Gratitude for our mistakes

Gratitude for our mistakes

by Joyce and Barry Vissell

Recently a woman was telling me of a conversation she had with a man in his seventies. He told her of all the mistakes he had made in his life and, each time he finished with one, would say, “I was so stupid. I was such an idiot.” Hearing this made me feel sad, for I can just imagine what these negative statements about himself were doing to his life and health.

No one can go through this life without making mistakes. The important thing is to learn from them and feel gratitude for the learning. Some of our mistakes are financial, some educational. Some mistakes are because our actions hurt another person. There are relationship mistakes and there are mistakes in abusing our bodies, and of course this list goes on and on. The more gratitude we can feel about these mistakes, the more peace we will be able to feel and the healthier our bodies will be. At times, that gratitude also means making amends to the people we have hurt, and being grateful for the opportunity to do that.

Barry and I missed a unique financial opportunity and over the years we have needed to focus on being grateful for this mistake. We were both 29 years old and our first baby was coming in just one month. We were finally, after traveling for two years, settled into a small rented home that we liked, even though the door didn’t fully close, or some of windows didn’t work, and the floor was cheap linoleum. We had been trying to buy a home, as the prices were still affordable in Santa Cruz County.

One day we received a call from a friend. He wanted us to immediately come and look at a home which was for sale. We went that very day. His friend had bought a scenic piece of land about a half hour up the coast from Santa Cruz. By himself he had built a beautiful wooden home with many hand crafted features. This was to be a gift for his wife. She became so fed up with his obsession with the project that she found someone else and wanted a divorce. The man was broken-hearted, just wanted to get rid of the house as soon as possible, and was going to sell it for only $30,000, way below what it was worth.

The house was built in a small community of very connected people. This man took us the top of the hill where a couple owned a vast amount of land. They were lovely people and also quite rich. They really liked us and said they would love to have us as neighbors. When we said we might not be able to afford it, they offered to put in $5,000 toward the purchase. A beautiful hand-built wooden home, on 6 acres, not far up the coast … for $25,000! Our friend told us we would be foolish to pass this up.

We drove an hour back to our little rented home. In all truth, we both felt overwhelmed with the thought of moving again with our baby due in just four weeks. We declined the house. Fifteen years later, that same property was worth a million dollars because of its location.

Over the years, as we have struggled to meet our current large mortgage payment, we of course think of that decision. “How could we ever have done that? Were we foolish?” The house grew in value forty times in just fifteen years. Not many investments can do that. But over time we have had to stop ourselves from this type of thinking and realize there was a divine plan at work. There are blessings being where we are now and there are even blessings trying to come up with our mortgage each month. Our current location allowed our three children to attend a unique private school, run by a yoga community, which gave them extraordinary experiences like a visit to India and an audience with the Dali Lama. Also, our current property is much better suited to the work we now do. As we pour gratitude into this “financial mistake” our lives are blessed.

A friend of mine had a very special boyfriend in college. They were completely in love for two years. Then she had to move across the country and they decided to end the relationship. They were only 20 years old at the time. Each of them eventually ended up marrying someone else, and those marriages were very unhappy. My friend had a daughter with her husband. Both my friend and her college sweetheart ended up divorced, at which time they connected on Facebook. She flew across the country to see him, and the love was as strong as ever. Now three years later, their relationship is blooming and they both are deeply in love and very happy. She feels that leaving him while they were both in college was the biggest mistake she ever made. But how can it be a mistake when she has this beautiful daughter, who has both her mother’s creative genius and the father’s intellectual genius. The girl, who is now a teenager, is absolutely gifted and beautiful both inside and outside. As my friend feels gratitude for the gift of her daughter, the wounds of the divorce and the seeming “mistake” are being healed.

As we focus on gratitude for our mistakes, we begin to realize there is a bigger picture, one we cannot always see or fully understand. I love this quote from Yogananda, “A saint is a sinner who never gave up.” A life well lived is one in which there have been mistakes. Those mistakes are learning tools which bring blessings. The more we can feel gratitude for these mistakes and in some cases make amends for them, the deeper will be our peace.

About the authors:
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are widely regarded as among the world’s top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They are the authors of The Shared Heart, Models of Love, Risk to Be Healed, The Heart’s Wisdom, Meant to Be, and A Mother’s Final Gift: How One Woman’s Courageous Dying Transformed Her Family.

Call Toll-Free 1-800-766-0629 (locally 831-684-2299) or write to the Shared Heart Foundation, P.O. Box 2140, Aptos, CA 95001, for free newsletter from Barry and Joyce, further information on counseling sessions by phone or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.

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