The only model I have for making things right after making a mistake is the one I learned growing up, in a religious context — one which relied heavily, if not exclusively, on guilt and shame, and emphasized how painful and difficult it is to struggle my way back to any level of acceptance or welcome. The “repentance process” was something horrible, something often necessary but much better avoided by simply being perfect — which, obviously, was impossible. So, already set up for failure, the guilt of having knowingly done wrong — and therefore being a bad person, a “sinner” — was heaped on under the guise of loving, caring guidance to help me “return to full fellowship.”
At the same time, I was taught that the ideal toward which I should strive was to “turn the other cheek,” that a truly loving person would forgive any trespass against them, that the most pure and perfect example of what we could be, not only forgave everything of everyone, but did so with a smile and a gentle reaffirmation of his love.
I made a mistake recently — a fairly significant one. I understand now, looking at the structure I’ve had, why the response I got shocked me like it did: because the people involved have exemplified the supposedly unattainable ideal I was taught that we all should be, instead of the degrading, demeaning, and demoralizing cycle of shame I expected.
There are good people in this world. There are folks who strive to make a difference, who make mistakes themselves and understand that others will do the same. There are wonderful members of our human race who want to be happy and want to help others be happy as well. I’m fortunate to have found many of these people, and to recognize that I share many of these traits; I’ll have to work to un-learn some of my old ways, re-train some broken patterns and discard many of the lies I have so deeply internalized… but it’s where I belong, and I’m grateful to know the folks I do, and to know that I have a chance to get to know them better!