Growth is a double-edged sword.
It’s necessary but uncomfortable. Exciting but painful. A fine but difficult balance balance between holding on and letting go.
The thing no one ever tells us about growth, though? One of the more unpleasant side effects of transformation? It can often come with a lot of guilt. Especially when we apply our current perspectives to our past choices.
It’s easy to linger a little too long over thoughts of how we hurt that person we once loved. Or how embarrassingly harsh we were with our words. Or, perhaps worst of all, how carelessly we may have treated someone’s heart. We know better now, but the damage has been done. It seems with every great growth bender comes an equally great guilt hangover.
So what do we do?
How do we reconcile these two selves: Today’s self who knows better and yesterday’s self, who so clearly didn’t? How do we look back on who we used to be without allowing shame or embarrassment to consume us? How do we stop feeling guilty that we could have ever been so intolerant or closed-minded or flat out wrong about something? How do we stop beating ourselves up for yesterday’s missteps? Especially when our only window into the past now seems to be all but entirely obscured by our current views and beliefs?
We remind ourselves that we were doing what we knew how to do at the time. That growth is uncomfortable, but necessary. And that if our human experience is an evolving journey, that means everyone else’s must be, too.
Which means, in order to transform our past mistakes into something other than pain we must be willing to pay our perspective forward.
To extend compassion to all those striving and struggling and suffering right alongside us. To assume, even when it’s unpopular or inconvenient or downright maddening, that everyone is, in fact, doing the best they can. And to forgive those who, for right now in this moment, know not what they do.
Excellent advice. It reminded me of something that was a kind of revelation to me a few years back. Each of us has a certain amount of “light”, meaning understanding or discernment, which we are expected to live by. But, I can never judge (never supposed to judge, anyway) the other person’s actions or thoughts by the light that I have. I am only responsible for myself. It helps with the judgmental attitude and, as you point out, gives us the opportunity to encourage others who are in a process similar to one we have gone through.
I love this perspective, Colleen! Basically not judging another person’s actions through the lens of our own experience and “light.” It’s hard to remember that we’re all at different points on different paths, and it can be hard to extend compassion (especially when people frustrate or disappoint us), but I so agree with you that THIS should be what we strive for. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it, right? 😉