It’s very easy to take a mistake that we’ve made, or made by others, and make it our identity. It’s actually quite easy to do it if you’re on the outside looking in. We might see a person on the news and only see them as a criminal when they are much more than that. He could be a father. He’s someone’s son. I’m sure he has friends and family that see him in a different light. Since we know nothing about this person, we put them into the box of what we’ve seen them do. Especially if what they’ve done was a mistake.
No mistake is permanent. It’s as impermanent as all the other things we’ve talked about so far. Yet, we see it as a marking on ourselves and others we begin to define ourselves as the bad that we’ve done. A person who steals to provide for their family is forever known as a thief. A person who has infidelity with another person is only known as a cheater. I’ve found myself trying to detach myself from the notion of a job hopper after having started four different jobs in two years. A child may have failed a test in school, but that doesn’t make that child a failure.
Labeling People as a Failure
It seems to be human nature to put labels on people and on ourselves. It’s probably more common to put labels on when we fail. It becomes very hard for us when we take a mistake, or a failure and make it into a character trait. The best example I can think of is the child failing a math test. The child can have two perspectives on it. She can believe that this failure is a one-time thing and studies better to get a better grade on the next test. She can also see it as a shortcoming and believe that she’s not very good at math. This idea makes it pointless to study because she’s just going to fail again.
Some people truly believe that they are just the sum of their mistakes. There’s nothing they can do to break their curse. I’ve been around homeless populations pretty much all my life because my mom ran a shelter. She also dated someone who ran a shelter. I’ve come to realize the thing that most homeless people need isn’t money. It’s a renewed faith in themselves. Homeless people didn’t wake up without housing. It was a progression of bad decisions after bad decisions.
Most of the people I talk to are aware of their decision. The issue is that they identify with their decisions. They are labeled homeless because they label themselves homeless and others do the same. They will always be drunks, drug addicts, or whatever society tells them they are. It could also be the case that they are addicted to their self-doubt. Who’s going to be the one to tell them that they aren’t who they think they are? Imagine how much progress we’d see with the unhoused if they were actively told that they are not their past, but perfect. At any time they can abort their habits and create new ones.