I believe in second chances.
I didn’t always believe in them. My father was a strict, conservative Southern Baptist minister, and in our home, second chances came few and far between. Third and fourth chances? Well, those never happened. From my earliest years I was programmed to believe that there was only one way of doing things, “the right way,” and that “anything worth doing was worth doing right the first time.” Note the emphasis on “the first time.”
So I grew up in a pressure cooker; great for jams, jellies and diamonds, not so great for little kids. I spent my formative years and most of my early adulthood living in fear; fear of my father, fear of disappointing him, fear of disappointing myself, fear of failure. Eventually, my fears became my masters. I became unable to make decisions or think for myself. With each mistake my life became this twisted Pavlovian experiment where each incorrect response was rewarded with more fear until fear became all I knew or could respond to.
Then a funny thing happened. I lived a little. I gained some experience. I discovered and developed the power of analysis. And through this newly-found superpower I came to see my father for what he truly was; a fragile, frightened, sometimes decent, sometimes horrible man who was holding on for dear life, doing the best he could, struggling to withstand the tempest.
And with this discovery I came to know that life is a series of successes and failures; and that the one thing that life requires, the one thing, if nothing else, is second chances. No one succeeds the first time all the time, not even my father; and the old clichés about “getting back up on the horse that threw you” and “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” these have become, to me, real words with real meaning.
During my life I have been a runaway, a drug addict, a dropout, a terrible husband, a worthless father, selfish, self-absorbed, ego-maniacal, narcissistic, harsh, cruel, callous and probably just about any other derogatory thing of which you can think.
But in my time I’ve also been the one who stays put, clean and sober, a graduate, a wonderful husband, a terrific father, selfless, humble, modest, nice, kind, empathetic and probably every other exemplary thing of which you can think.
What’s made my numerous redemptions possible is the power of forgiveness and the second chances that come with it. I believe that every day we have a second chance to redeem ourselves, to right our wrongs, to be better than we were yesterday, to rise to the challenge of today, to assess ourselves and our lives in the hope that we can be more than we were.
I believe in second chances. They are a gift we can give to ourselves, and if we’re doing it right, if we’re really living right, second chances are a gift we can give to each other.
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