screwing up

in my internet travels, i have occasionally come across white bison, a recovery initiative particularly geared towards native americans, or first nations people, our term here in canada.

today i chanced upon one of white bison’s premises:

“a spiritual person is one who screws up everyday and keeps coming back to the creator”

what a great definition! that’s me, for sure 🙂

as we keep coming back to the creator (or god, christ, allah, the universe, isis, our higher power(s), the path, our principles, dharma – whatever you want to call it/her/him/them), the idea of “screwing up” slowly changes.

it may start with “oh darn, i did it again, what an idiot i am!” – lots of self-recrimination, probably grounded in an internalized idea or memory of a demanding, punishing authority figure. there’s a right and a wrong, and the screwer-upper is most definitely in the wrong. the idea of self-forgiveness is not even on the horizon; it lives in an entirely different galaxy.

paradoxically, many people apply these cruel principles mostly to themselves. they may be quite aware of the idea of forgiveness and of the fact that most things in life are not black and white. what’s more, they may not even be aware of this double standard: a certain degree of forgiveness and understanding for others; fanatic, impossible-to-achieve perfectionist rules for themselves.

at some point in the journey with the creator (let’s just keep this term, for simplicity’s sake), awareness dawns and you allow yourself to question this double standard. this can be unsettling and also exciting. it’s a new discovery but there are also implications: if this whole idea of screwing up is not about black and white, then what IS it? is it just all grey? are there shades of grey? it’s all very confusing.

a question crops up: what can i forgive myself for? what is unforgivable? and what happens when the (mostly imagined) punishment does not set boundaries anymore? ideally, this phase leads into a period of experimentation. from a developmental perspective, this is similar to the teenage years: painful, fun, confusing, exhilarating – and identity-forming.

a person who is focused on appeasing a punishing authority often only has a very rudimentary sense of self. “emancipation” refers to “moving out of the house of the father”. this is what happens here.

as we mature on the journey, we can view “screwing up” from a much larger perspective. we start realizing it rarely has anything to do with right or wrong; rather, with love and honesty, and with how people, places and things harmonize with each other.

sometimes the screw fits and sometimes it doesn’t; and sometimes it sits in there a bit lopsided. that doesn’t make the screw or the wall “bad” or “wrong”.

when there’s something to be fixed or an apology to be made, we go about it as soon as we can. that includes ourselves: when we see that we occasionally go back to the old, punishing ways, we forgive ourselves: “it’s alright. these things happen sometimes. don’t worry about it.”

otherwise, we smile a lot as we notice ourselves along the path – at times wobbling, at others dancing, or stumbling, running, and spending a good time going in circles. we go from screwing up to admiring the circles that wind themselves around this very useful little tool.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

4 thoughts on “screwing up

  1. OCD On A Stick

    I first learned that I used a lot of self-recrimination when I began going to counselling in my 20’s. I would repeat “Dummy, dummy” in my head over and over, again.

    Being a Catholic, I was taught a lot about forgiveness of sins but never about forgiveness for making mistakes. I had to learn as an adult that the only perfect person (in my case) was Christ. I would beat myself up over stupid mistakes more-so than any immoral infraction because (in my mind) the moral screwups were already covered.

  2. OCD On A Stick

    I first learned that I used a lot of self-recrimination when I began going to counselling in my 20’s. I would repeat “Dummy, dummy” in my head over and over, again.

    Being a Catholic, I was taught a lot about forgiveness of sins but never about forgiveness for making mistakes. I had to learn as an adult that the only perfect person (in my case) was Christ. I would beat myself up over stupid mistakes more-so than any immoral infraction because (in my mind) the moral screwups were already covered.

  3. Nickie

    As always, this is a beautiful post. Self-forgiveness is one of the hardest concepts for me. I am incredibly good at finding things (usually little things no one else notices) and holding on to them as proof of who knows what, mainly that I’m a bad person.

    I now try to be more aware of this habbit and let go of this habit because I know that it is not healthy.

  4. Nickie

    As always, this is a beautiful post. Self-forgiveness is one of the hardest concepts for me. I am incredibly good at finding things (usually little things no one else notices) and holding on to them as proof of who knows what, mainly that I’m a bad person.

    I now try to be more aware of this habbit and let go of this habit because I know that it is not healthy.

  5. JoLynn Braley

    Hi Isabella, I was just thinking about this last night, about the fact that it’s so much easier for me to forgive others, but what about me forgiving me?!

    Great post, thanks for your thoughts on this. 🙂

  6. JoLynn Braley

    Hi Isabella, I was just thinking about this last night, about the fact that it’s so much easier for me to forgive others, but what about me forgiving me?!

    Great post, thanks for your thoughts on this. 🙂

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