Mistakes: Pitfalls or opportunities for growth

Screengrab form Inception Leo pointing finger in Josep Gordon  Levvitt's face

I am today the sum total of my past experiences.

Mistakes, sins, errors in judgment are they blips in an otherwise upward trend of life or are the defining moments that have shaped us into who we are today? Personally I believe that all things (good and bad) shape who we are. They all influence us in some way, how they do so is purely up to us.

Many years ago I had my sights set on going to the US Air Force Academy and I was a shoe in too. I had top endorsements from my liaison officer, a US Senator, and the Academy’s fencing coach. Each of them told me that if I didn’t get in it was either a fluke or I wasn’t meant to. Well, I didn’t get in, simply because a piece of mail got lost by the US Postal Service.

United States Air Force Academy Campuse Quad
USAFA Campus Quad

Had I gotten in I probably wouldn’t have come out for many years. I probably would have followed the usual path and been married by next year. I may have started a family only to, years later, come out; rocking the foundation of my family and influencing my children negatively. Granted this is only one scenario, it could have been  a grand path for me but the truth is I will never know what could have been, that path is and has been forever closed to me.

Wide Shot of the BYU Campus Quad
BYU Campus

Instead I went to BYU. I met one of my best friends whom I help send on a mission. I later came out and have helped save lives and even help someone else join the church. The ripple effect if those actions alone are staggering.

For years I looked at my rejection to the Academy as a blip in my life. A turning point that was lost, the dream that never would be. It devastated me and controlled my life just like the life of a man in a mid-life crisis.

Clarence from It's a Wonderful Life
Ah, Clarence!

But then I had a shift in perspective as I came out. Had I gone down that path then the one I was on would be lost. The friendships I made wouldn’t be, the lives touched would be forever different, the people whose lives I saved would have been lost. Coming out to myself was my own personal talk with Clarence the Angel.
In reality, the Academy wasn’t sin, it was a road not taken. There is a standard way of thinking that it is better not to have sinned than to sin and grow from it and I think that this still applies completely. It is still better not to have sinned. However our past transgressions, if recognized as shaping our present, have the power to help us grow beyond measure. For I believe that the only way we can truly forgive ourselves is to recognize the present. Recognize that we are  the product of a past that cannot change and that shouldn’t change, only help us to  improve our future.

King Edmund the Just in Prince Caspian - portrayed by Skandar Keynes
King Edmund the Just

In The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe Peter Pevensie wasn’t deceived by the White Witch but Edmund, after betraying his family, recognizing his past and receiving forgiveness from both Aslan and himself, became Edmund the Just. In later books, Edmund was more caring, and believing of Lucy and Aslan; he learned to withhold jugement when he sated “Even a traitor may mend. I have known one who did”.

Edmund is an accurate archetype of us all because at some point we all give in to temptation and sin. But I don’t see those sins as blips or bumps in the road, but the very things that have shaped us into who we are today. Because Edmund recognized this change and grew he was changed for good. I hope that we all can recognize that everything that happens changes us and, if we let it, we can be changed for good.