Help for When You Have Really Screwed Things Up

By | June 14, 2013

can't copeOn this point I think we are all united.  We all majorly screw things up every now and then. We do something like: say something stupid, embarrass ourselves, tarnish our reputation, cross a moral boundary, hurt someone else deeply, and on and on. What we do next to respond to a major screw up is where our unity starts to disperse into many different directions. Let me share a few typical responses to a major screw up that may not be the most compassionate or healthy responses for us or for others:

  • We blame others or we blame conditions
  • We outwardly show remorse but inwardly feel anger, resentment, or fear
  • We move on quickly or deny it all together, hoping the whole incident will be forgotten
  • We withdraw; hoping time will lessen the sting
  • We severely beat ourselves up with guilt and shame

suffering 1I don’t know about you, but the trite response from friends, “Everyone screws up sometimes”, is not helpful to me when I know I have really botched things up. But beating ourselves up and reliving the moment over and over again, wishing for a different outcome is not helpful either. This is the first piece of advice for help when you really screw things up. Reliving or ruminating the incident to try to analyze the would ofs, should ofs, could ofs, of the experience will only create more suffering as we literally re-experience the humiliation or pain of the moment.  We must accept the reality of the situation and begin from there. It is, so now, next steps.

So the first two tips are:

  • Don’t ruminate or rehearse the incident in your mind
  • Accept that it happened and use this as your new beginning point

break upThe next step, if you haven’t already done this already, is to accept 100% responsibility for the screw up. You were not provoked, tempted by the devil, or pushed into anything. Your stress levels, headache, new medicine, nor the temperature the room is responsible for your behavior, no matter how strongly you want to believe this. The only one responsible for your behavior and the choices you make is you.  Blaming any incident on something or someone is a delay tactic. Whatever you are running from by blaming others or blaming conditions will now begin to chase you more vigorously.

The next step in fixing a major screw up is deciding honestly if you have any recompense or atonement that needs to be done. This does not always equate to an apology to someone else. Sometimes the atonement is towards yourself.  But if an apology IS in order, (even if the other person also should apologize), do it as soon as you are able to do, without expectations. It doesn’t matter if the other person doesn’t apologize – thatconversation is their issue to resolve. If they are not really sorry, would you want a fake apology anyway? You are apologizing because you truly do not want to hurt anyone not because you want to shore things up. Fixing this screw up is about YOU – not them – so don’t worry what their reaction is going to be or whether they plan to reciprocate or not.  If you cannot apologize yet, begin to heal the situation in your mind first by following these other helpful tips. The more you can accept the situation and your part in it, without guilt and shame, and with forgiveness to yourself – the more you will see a clear path to rectify the situation.

There is always a solution in love

If you have hurt someone so badly that the relationship is completely un-repairable or if it just too unbearable to think about apologizing, then serious steps need to be taken to find your peace with that fact. Forgiving yourself and blessing the time you had with this person and KNOWING that you have learned a valuable lesson in life from the entire experience is usually what it takes to find this peace.

so lonely and sadForgiving yourself can be tough. Sometimes we think we have to pay a price of great suffering before we can allow ourselves to forgive. This is a man made, limiting, and diminishing belief. Don’t buy into it. We carry this notion of paying penance onto others too. This is ego saying “I am better than you because this time, you screwed up – so now you pay.” We allow our ego’s indulgence of this nonsense because it helps us to live with ourselves because we remember a time when this was us screwing up, and we suffered, so now they should as well. This is also classic religious fundamentalism – that payment must be made for every sinful action. Why? Because that way we ALL have a chance – because no one is without sin. And all we have to do is suffer a little. It’s bologna, it’s diminishing, and it is never helpful or rehabilitating. In one of his most poignant messages, Jesus said, on the cross, about his persecutors, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He didn’t say, “Forgive them after they suffer”, or “Make them pay”, just simply forgive.  Ignorance is the error when it comes to suffering – ignorance of the self, of the spirit, and of the Divine, and we heal ignorance with love and forgiveness.

