If you’ve been on this earth for more than a day chances are you’ve made some bad, knuckle-head decisions; like driving home from the bar after that fifth Redbull and vodka or staying for one last turn of the roulette wheel. One got you a DUI while the other got you broke. For most of us those bad choices usually turn into teaching moments that ultimately lead to wiser more thoughtful courses of action in the future. It’s human nature to make decisions through the lense of our experiences, yet what happens when our dumb choices do more than influence a particular way of thinking? What if they change our whole outlook on life?
I hadn’t been divorced more than six months when I began dating Tina. She was one of the first good online dates I had and we’d been seeing each other for a few weeks. One of the first things she admitted was how her marriage ended. As part of a two-income marriage her medical profession job put her in close working proximity with men. And like many others do, her marriage began to strain under the weight of kids, careers, miscommunication, and a lack of respect. Her husband spent much of his time building a business while she wallowed in resentment at raising the kids alone and still working her own full-time gig. As their romance continued to wane the temptation of fulfilling her needs elsewhere became overpowering and she ended up having an affair with a co-worker. When the truth came her own marriage disinegrated, while the other man’s was reconciled.
Tina made a bet, and lost. And she wouldn’t view life the same afterwards.
As we continued to spend time together I began noticing subtle hints of jealousy in her behavior; the snide remarks about any woman who looked my way or the condemnation if Tina felt the other woman was prettier. At first I was flattered by her cute possessiveness but before long it became anything but sweet. [pullquote]“You can’t punish me for your sins — you cheated, I didn’t!”[/pullquote]
Listening to a live band one night she chastised me for fifteen minutes for as she put it “staring at the brunette waitress”. It was a conversation that was not received kindly and put serious doubts in my mind but the final straw came only days later. One afternoon I received a text message from a plutonic female friend I hadn’t seen in a while asking what I was up to. In light of Tina and my recent conversations I knew sharing the details would open up a firestorm so when asked I just said it was a friend and let it go.
Coming downstairs later that night Tina sat on the edge of the sofa with eyes blazing.
WHO IS ROCHELLE?!? She demanded.
Instantly I recognized what happened. While away Tina had snuck into my cellphone to check the message she was so concerned with and assumed Rochelle and I were more than friends. It should go without saying I hit the roof! Within an hour Tina was out the door and out of my life for good.
As she stood in the doorway apologizing, confused, and asking why I remember saying
“You can’t punish me for your sins — you cheated, I didn’t!”
Because of her poor choices, Tina’s whole outlook on relationships was affected. She gambled with an affair, lost, and now assumed anybody was likely to do the same. She was now judging life and herself through the dirty lense of her own misdeeds while I suffered the punishment.
But haven’t we all, at some point, been like Tina? Have we all not stained others with our own guilt through assuming if we can do it then anybody can and usually will? For example, you’ve read too much into her actions because they remind you of your own when you screwed up and soon you run her off. So Instead of using yours and the mistakes of others to serve as a road map for your life you replay your life’s rehearsal tape – but on everybody else’s soundtrack.
It’s wise to leverage our experiences to make better life choices. But it’s distorted to use the experiences that result from our bad choices to pass judgment on those around us. Because in the end, our mistakes belong only to us.