A famous editor of children's books was once asked what her qualifications were to determine what would be a good book for children. She responded, "Well, I am a former child, and I haven't forgotten a thing."
When she was offered a promotion to become an editor in the adult section, she refused, and later wrote to a friend that she'd said, "...thank you very much but I had to get back to my desk to publish some more good books for bad children" (Leonard Marcus, "Dear Genius The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom").
These statements rang a bell for me, since I also am a former child, and a former "bad" child at that. I confess to the following naughtiness:
First, to my brother Rex. Remember how you were the only one in the family with enough discipline to put his candy loot from holidays in a small safe in your room? I am the one who figured out how to open the safe and occasionally snitched a candy bar. Now you know.
Second, to my brother Glenn. I was the one who pushed the TV cart that caught on a crack in the floor, tipped the TV over, breaking it. I told Mom you did it, and you were too little to defend yourself or even to know what was going on. For years after this I dreamed of ways to confess to our mom, to clear your name, but by then I was more ashamed of lying to her than TV-tipping, and I stayed silent. Mom, Glenn didn't do it; I did.
Third, I want to apologize to the little girl on the corner whom I teased to the point of tears one day. I don't know why I behaved that way, and I am sorry.
There. I feel better. But not just because I confessed. I feel better because I know I wouldn't do any of those things today. Today I know that stealing is wrong, and I remember how little pleasure it gave me to eat those candy bars. I also know that lying is wrong and how terrible it felt to be too ashamed to tell my mom the real truth. I know that being mean to someone is wrong. Just as I don't want people to be mean to me, I would not want to be mean to them.
Thinking about my actions each day, leaving the past behind me, I know now to make sure that what I do represents the real me. Nothing will ever take from me my true self. You may wonder how I know who my true self is. For one thing, I've made friends with God. He is a great friend. He never says "How terrible" when I tell Him I want to correct something. God, as a loving parent, has a way of helping each one of us know how special we are. He is proud of us, and when we listen to His guidance and reject our previous behavior, which we regret, He washes clean even the memory of a moment when we are less than lovely.
God is the only one who could accurately tell me if I was a bad person. But since God made me, I am like Him; I reflect Him. And He is not bad; He is good, all good. No room for terrible, not even a smidgen of space for mistakes. If I want to correct something I said or did, I do it. I'm not afraid of being punished or caught or in trouble.
I would rather face up to what was not like God and correct it than to live with a guilty conscience. The Bible says, "I'd rather scrub floors in the house of my God than be honored as a guest in the palace of sin" (Ps. 84:10, Peterson translation). And Mary Baker Eddy, the woman who founded this newspaper, wrote, "It were better to be exposed to every plague on earth than to endure the cumulative effects of a guilty conscience" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 405).
When you do something wrong, it may seem like a small thing, something you may not even get caught at. But because you and I are both God's children, we know the difference between right and wrong. And we really do want to do what's right. Even if it means we don't get a little bit of the candy we wanted. Even if it means we have to face the music by admitting we are the one that tipped over the TV. Even if it means we can't swing on someone's swing. We can say "I'm sorry" and really and mean it.
Correcting something we've done is like focusing a camera so the picture isn't fuzzy. This frees us to be happy because it helps us know that we are accurately reflecting God.
We're not on a path that has no turning back. Reflection isn't an effort. You don't stand in front of a mirror and plead with it to reflect accurately. It is who you are, who I am, and nothing can take away our true self.