(This week is the 50thinstallment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about learning from our mistakes. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)
There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY(Twentieth-century American writer and journalist)
“Molly, what’s the matter?”
Molly held her head in her hands as she sat forlornly at a solitary desk in a corner of the general office. I had noticed her in the principal’s office during lunch. She’d missed my religion class right afterward. Obviously there was trouble. I knelt down beside her. Holding back the tears, she blurted out, “They’re going to suspend me ’cause I was vaping. Now I won’t be able to be on the basketball team. Everything is going wrong!”
“Oh, that was not a good thing to do,” I said sympathetically. Fortunately for me, I could play the “good cop” in this situation.
“You know you can’t be doing that,” I said calmly.
“But it’s not fair! I’m going to switch schools. There’s no point me being here. I hate everything about this school. I only came here to play basketball, and now I can’t even do that. Everything’s ruined!” Molly was lashing out at everything. I took a fatherly approach.
“Molly, there are lots of good things about this school.”
“No there’s not. It’s all bad!” she insisted. Tears were now rolling down her cheeks.
I tried to not take it personally since I considered myself to be a good part of this good school. She was just venting and didn’t want to accept responsibility for her actions.
“Molly, do you remember our discussion in religion class, just yesterday? You actually started the discussion because you wanted to say that people who are religious think they’re better than other people but they’re not. And you said you thought you were a good person. I agreed with you, remember? I said that you are a good person. Do you recall that discussion?”
“Yeah.” She sniffed.
“We are known by the things we do. You play basketball, so you are known around the school as a basketball player. Now, do you think vaping at school was a ‘good’ thing to do?”
“No. But it’s not that big a deal.”
I let that comment pass for the moment.
“So why would a good person like you do a bad thing like vaping at school?”
“I don’t know. It’s not that bad anyway,” she justified.
“It’s against the school rules. It’s against the district rules. It’s also against the law. That sounds like a fairly bad thing to me,” I said gently.
“You see, Molly, all of us good people sometimes do things that aren’t so good. We don’t live up to the best person we know we can be—the person we know we really are. When that happens, we feel a little pang in our heart. It’s our conscience telling us that the thing we’ve done isn’t really worthy of us. We can do better.
“When we listen to that voice inside, it gives us both strength and wisdom to do better next time. When we ignore that voice inside—and blame those around us instead—then the voice gets softer. Next time, we might not even hear that little voice inside.
“You know that vaping at school is against the rules and against the law. You made a poor choice. Inside, you know you’re a better person than that. That’s not the choice a great athlete and a true leader, like you, would make.
“There are consequences to all our actions. When we face those consequences with courage and humility—knowing all of us make mistakes—then we get stronger. Molly, I’m sure you will come through this trouble as a stronger and even better person than you already are.
“Hang in there, kiddo.”
It’s always hard to watch kids make mistakes and suffer from them. But that’s how they learn—that’s how all of us learn. All actions and the thoughts and words that precede them have consequences. Through our mistakes and poor choices in life, we gradually learn the natural consequences of various thoughts, words, and actions. Learning from our mistakes means choosing differently next time. Our biggest mistakes happen when we choose to be less than our best self. It reminds us who we don’t want to be and who we really are.
Spiritual law is just as immutable as natural law. We can’t break it. We can’t break the law of gravity by jumping off a bridge and thinking we’ll fly. We will only confirm the law of gravity. Similarly, we can’t break the spiritual law of cause and effect. We can only confirm it.
If we want different effects, we must choose different causes. Like it or not, we are the cause of our own effects in life. Like Molly, we might think life is unfair, but that’s how it works. We create ourselves and our life with our thoughts, words, and actions. When we choose to be our best self, we experience the best life.
Today we are experiencing the natural consequences of yesterday’s thoughts, words, and actions. Choosing to be our best self today will bring a better tomorrow.
Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website: www.ComingHomeSpirit.com, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon, or get his free mini eBook and sign up for his weekly blog. Follow Donald on Facebook.