It has been said that “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” It is certainly true that no one is perfect.
People often fall into the trap of comparing themselves — whose flaws and shortcomings are well known to them — to the public persona of someone whom they know less well or only know of.
It is also true that our past does not determine our future.
Recently, I read a biography of Mother Teresa. To say that she was a remarkable woman so grossly understates the case as to be an insult to her, but she wasn’t perfect and was often the subject of criticism (largely unwarranted in my opinion).
You should be careful comparing yourself to Mother Teresa or even to your own mother
You know every unkind, inappropriate, stupid thing you’ve ever done. You don’t know the same for other people. Recognize that everyone is the same in this basic regard; we all just do the best we can.
Remember, too, that no matter who you are or what you’ve been, you can change
The perpetual popularity of the Victor Hugo story Les Miserable, which has been produced as a movie many times and is one of the most popular Broadway musicals ever, features a central theme: a person can change.
Jean Valjean was punished as a thief for stealing bread; after more than a decade in prison, he was paroled and immediately stole some silver in hopes to survive. Though he’d have said he wasn’t really a thief when he was imprisoned, he’d become one. Then, saved by the mercy of a kind priest who made a gift of the silver, he became a truly good and honest man.
If you’ve been out of shape and overweight your whole life, you can change
It may be too late for you to compete in the Olympics, but you probably can lose enough weight and get into good enough shape to run a marathon.
You may have lived a selfish life until today, accumulating wealth, but starting today you can serve others instead. You can use your wealth to make the world a better place. Dozens of billionaires have taken The Giving Pledge at the request of Bill Gates. These billionaires have pledged to give more than half of their wealth to charity; Bill Gates has pledged 95 percent of his wealth. Others who have joined the pledge include Warren Buffet, Michael Milken and Mark Zuckerberg. (I don’t wish to suggest that these billionaires necessarily led selfish lives up to the point they took the pledge.)
As you consider who you are and who you would like to be, judge your role models carefully. Remember that you know more about yourself than you do about them — and what you know of them is largely what they want you to know. Remember too, that you can change. Whatever lies behind you is but a curiosity; everything that matters lay before you. You choose what will be.
Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.