Recently, a client whom I admire greatly, arrived at the office crestfallen and despondent, a considerable change from his usual upbeat and optimistic demeaner. “I am a fallen angel,” he declared.
After years of successfully applying himself, using meditation and breath work to calm his anxieties and quick temper, he ruefully revealed that he had “lost it” during a visit with a family member he had not seen in over seven years. “The old me, it came out, loud and caustic… triggered by a silly difference of opinion. I regressed in an instant… all that work… for naught.”
Of course he was being hard on himself. He was glossing over the condition that we all share – being human.
There is no such thing as a perfect person. Even the most admirable of us has a history where we can find indiscretions and lapses of judgement among the admirable achievements. I get a chuckle from this quote from “The Liar’s Club” author, Mary Karr, “Even the best of us are at least part-time bastards.”
It’s a relief in a way, to accept that no person is perfect and that we all have flaws and a past that is not without an indiscretion and lapse of judgement here and there. It helps us accept the people in our lives for who they are, with their good and bad sides, and to accept and love ourselves for who we are.
The response when we do fall and regress is to acknowledge what occurred and get back up! I love the story of the seeker who finds the wise man and asks, “How do you always stay on track?” The wise man answers, “When I fall off, I simply get back on.”
It’s human nature to beat yourself up over the lapse. We all tend to do it. But actually it’s not entirely a bad thing; guilt for instance, is one of the ‘indicator’ emotions, which let us know when something isn’t right and remind us of what our true values are. And how are we supposed to avoid repeating a mistake if we don’t acknowledge it in the first place?
Of course there are twists and turns in every worthwhile endeavor, and we can be sure that bumps in the road will pop up to slow our progress. But often, the detours and obstacles turn out to be the challenges that, when overcome, provide the most satisfaction. As the saying goes, “You cannot become a good sailor in calm waters.”