Thanks, Yoda.

I know what people think of me.

I don’t pretend to think I’m “okay” with the world; or, I suppose, more specifically, I don’t pretend to think the world is “okay” with me.

I have a label — a brand, a Scarlet Letter — and some people will hate me because of what I did in 2010 regardless of what I do for the rest of my life, even if my life’s endeavor is now to battle the moral issue to which I tragically and unfortunately contributed.

The other day, my wife was invited to a New Year’s Eve party. As a courtesy, she asked if it was okay if I came along. And, as a result of this question, the host of the party replied in a Facebook message, “I’m very much do not want to not hurt any feelings but I don’t think it would be a good idea.”

So, so much for that.

Needless to say, we won’t be attending that particular gathering.

I wasn’t hurt. I wasn’t bothered. I wasn’t even surprised. By now, I’ve grown accustomed to such denials of attendance. Another example would be the mother of one of my daughter’s friends, who saw my interview with the Wichita Eagle, and subsequently asked that I not have any contact with her daughter (whom I’d never met, to start with). I suppose, in a way, I just solemnly expect these sorts of reactions (and rejections) from people, though they have not happened at near the frequency I would have expected.

Before being released from prison, I thought I was going to be the leper of the community; but as it turns out, fewer people care than I anticipated.

But here’s what’s interesting: Now — today — I am the best possible version of myself. So people aren’t afraid or judgmental of who I am, but rather, who I was. And that is an interesting conundrum.

I failed at (among many other things) my own life.

starwarschristmasWe have a tradition in my family of going to a movie every year on the night of Christmas Day. I’ve had this tradition for decades. This year, my wife, my daughter, and I went to see Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi in IMAX-3D. It was a wonderful time with the two of them and we had so much fun! However, I did not escape the film without hearing a quote which gripped me on a very personal level. At one point in the movie, the deceased “ghost” of Yoda appeared and spoke to the aged Luke Skywalker. In the midst of his wise words, Yoda said (in his typical inverted speech pattern), “The greatest teacher, failure is.”

Indeed!

Failure is the greatest teacher. I learned more about myself through my deepest failures because my deepest failures led to my greatest personal improvements. My failure as a human being led me to the steps which improved my life, making me who I am now: The best person I’ve ever been.

But people don’t see that!

It is so much easier to judge a person by their past behaviors rather than their present state of being. People love to pass judgment.

I would love to stand directly in front of my harshest naysayers and have them hurl their deepest and most profound judgments at me. Because, for every negative statement, I have a positive retort which proves beyond a doubt that I am not the man I was when I committed my regretful crimes and behaviors.

But that doesn’t matter!

People don’t want to give other people a chance to prove they’ve changed. Funny how people think they can change, but no one else can…

It is so much easier to hate than it is to love.

It is easier to hold a grudge than it is to forgive.

But this simply makes me even more thankful for the people who have shown the integrity to listen to me, to understand me, and to forgive me.

Thank you, my true friends.

And thank you, Yoda — Learned from you, I have!

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