Notes from the Sauna: Mistakes, regret, forgiveness

Posted: March 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

Often my thoughts turn into songs. But sometimes those thoughts are so wrapped up in an all-consuming, self-analysing, narcissistic cloak, they have to be left as thoughts, otherwise no-one would listen to my songs, and rightly so. But I still have to put those thoughts ‘out there’, if only to stop my soul from turning black. Here are my ‘Notes from the Sauna’:

I’ve been thinking about mistakes, regret and forgiveness.

I have made a lot of mistakes and some of them I will always regret. As much as I try to go all fortified and French and declare with a quite frankly disturbing warble that ‘je ne regrette rien’, I can’t help it.

In any case, a healthy sense of regret is constructive, surely? Regret can’t change the past, nor improve the present, but it can help to shape the future. Like I said, I have made a lot of really, really stupid mistakes. The ones I regret most are the ones that have hurt others. Most of my mistakes I’ve learnt from. Some mistakes I keep on making, regardless. In which case, regret is a fat lot of good and maybe that warbly French bird was right all along.

But the thing that struck me today, sitting in a sauna and sweating out existentialist angst, was that I’d rather have made all of the mistakes I’ve ever made if it meant I could retain the capacity both to say sorry and to forgive.

I spend a lot of my time saying sorry.

I’m good at that bit.

People, throughout my life, have hurt me too. Some have been cruel, used me and then boasted about it to others (yes, you, Mistake of 1985). Some have been violent. Some have told lies and spread false rumours for their own gain, amusement, or very possibly to mask their own wrongdoing. Some have simply not understood me, just as sometimes I haven’t taken the time to understand others. I know I could have done better. I’ve taken responsibility for it all. I could have done more to improve situations, to calm brewing disquiet, to stand up for myself, to not follow the herd, to recognise when I was being mistreated and when I was being unfair to others. Maybe I couldn’t have changed a thing. Who knows? But taking responsibility means I’m in charge of how these things affect me and stops me wasting my life blaming everyone else.

Forgiveness is the key.

Learning to forgive – particularly if the wrong hasn’t been recognised by the perpetrator – is something that can be harder to crack than a walnut with a pair of marshmallows, but once you’ve cracked it, it’s immensely liberating. Taking back responsibility for the way you feel, and forgiving others’ actions – whether or not they’re aware of what they’ve done or how they’ve made you feel – has been the key to me not going utterly insane. The little bit of Buddhism that I practise – not often enough – has helped a great deal with that. I should do it more. But then there’s always beer to fit in, too. Life gets busy.

But yes, my sweaty little sauna session left me realising that, as much as I will always regret some of the foolish and hurtful things I’ve done, I would rather have made my mistakes, and learnt (or not) from them, and have the ability to say sorry (and mean it) and to forgive (and mean it) than to never make mistakes and never be able to forgive.

The lack of capacity to forgive is a prison cell I’m happy not to be locked inside.

But I still can’t learn to forgive myself. That’s another little prison cell all of its own.

I think I’ll be in here for some time.

  1. Mr "useless at scrabble" of London says:

    Beautifuly written X

  2. carl welstead says:

    That’s really nice. We are all to blame xx

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