In the New Hampshire presidential debate among Democratic candidates, each was asked what remark made during an earlier debate he or she would like to take back. Two acknowledged making comments they regretted. The other two skirted the question.
I'm sure the candidates who good-naturedly admitted their errors won appeal points. After all, coming across as someone voters can relate to is a winning strategy. And who can't relate to making mistakes?
I've certainly racked up plenty of time – and prayer – trying to undo my mistakes. I can usually learn a useful lesson from them, but I'm not so good at putting them behind me.
One idea that has helped me pray about moving beyond mistakes is from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," which Mary Baker Eddy wrote before founding this newspaper. It says, "The eternal Truth destroys what mortals seem to have learned from error, and man's real existence as a child of God comes to light" (pp. 288-289).
Wallowing in my own wrongdoing certainly qualifies as something I "seem to have learned from error." So when I get in that ruminating mode, I remind myself that Truth has destroyed whatever it is I'm stewing about. Any spiritual growth that came out of the experience is mine to keep, but the guilt and self-condemnation are errors that Truth destroys.
As I understand it, divine Truth destroys these errors by never knowing them. It's a little like the approach that currency experts use to detect counterfeit money. Instead of studying the fakes, they get to know the real thing through and through. That way, when confronted with a counterfeit, they're not tricked into thinking it's real.
In a similar way, God, divine Spirit, knows each of us the way He made us, wholly spiritual, pure, and perfect. That's the only way He can know us, because God, good, is infinite and omnipotent. There's no place outside infinite good where evil can exist and no counterforce within omnipotent good's all-power.
Of course, it doesn't always look that way from where we sit. But that's a function of our limited mortal perspective, not a problem in God's creation. That mortal perspective is the counterfeit that never fools God and needn't fool us.
The more familiar we are with the way God makes us, the more easily we'll recognize false, or counterfeit, views of ourselves and others, and cease to be tricked by them. And once we stop being tricked, we see more clearly what's divinely true about us. As Science and Health promises, our "real existence as a child of God comes to light."
I must be making progress putting my mistakes behind me because, recently, I read that familiar line from Science and Health and thought about something other than the past. I noticed its implications for the future.
It occurred to me that the zillion and one expectations we have about what it takes to be happy, healthy, and successful can be just as limiting as whatever baggage we carry with us from years ago.
If we think we need a certain amount of money in order to be happy, or a particular level of education in order to find a good job, or even a set amount of sleep in order to be productive, those assumptions will limit our sense of what's possible. And if we let them, they'll shape our future.
But that needn't be the case. We can challenge whatever assumptions would curtail our prospects. God creates us perfect and keeps us that way. So the only power that fears – or counterfeit views – of the future can have is the power we give them.
Instead of worrying about what's to come, we can let Jesus' words "With God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26) shape our thoughts about the future. With that kind of unlimited spiritual perspective, we can move forward expecting nothing short of God's goodness.