Two people approached me during the past year about situations that were causing them to lose sleep and question their self-worth.  The first, a grain farmer, said “How come I didn’t lock in half my corn when it was $6.80 a bushel?  I can only get $4.90 now.  If that price holds I won’t be able to make my land payment this year.” 

The other person, a farm woman, blames herself for an affair between her husband and her sister two years ago.  She wishes she had noticed signs of their growing affinity after she took off-farm employment to obtain health insurance for the family of five and pay farm bills. 

“For years,” she said, “I was too tired to pay enough attention to my husband, or my sister for that matter.  I trusted them.  Then a coworker told me about a rumor going around.” 

When the woman confronted her husband, he admitted the affair.  She didn’t want a divorce but she felt hurt, confused, angry and depressed. 

Dwelling on the past is self-defeating.  We can’t change the past.  But it is difficult to stop criticizing ourselves, even when we know it’s necessary to move on.

The grain farmer asked me to tell his story so others can learn from his mistake.  I changed enough facts about his situation so his identity is unknown. 

He withheld forward contracting any of his expected 2013 corn and soybean crops in August before harvest, knowing his crops would probably yield well, while many grain-producing areas were dealing with insufficient precipitation. 

He considered the advice of a broker, who estimated corn and soybean prices would rise unless the actual harvest overturned predictions, but the farmer acted mostly on his desire for even more income so he could purchase additional land.  His greed prompted a wake-up call.

This farmer is getting his options in order in case he has to sell part of the farmland he purchased during the recent–and now declining–boom.   He is dealing with his self-deprecation, he says, by telling fellow farm operators to resist the urge to acquire too much material goods and to concentrate on farming less land better.  

The obvious advice for the betrayed wife isn’t as simple as shifting blame to her husband and sister.  I changed identifying information to preserve confidentiality but the affair was real and she gave me permission to write about it. 

At one level this woman knows she is justified in blaming her husband and her sister.  Her religious views and her desire to keep her family intact urge her to not seek revenge but her convictions are stifling her emotional expressions and the resolution of her dilemma.

Until she goes through a period of grief, anger or other beneficial emotional discharge, she will likely remain depressed and unable to move on.  Her inability to voice her feelings is not punishing her husband as much as it is her children and herself.

Mistakes can destroy us, or we can learn from them.  Mistakes can be understood like the biblical reference to the refiner’s fire in Isaiah 48:10: “I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.” 

Our mistakes, and other persons’ mistreatments of us, are opportunities to improve ourselves, and often to help others.  They can be recognized as gifts.  Wrongs we are responsible for, and others’ unwarranted actions that hurt us, can bring about fundamental positive changes in our behaviors and motivations. 

The farmer who “wanted more” is learning how to use his mistake to help others.  His guilt is dissipating and he is moving ahead with his life.

He has figured out he is hard-wired by a strong drive to always acquire more farmland and equipment and to take risks in order to satisfy his competitive urge.  Knowing this about himself has helped him manage purchases better, and as he laughingly says, “not attend farmland auctions.”  

Some hurts take a long time to heal.  The aggrieved spouse wasn’t ready initially to admit her submissiveness and stifled suffering are passive aggressive behaviors designed to arouse guilt in her husband.  She was negative and hard to be around.  Even their children sometimes avoided her, she acknowledged.

She says her husband claims the affair is over but she frequently queries him.  She still has not confronted her sister; they avoid the subject. 

Recently this lady said she and her family began attending a different church than her sister and extended kin attend and they don’t associate  together as much now.  These behavior changes are helping everyone. 

She also is learning to buy attractive clothes, wear make-up and to carry herself with dignity in public places instead of looking downcast.  Perhaps she is on the road to letting go of the past.  Her pain about the past is subsiding as she concentrates on caring for her family, herself and the future.

Readers may contact Dr. Rosmann at www.agbehavioralhealth.com.