A friend of mine recently made a big mistake. A pretty costly one, in fact.
“It’s not that you screwed up,” I said. “Who cares. We all do. What matters is what you do with it. You get that, right?”
That simple exchange brings me to what I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving: maturity.
Some people just despise aging and all that goes with it, but some of us welcome even the wrinkles if it means it also brings things like the ability to see nuance, the power to love another complete with flaws, and the emotional intelligence to separate forgiveness from approval.
A decade ago, I would never have had those calm, reasoned words for my friend. I would have been condemning and rigid, black and white in my thinking, all about “wrong.”
But every single day there is something that comes across my desk or happens on the subway or is said by a loved one from a place of anxiety that must be assessed and reacted to with a measure of wisdom and balance. This day, as we embark on another holiday season, I am thankful for the awareness and openness required to cultivate that one day at a time.
This way, I can see that it is possible to feel Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is doing his best to right a wrong, make amends and move forward without in any way condoning what he did to all those dogs.
I can read Tiger Woods’ piece in Newsweek titled “How I’ve Redefined Victory” and breathe a sigh of relief for him and his family when he says things like this:
“The physical pain from that car accident has long healed,” Woods writes. “But the pain in my soul is more complex and unsettling; it has been far more difficult to ease -- and to understand. But this much is obvious now: my life was out of balance, and my priorities were out of order. I made terrible choices and repeated mistakes. I hurt the people whom I loved the most. And even beyond accepting the consequences and responsibility, there is the ongoing struggle to learn from my failings.”
Seeing the humanness in that isn’t the same as saying it’s OK to run roughshod over your marriage. It’s very different. One perspective recognizes mistakes can make the man better and stronger; the other dismisses a fellow human being for having poor judgment.
A mature perspective means I can be excited that former Olympian Marion Jones is playing in the WNBA and, like Vick, seeks to use her time in jail as a teaching moment for others as well as herself. That doesn’t mean I’m down with athletes using illegal substances to enhance their performance. In a Q&A on WNBA.com, Jones relates what she hopes people take away from her story as told in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, “Marion Jones: Press Pause.”
“If she can be at the top of her career and be [at one spot] two years ago and now heading up that ladder again, then just because you lost your job, you can find another one,” Jones says. “Just because you’re divorced, you can find your soul mate somewhere out there. It’s not the end of the world.”
Thinking that’s a terrific message doesn’t mean I think Jones is a hero, a much over-used term if there ever was one. After hearing Medal of Honor winner Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta recount his story to Stephen Colbert last week, I think we can all agree he is a living definition of the word. But a guy who plucks a football out of the air for the game-winning touchdown in the end zone? Not so much.
Let’s keep heroism the rare and esteemed club it should be. But let’s also be careful about banishing people to the depths of hell because they tripped up.
Hail to maturity, for showing us that truth, no matter how hard to hear or digest, is often a fresh start or the spark for an epiphany if we’re patient. There is reason to celebrate when we make the turn from knee-jerk or holier-than-thou thinking to a mindset more in line with the pure spiritual messages espoused in most religions.
Forgive. Breathe. Move on, lesson in tow.