My little 17 month old grandson was at our house recently and whilst he was exploring all of our cupboards as toddlers do, he accidentally knocked a pretty plate from the dresser above and it instantly shattered into several pieces.
Holding his little hands in the air, he exclaimed “uh oh”, then proceeded to pick the pieces up and deposit them one-by-one in our pedal bin which needs his little foot to operate. Quite gleefully he announced “In, bin” as each piece clattered into the bin and his foot depressed the lever to make the lid raise.
As he completed his task I bent down to his level, looked him in the eye and said “Thank you for clearing the mess”. He chuckled and toddled off to explore his next cupboard.
I took a moment to reflect on how wonderful that scenario was…
1) I didn’t feel any irritation or anguish at the broken plate
2) I felt overwhelming love for my grandchild as he made a mistake whilst learning about the world
3) I noticed how completely unafraid of my reaction he was
4) I noticed how easily he cleaned up his mistake without fear, shame or, guilt, which are the feelings we adults usually add to our mistakes.
So what can we learn from this?.
Firstly we are very unlikely to have received that level of unconditional acceptance for our mistakes as we grew up. Even if we were accepted occasionally, there will have been times parents, caregivers, teachers etc will have expressed their disapproval of us in some way and this will have elicited fear in us. This was the root cause of our fear of disapproval and our feeling of not being good enough today. It was actually all about their inability to be unconditionally accepting and NOT about our worth. Our worth remains in tact however many mistakes we make.
Secondly, if our feelings of fear, shame and guilt came about because our caregivers couldn’t accept us when we made minor mistakes growing up, then when other’s can’t accept us as we make mistakes now, even though we are adults and even if we hurt others as a result of those mistakes, it’s still all about their inability to accept. We can let go of shameful feelings.
Thirdly, it is inevitable that we will make mistakes as we go through life. No one is perfect. And sometimes those mistakes can hurt or affect others, so it is vital that we learn to clean up our mistakes just like my little grandson did.
In the case of infidelity, first we get to see that it WAS a mistake and understand why we did it, second we get to tell the truth about our mistake to the people we have affected, thirdly we get to do whatever it takes to put things right.
I am not minimising the effect infidelity is likely to have on our partner, since they too have the ‘not good enough’ wound from childhood and will see our ‘mistake’ as a reflection of their worth when it is not, but it is vital that we put aside any shame ourselves if we are to learn to love them in the way they need to be loved too.
If you would like help to feel accepted in your mistakes, learn more about the role of unconditional love and acceptance in infidelity and to save your marriage by putting things right, check out this video: LEARN MORE