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!
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:
IN THE COURT OF CONSCIENCE
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