Forgiving yourself is not allowing the incident to go by unresolved or giving you a free pass. It is about recognizing that at that moment, you did the best thing you knew how to do, even if now it seems horrible. The incident itself may have been the opportunity to open your eyes to a self-defeating or diminishing behavior. Without the incident happening, no matter how painful it was, this belief or behavior may have continued and many may have been hurt from it. A good example of this is when you get a ticket for driving under the influence of alcohol or get arrested for a domestic dispute. Without the shock of the incident, this behavior could have continued on until you or someone else was seriously hurt or killed. If there are legal ramifications to your mistake, accept the consequences with grace, understanding that this is the way to stop the bleeding of a consistent hurtful behavior. And remember, however obscure the consequences may seem, this is the way you chose! There is no need to suffer, simply accept the consequence and the lesson behind it. It is, so now, next steps. If you can do this, you will emerge from this incident without the stain of guilt and shame however – you will emerge awake.

soul masterOne of the most important aspects of forgiving oneself is picking out the gem from within the foundry of the incident. Every experience that we have, good and bad, has a hidden gem within it. When we are able to see the lesson learned, or appreciate that the behavior was exposed, or see the good the situation has given to us, then we can forgive. Sometimes forgiveness requires that we extend a sense of compassion to the person we “were” in that moment. For instance, women who are overly promiscuous sexually may look back over these painful experiences and feel a great deal of compassion for the women they “were” in those moments, when they felt the only way to get love, or to get someone to notice them was to “give” love away to near strangers.

In the instances where our forgiveness opens other assumed forgotten wounds, as painful as this is, we should celebrate the revealing of these festering injuries to allow us to create some new behaviors to honor and respect ourselves.   Life will keep presenting us with the experiences we need in order to reveal the truths of a broken spirit. The trick is to allow the message in, see the light, so to speak, and then let it go. The lesson will stay with us – we don’t have to keep repeating it in our mind.

Give it wings and let it fly

Finally, you must let the experience go. If you have successfully forgiven yourself and treated both yourself and others involved with compassion, this is very easy to do. If you haven’t followed the prior steps and come to forgiveness, keep repeating these steps until you can forgive. Do not give any more of your life away to this so call “screw up” – do your work to forgive and let it go. Why would we ever want to hang on to this? It’s a lie about us – it’s not who we are – it’s who we were!

women in the mirrorThe way to tell if we have let things go is to assess our ability to think on the incident without emotion. If you still get emotional while you think back on the experience, you have not truly found peace in it, most likely because you have not forgiven yourself. It may be helpful to remember that concepts such as guilt and shame are constructs of the mind. They are not motivating or rehabilitating. They serve no purpose other than to chain us to our painful pasts. Free yourself with forgiveness. There may be other challenges that come up in your life, but if you have truly forgiven yourself with compassion for the person you “were”, then you will not repeat the offense. Forgiveness is an act of love. Going forward, the more love you extend to yourself and others – the more love you will experience in your life.

So, to summarize – How to Get Help When You Have Really Screwed Up:

  • Don’t ruminate or rehearse the incident in your mind
  • Accept that it happened and use this as your new beginning point
  • Accept 100% responsibility for the screw up
  • See the message or the lesson in the experience
  • Forgive yourself – This must be done with total absolution before you can move on, with clarity
  • Atone or Recompense – if apologies or actions are needed, take them. You may have to work through the steps of forgiveness and compassion to have the strength to clearly see how to go about this part of the process.
  • Find deep compassion for the person you “were” in the experience, as well as compassion for others involved.
  • Let go, let go, let go! Don’t just deny or ignore the incident – resolve internally, learn, forgive, make restitution, let go.
  • Celebrate the gift

girl in wheat fieldThis last one seems a little off the wall after working through a painful issue, even if you do manage to see the lesson and the message the experience taught you. Eckhart Tolle wisely says, ““Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.” When you begin to see the gift in every single moment in your life, then randomness evaporates, clarity reigns, and life will be full of new loving, amazing, and exciting experience. There is nothing – I repeat nothing – that cannot be repaired, when we act from love, forgiveness, and compassion.



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