Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Infraction: Own it, Learn from it, and Move on

I've noticed a few leaders in the public eye actually owning their past ineffective actions and moving on to better--that's a humbling, but necessary, action when it comes to growing older, wiser, and better.

As the world changes, we all have to reckon with past acts that we would be ashamed to admit to today. When those acts occurred, we thought little of them as they were probably acceptable in the public eye or at least in the eyes of our cronies and counterparts, but now with new light and understanding, we see those acts for what they were--negative, perhaps unethical, and even potentially illegal depending on what you are looking back on.

We are all probably doing things today that in ten years will seem reprehensible, but for now we don't have the wisdom or understanding to acknowledge that.

It's best that when new light and knowledge appear that we own our past bad acts, learn from them, and move on to better.

Specifically I remember a time when a person I knew acted in an inappropriate way towards me. I'm sure that person today is ashamed of that action, but I knew then that his actions were born out of a lack of knowing and poor support in that area of life. Fortunately I was able to counter the action with words and understanding and nothing too bad or dangerous came from it. I know that person today and I know he would not repeat that behavior. For me, I remember something I did way back that I am still very embarrassed about today. In fact, it's an action I've never shared with anyone since it caught me unaware, unknowing, and unkind. Fortunately it was nothing too bad or too dangerous, but nevertheless, an act that reflection, greater wisdom and knowledge afterward has led me not to repeat.

I don't think anyone exists who can't look back to the past and identify a number of actions they wouldn't repeat--that's part of being human. So when we think of our own past actions and those of others, we have to consider if we or they learned from that error and have worked to change their ways, and if that's the case, I think we need to forgive past infractions based on lack of knowledge, acceptance at the time the event happened, and poor support. Although, if these actions were illegal at the time, we may need to consider the events differently. Yet, if people don't own their behavior or if they continue to repeat the infractions, then we can't be as forgiving and must help and advocate for change--we can't accept what we know is wrong and hurtful, and we must work against it.

I tell this story as I think about moving towards betterment in education and schools--how can we move in the direction of what we know is right and good, a direction away from ways of old that we now understand as impediments to learning and living well.