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A few weeks ago, I gave this piece of advice to my friend:
"It's not fair to judge someone based on past actions they can't change. What matters is who they are now. We are not the worst things we ever did."
I met Derek* at the gym about 6 months ago. We were enrolled in the same fitness class and the instructor had paired us up a few times. Derek and I had made small talk (as you usually do in those situations) and when I realized Derek had many similar interests as my husband, I offered to introduce them. (Derek was also new in town and hadn't made many friends).
Scott liked Derek. Scott's friends liked Derek. I liked Derek. My friends liked Derek. Derek is a nice guy. He's smart, funny, genuine, honest, respectful, fun to be around, reliable — I could go on.
In the few months I've known Derek, he's come to my rescue a number of times. I had to go out of town and Derek offered to watch my dogs for me without my having to ask. Then when I was out of town and UPS kept trying to deliver something to my vacant apartment, Derek sat at my apartment all day waiting for it for me. A friend of ours needed help moving and Derek loaned them his truck — and his labor! I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Derek is a great guy.
About a month ago, Derek started seeing Carrie.* From what he told us, Carrie sounded like a great girl — a perfect fit for him. We were happy for Derek and hoped things would work out for him.
Everything seemed great until Derek came over for dinner and I could tell something was wrong. I pressed him until he told me.
Derek, who is now in his mid-30s, admitted that when he was in high school and college, he was a bit of a "player." He wasn't proud of the things he had done, but he couldn't undo them. It was surprising in a way because Derek is such a nice guy, so respectful and chivalrous that I almost couldn't believe it. Yet, Derek is also quite handsome and has that infectious kind of a personality, so I could see how he might have been a "ladies man."
Point is, Derek wasn't that guy anymore. That's all that mattered to me, but Carrie just couldn't get past it. After Derek had told Carrie about his past, she told him that given his history, she couldn't trust him anymore. She told him she doubted his character. (That one stung Derek the most. He'd worked so hard to overcome his past and to be a better person) and finally, that perhaps they should see other people and cool it for a while. Derek was crushed. He'll kill me for saying this but, the poor guy was near tears.
I told Derek, "It's not fair to judge someone based on past actions they can't change. What matters is who they are now. We are not the worst things we ever did."
Derek is not the worst thing he ever did. I am not the worst thing I ever did. You are not the worst thing you ever did.
As Oprah says, "We are not defined by the mistakes we make."
Our past, our mistakes, our indiscretions — become a part of us, but that's not all we are. Hopefully those experiences act as a lesson and growth exercise so that we may become better people.
So this Minimalist Monday, let go. Forgive. Look past. It's time.
To learn more about self-love, forgiveness and having better relationships, check out the free sample from my book, Minimalist Monday: Zen Life.