She has just found out that she is pregnant. Being both religious and unmarried she immediately thinks, “I’m going to hell.” He, oblivious to her distress, decides to surprise her at work and hires someone in a gorilla suit to find her and in the presence of her co-workers sing to the tune of Happy Birthday: “Happy baby to you, happy baby to you…” When she gets home from work she immediately, and with much venom, tears into him about humiliating her in front of everyone. He is completely perplexed since he thought that by celebrating the new life that they had created he was doing a good thing He wonders what signs he missed that caused him to get it so wrong. He thinks to himself: So this is hell!
Part of being human is to make mistakes, even well-intentioned mistakes. We sometimes, out of ignorance of what that choice will lead to or create, choose things which are not in our best interests. It is true that you cannot un-ring a bell: What has happened, has happened and no amount of regret about it can undo the fact that it happened. Even though we may determine to not make that same mistake again, that determination cannot wipe away the fact that we were once willing to choose what we chose.
A mistake, however, needn’t have the finality of eternal hell. A mistake is not a wasted choice since the mistake clearly defines for us what we don’t really want, or who and how we don’t want to be. A mistake is that one footstep too far beyond the edge of the cliff and its usefulness is that we now know where the edge is. Sometimes we need to make a mistake in order to wake up and ask ourselves: What do I really want?
A mistake does not eliminate the possibility of choosing differently in the future. If the mistake involved others then we can try to make amends to them, if they will allow it; sometimes they will, but sometimes they would prefer to punish rather than to forgive. So be it. The hell of a mistake can actually lead us towards a bit of heaven’s goodness if, by way of becoming more conscious, we remember not only the mistake but more importantly the thinking which influenced the choice of that mistake.
How hot our particular hell is or isn’t is not the point: Is living in a hellish situation really where we want to stay? Does our particular hell have to be eternal? Quite often there IS something that we can do about becoming better… which is a little taste of heaven!