An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Transgression’

No Regrets

On a long car trip together, my friend Sheila confessed she was four months pregnant when she married her first husband. “You can never put that behind you,” she said. “I was chaperoning the kids in our ward on a Youth Conference when Cole sat beside me on the bus and asked when his dad and I got married. I told him and he looked and me and said, ‘You were married November 22 and I was born March 16. Were you . . . ?’ That was not the time I would have chosen to tell him. If only I hadn’t been stupid enough to have sex with that jerk I thought I was in love with.”

“But then you wouldn’t have Cole,” I reminded her. “And that would be tragic.”

Mortals make mistakes while muddling through an often confusing, indifferent world, and mistakes have consequences. But mistakes need not be tragic—and mistakes that were not deliberate attempts to harm someone else are not sins. Mistakes are effective, albeit painful, teachers. Sheila moved on, made a better second marriage, raised a good family, and became a high school teacher with wise compassion for kids struggling with peers, parents and hormones. Her youthful misstep is one ingredient in the mix that made Sheila the person she is today.

As a young sailor, George met his first wife while hanging out with lowlife buddies. That was one knot he wished he hadn’t tied while serving in the Navy. A few years ago, his stepson from that marriage contacted him. Skipper paid us a visit and re-established the bond he’d felt with the only real father-figure in his life. George no longer regrets the marriage that provided a bright spot in a boy’s sad childhood.

In Buddhism the pure and perfect lotus, growing from impure, stagnant water, is a symbol of enlightenment. Like the lotus, we can draw nutrients from the muddied water of poor choices and, with that nourishment, grow stronger and better.

Nobody would deliberately choose to mess up her life just for added strength; of course, and we don’t need to. We all make plenty of non-deliberate, poor decisions. So long as we learn from our errors and don’t keep plugging quarters into the same broken slot machine, mistakes move us along the path to spiritual and emotional maturity.

A Box Full of Darkness


Mary Oliver wrote a wonderful poem, “The Uses of Sorrow,” in which she says: Someone I loved once gave me/ A box full of darkness./ It took me years to understand/ That this, too, was a gift.            

On the bus the other day—and you don’t have to eavesdrop to overhear conversations on a bus—I heard a young man talk about being adopted as an infant. The only thing he knows about his birth parents is that they were unmarried teens. “Yeah, they did something they shouldn’t have,” he said. “But if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here. They gave me life and gave me up to a good family. I’m glad they did.”

Teen pregnancy probably meets most people’s definition of a box full of darkness, yet it gave life, a good life, to this boy. Sometimes our own actions bring sorrow to our lives. Sometimes other people’s actions do, and sometimes the universe spins sorrow our direction for no fathomable reason. This overheard conversation made be aware than one person’s box of darkness may be another person’s gift. Hopefully, one or both of the boy’s birth parents found some positives from their experience—perhaps a gaining of maturity, judgment, compassion or some other value they could take forward into their lives.

Bad things happen to good people and smart people do foolish things. How wise if we can learn to love the person, even if it is our self, who gives us a box full of darkness.

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