While painting the apartment they have an argument; he pushes her, she trips over the can of paint, spilling it across the floor. Having had enough, she leaves both the apartment and the relationship. For months he fumes about how unreasonable she was/is and refuses to clean up the spilled paint. One day his heart turns around from blaming her to missing her, and he can no longer stand the evidence of the paint spill. He scrubs, and scrubs, trying to make his mistake go away, trying to make it as if none of it had happened, trying to make it be like before, trying to scrub away even the memory of it.
I know of no one who doesn’t have regrets, who doesn’t wish that they knew more at the time about their hearts mysterious workings than they know now. A way to make use of our mistakes is not by disowning them, but by admitting, “Yes, this is me”, even while resolving to be that “me” no more. I know someone who is so fearful of the possibility of disappointing herself about herself, of committing the same mistakes again, that she shuns any meaningful relationships. At work she is friendly, she is cooperative, but she is essentially unknowable. Her forays into the world seem to be solely for work and food shopping; she then holds up in her apartment, keeping the possibility of relational mistakes at bay.
Certainly, only a fool would deliberately set out to make mistakes, but at the same time they are a real possibility in the rough-and-tumble of life, a potential roll of the dice. Taking refuge in being unhealthily fearful of making mistakes as a way to not make any is also to refuse to live. Despite our fears, our life should be neither a way of practicing being dead nor a slow-motion suicide.
Connected to all of this is the issue of flexibility: Are we willing to try things differently? It has been said that the definition of insanity is to repeatedly do something in the same way and yet, each time, to expect a different outcome. Perhaps we can learn to loosen fear’s grip on our heart? Try a different flavor of ice cream; who knows, maybe we’ll come upon another flavor that we are surprised to discover that we really like?! Walk or drive home by a different route; who knows, maybe we’ll discover a larger world right around us?! Be the one to throw a surprise party for someone else; who knows, perhaps the one whom we will really surprise is ourselves?!