Adults and kids alike occasionally have to wipe the slate clean. You have to get rid of some of the clutter and old baggage that brings you down. Maybe you offended someone, failed to help a friend, forgot a responsibility, or failed at a task. You might have made a simple mistake but its repercussions are getting you down. You don’t need a shrink. Just get out a paper shredder! Yes, one of these. Let me explain.
I run a youth outreach program and from time to time I want to get to know the kids better. I hope that secret information will come forth, so I can help them deal with things and move on. I do this because I often see them come in with upset faces. Just asking gets a blank stare as a response. I have to do a group exercise to disguise my sleuthing.
I ask the group to write down a mistake they made or some mishap in their recent lives. I give them ample time before we stop, reread the words, and begin to share. It is always on a volunteer basis and after a few turns, most want to dive in. Here are some of the typical confessions:
“I wanted a baseball for my birthday but got clothes instead. I stole my brother’s ball when he was out playing and hid it. I probably did it to be mean…but maybe because I was mad. I see that I should have focused on my parents and not him.”
“I cheated on a test a few weeks ago and now I feel bad. I have always done ok on exams but for some reason, this time I didn’t trust myself. Maybe telling you will stop this from happening again.”
“Maybe this isn’t too bad. I watch videos on my tablet in bed at night. Don’t laugh. I guess you all do it.”
“No one wants to hear that I don’t do my chores. My mom yells at me a lot. It would be easier to just get it over. She tells me I am stubborn.”
“I swore at my sister yesterday and she cried. What a baby! No one is perfect.”
“I make mistakes. Some are pretty bad. Have you ever lied through your teeth? I have.”
The kids’ confessions went on and on. Nothing is ever that bad (to me). I tried not to smile as it was so revealing and sincere. I then gathered up their written evidence, and we had a ceremonial go at the shredder. One by one, each one fed the machine. We all sighed in relief en masse. One by one, the mistakes and bad behavior were gone in an instant. Such is life, I told them. You should feel sorry and make amends, but move on. Use every experience to learn right and wrong. Forgive yourself and others along the way.