“To begin to live in the present, we must first atone for our past and be finished with it.” — Anton Chekhov
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With heart on fire and eyes holding back a well of tears, my six-year-old self approached my mother.
I had just broken a glass jug and knew I had to own up to it, but really didn’t want to. What I wanted to do was run away and hide, or find a way to go back in time and make it not happen.
But even as a naive child, I knew that’s not how life works. The only way to get past it was through it.
To my surprise, once the words were out of my mouth I quickly realized it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Instead, it felt good to own up to it and have nothing more to hide from.
To her credit, my mother also handled the situation with grace, accepting the situation for what it was without making me feel any worse than I already felt.
In comparison to nearly every other misstep I’ve made since that day, this was a seemingly insignificant and inconsequential event, yet it continues to have an impact on how I approach reconciling missteps.
The lessons learned from this single event include the importance of accepting a situation for what it is, putting it into perspective, taking responsibility right away, and moving forward from a new place of understanding so it doesn't happen again.
Despite these lessons, it’s important to remember that being sorry doesn't put the pieces of a broken glass jug back together. The glass is still broken and no amount of glue will return the jug to its original state.
But what it does do is signal to those you care about that you value them, are able to take responsibility, and are willing to do what needs to be done to atone and prevent the same situation from happening again moving forward.
It’s impossible to go through life without making mistakes; it’s simply a part of being human. What matters most is whether we’re willing to do our best to pick up the pieces and try again moving forward with an honest heart.
What missteps have you made and how has atoning for them impacted your choices and relationships moving forward?
Jonas Cain is an instructional designer, facilitator of fascination, and purveyor of positivity—helping to initiate and manage positive change for individual, team, and community growth.