Last Saturday I was on the way to the bookstore to score some new reading material for the weekend. I never got there.
Right after I pulled onto the highway, the car started shuddering. Bad. Ok, I thought, you just have to make it to the next exit. Then you can call Mark to come get you and everything will be all right.
Except it didn’t turn out like that. Instead my tire went out, forcing the car to spin across two lanes of traffic. I bounced off the median a couple of times and came to a rest with half the car on the shoulder and half in the left-most lane.
And I was fine. Just fine. Not a scrape, not a bruise. The car is toast, but apart from that the only consequence is this lingering feeling I have that I did something terribly, terribly wrong.
So here’s today’s Manifesto Monday: Three Things I Believe about Mistakes.
1. I believe I was morally responsible for that accident.
I wasn’t being malicious, but I did make a very bad judgment call. I should have pulled over right away, or at least put on my flashers and slowed way down. Failing to do so was a big deal; there were other people on the road, and I could have hurt them.
I could write it off by saying “I didn’t mean for that to happen.” Or I can go ahead and take responsibility from it and learn from it. To me, that seems like the right thing to do.
2. I believe that initial remorse is important, but lingering guilt is a Very Bad Thing.
You should feel bad when you cause harm or nearly do so — but not forever. Long-lasting guilt seems to me like it’s often more about hurting yourself than actually “getting right” with the world. And no matter how badly you’ve screwed up, hurting yourself is just not good because:
3. I believe that redemption doesn’t come through punishment, nor through doing good to compensate for the wrong you’ve done. I believe redemption comes from learning to be a better person.
I’m pretty sure this belief of mine is rather uncommon, but to me it just feels… right. Punishment as a path to redemption feels kinda pointless to me; it doesn’t add anything good to the world. And compensating for your mistakes is sometimes impossible.
But learning to be a better person is never beyond your reach. I don’t want to imply that it’s an easy thing to do in all cases, but it’s always possible.
So that’s Manifesto Monday for today. Oh, yeah, one more thing:
4. I believe I need a new car.