect. And knowing my imperfections that are as familiar as a freckle, it’s likely some of these will always be with me. No matter how much I learn, those freckles are also part of me.
While forgiveness is a challenge, it is perhaps most challenging when we have to forgive ourselves for a familiar mistake. If you’ve hurt someone with the words you used, then when another careless remark leaves injury it can be much harder to say you are sorry the second time or third. It can be even harder to forgive yourself.
Yet, it is often our reaction to these repeat mistakes that keeps us from our potential and living into the lives we’ve been called to live. And let’s face it, society isn’t always that forgiving of our foibles and failures. “Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me.”
Fortunately, Unitarian Universalism is a religion built upon compassion and connection. We always believed in human potential, and human fallibility. Any religion seeking the evolution of the human spirit must make room for our full humanity, light and darkness. This doesn’t mean we don’t have to work to be in right relationship when we’ve done harm, but it does hopefully open the possibility of transformation-the kind built on honest reflection coupled with gentle compassion.
Forgiveness is a layered spiritual gift that is built upon the paradox of release and embrace.
We embrace our shadow side and in the release of our guilt, shame, anger, and even pain we open our lives to the greater embrace of compassion and kindness.
I wish you this month some embrace and release. Come gather with us in the community of compassion. Mistakes welcome.
In faith and compassion,