Everyone makes mistakes. Usually they are harmless and teach us useful lessons. We all know that—but even so, we still can’t quite manage to leave our old mistakes in the past. Random memories of things that we did wrong many years ago, and that everyone else in the world has totally forgotten, just pop into our heads for no reason and leave us feeling bad.

When we look at those old mistakes more closely, often it turns out they’re just silly. For instance, when I was a kid, a security guard at a supermarket told me to get out because I’d been standing around the comic book rack for an hour reading werewolf comics, without buying any of them. Well, okay, the security guard was right that it wasn’t a library; and buying a donut from the bakery counter, which gave me sticky fingers while reading the comics, didn’t put me on the best-customer list either. Still, there’s certainly no reason why stuff like that should bother me 40 years later—much better just to remember how yummy the donut was!

Donut with multicolored sprinkles.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Instead of feeling like we’re criminals because of unimportant past mistakes, we need to take them more lightly and forgive ourselves for them, just as we would forgive anyone else who had made a trivial blunder. Even with real crimes, after a certain number of years the limitations period expires and the crime can’t be prosecuted. There are good policy reasons for this—physical evidence decays or is lost, people’s memories get fuzzy, and it’s not at all clear what really happened.

So I suggest that when memories of old mistakes start bothering us, we should apply to the Court of Conscience for a statute-of-limitations dismissal of the charges—complete with a formal order, as below:


WHEREAS, the Defendant stands before this Court charged with Making Mistakes while Being Human; and whereas, this Court finds that all of the facts alleged in the Prosecutor’s Complaint are outside the statute of limitations; NOW, THEREFORE, this Court ORDERS that the charges be, and hereby are, DISMISSED, and that the Defendant shall go free.

Signed, Judge of the Court of Conscience
Today’s Date


  1. Wonderful post! Love the court order!

  2. Very nice court order! It’s silly how these recalls can disturb us when they shouldn’t.

  3. Wow… I can relate to a lot of this.

    I like to think of it like… If there’s something that is bothering me that much–if I’m still doing it, I can change! It’s not worth beating myself up over. We can’t live in the past and refuse to let go… It robs us of the joy of the present. But in any case, we can start today to make better choices and give ourselves a reason to move forward with satisfaction and a positive attitude 🙂

    Thanks for your post!

    • When I wrote the post I was thinking of stuff that happened long ago. But you have a good point that maybe there is something similar going on in the present, and those recalls are the subconscious mind’s way of sending a message that some kind of change is needed.

  4. This is a very relatable post. It is easy to feel like we are the only ones when our minds drag up mistakes from the distant past. It puts things in perspective to remember that everyone gets these little not-so-welcome reminders from time to time (or sometimes constantly!). I have read a lot of self-help books, and the idea of self-forgiveness comes up quite a lot. I usually try to think of whatever the mistake was as if someone else did it, and see how easy it would be to forgive or let someone else off the hook, then try to do it for myself.

    Btw, that donut! I want it 🙂

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