Thursday, February 22, 2007

Learning from Past Mistakes

When we look back at our past, knowing what we know now, we often find that it's nearly impossible to understand how we made the mistakes we've made. Once we learn new information, it's nearly impossible to reenter the 'place' we were in before we learned new information.

I think of the situation where 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards said, after examining his conscience, that he was wrong for having voted for the Iraq War Resolution. It was important for him to acknowledge his mistake so that we might fully understand that he'd learned a powerful lesson. He's offered an example of good character by saying - in essence - that once he admitted he knew better, our nation would stand a chance, through his leadership, to do better - and act more righteously - in the future.

Think about mistakes you've made. I think it's safe to say that our personal pasts are full of mistakes that we often can't believe we'd ever made. We likely did things then that we would never do now, and this is precisely because we have information now that we didn't have - or weren't able to access - back then.

How many of us can look back and honestly say that our personal past sometimes reads like a picture-perfect life-guidebook on what not to do? We learn from living. We come to understand how to live differently now in order that we do not repeat mistakes of the past.

Here we are in 2007. We can look back on 2002 and see that we've learned that a President should not be deferred to as if he or she was a King or a Queen. If there's one lesson that has been taught to us well by President George W. Bush, it is that Senators acting out of ingratiating regard toward a leader for the sake of civiity can be harmful to our freedoms at home and our nation's good standing in the world. Great harm came to the People because of this kind of deference.

In order to live more peacefully with the past, it helps to remember that once we know better, we tend to do better. The Bush administartion's Iraq War will leave a scar on the United States that an apology for a vote on a Resolution will not erase. We shouldn't expect an "I was wrong" to erase the things that have come to pass as a result of the Bush administration's incompetent decisions. An "I was wrong" won't bring back lives lost unjustly, but it may make us stronger by the lessons we trust have been learned. Trust is the key word here. We will only believe we can move on if we have trust that our leaders have learned something. Voters need to be convinced that hard lessons have actually been burned into the minds of those who admit that they were wrong. When John Edwards humbly said that he believed that he was wrong, most Americans were willing to offer their understanding and forgiveness. I can't help but to believe we, as a nation, will heal more quickly and take a more righteous path once we can believe that the leaders we choose have been refined by consciously-realized and publicly-admitted mistakes.

We've all made mistakes before we "knew better." We can forgive ourselves once we see that we did our best, and we can come out stronger for having had the experience. While it's true that from the perspective of the present, our best doesn't always seem good enough, we can at least give our past selves the benefit of the doubt. And we can forgive others who offer a part of their good conscience to us. People do the best with what knowledge they've had.

In the end, it's best not to become bogged down in the negativity created by error, whether it's about a personal mistake or the mistake of a nation. We all serve the greater good most effectively by not dwelling on the past. Sometimes it's hard not to dwell on grievous errors. This is why an apology is so very powerful. It can lead us to more effectively reigning our energy and knowledge into our present actions.

It is here, in this moment, that we create our reality and ourselves anew. I hope that we can soon be on the path to ending our too-long occupation in Iraq and bringing our troops home. It's the only way that Iraq can find its own path to peace with the support of many nations.


Larry said...

Great post. My fear is Bush has taken his power to such extreme levels, that his replacement will have free reign to broaden it even further.

Money drives agendas and money buys candidates, as well as money buys power.

I fear we may never get back those freedoms we used to enjoy.

Dharmashanti said...

Good post. I'm glad John Edwards has admitted he made a mistake about the war. I keep waiting for him to realize he's also wrong on wanting to deny people like me the right to marry.

Just because he chooses to adopt a homophobic religion shouldn't mean that his religious beliefs should be imposed on everyone else. He wouldn't want me to impose my vegetarian ethics on him, nor would I choose to.


P.S. My blog has moved to

TomCat said...

Is that a fact? I was unaware thet Edwards opposes gay rights. I'll need to clarify that for myself (no offense intended), but it true I would find that a stumbling block to supporting him. Hillary's stance on her Iraq vote has turned me off to her.

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