You’d think the story of your life would be anchored in achievements.
Seems natural to highlight successes. Those moments when you were a winner.
Show me photos of people smiling, not weeping.
But there’s a flip side to that coin.
Also important are those threads in our life story that are wrapped around our flaws. The cracks in the mold. The mistakes. The scars, bruises and broken bones.
Noteworthy are the moments we fumble. When we fail. Not just the peaks, but also the valleys and detours. These are the landmarks on the map that shows the treasure hunt in all our lives – that search for answers, happiness, stability, security. And love. All the stuff of life.
It’s not uncommon to hear people tell you it’s OK to make mistakes. In fact, it’s a good thing because everything we do wrong becomes a lesson on how to do it right.
But let’s step up that axiom a bit. Let’s take a closer look at the complicated mammals that we are – human beings. The keyword being “human.”
Each of us is an amazing compilation of nature. A flesh and blood and bone machine that is designed to survive no matter what we do to harm it.
And we do harm it, thanks to a guidance system that gives us free choice. Ah, the choices we make are not always the best, are they?
Nature guides much of our survival success. We can put a Band-Aid over the cut on our finger, but the chemistry of our body already is clotting the loss of blood.
But then along comes human nature: “The general psychological characteristics, feelings, and behavioral traits of humankind, regarded as shared by all humans.”
Yes, shared by all. And human nature is a mixed bag. A combination of lovely and nasty. Good and bad. Positives and negatives. We all tote one of those bags.
It’s important to accept that, which makes it a lot easier to understand people ... when they make mistakes or fail and face all those flaws I was talking about.
All those little detours along the highway of life force us to change direction. Or not. But they sure do affect our journey, where we go, how we get there and where we end up.
So, yeah, I’d say all those little bumps in our life – and how we navigate them – tell a truer story than the medals and trophies or degrees and job titles. All the stuff of resumes ... and, too often, obits.
For that reason I’d go so far as to say suffering in life, like mistakes, makes us stronger. It helps us test and measure and discover ourselves.
I remember one of my sons saying he’d had it too easy growing up. He thought he didn’t suffer enough. Perhaps he’s right.
The sooner we face our flaws the better we see ourselves. And then understand that’s how human nature works.
In November last year the popular singer Adele shared some candid moments in a TV interview with Oprah Winfrey. Let me underline something she said.
It blends well with the simple fact that we all have exuberant highs but also painful lows when we feel sorry for ourselves and want to give up.
Adele has illuminated such anguish in her songs, but she now leans on this thought to guide her life:
“If you’re not feeling everything, you’re missing everything.”
This says a lot about how we stumble through life. All the missteps are important.
I also saved some lines from the movie “Eternals” that blend well with this belief. (Sometimes the best part of movies is hearing the voices of the writers.)
The Eternals are superheroes with a mission to protect the Earth. (Or so it seems.) One of the heroes, Druig, has the ability to control minds and thus actions.
He says, “I thought about taking over the minds of every human on this planet. Violence, fear, greed, all gone.”
“Why didn’t you?” he was asked.
“Because without their flaws, they wouldn’t be human,” he answered.
Humanity is about so much more than the violence, greed and fear that Druig observed. And that’s what he wanted to protect. To save the light and hope and love and give it purpose, he had to allow the dark.
We walk through life on feet of clay.
Accept it. Understand it. And learn from it.
* Lonny Cain, retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa, also was a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet in the 1970s. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.