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Making mistakes meaningful

Decorative circle with the words mistakes keep me humble in the centerI recently made a mistake. It is not the first and, for sure, not the last. It wasn’t anything huge (a wrong location in an event blog post) and not many people likely saw it.

I woke up to an email from someone letting me know. They did it in the nicest way possible, but my brain did what it always does when mistakes occur—it freaked out.

“OMG! What?! I can’t believe I did that! This is my professional expertise; how could I get this wrong?! Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I hope not too many people saw this and now know that I’m not perfect.”

Raise your hand if these thoughts crop up for you at the smallest error. Don’t be afraid.

Once I corrected the mistake I began to sit with the aftermath—the dreaded hours of analysis, the thoughts and feelings. One overriding question occurred to me: Why do we fear mistakes so much?

Unless we are brain surgeons, mistakes usually are not life or death situations (although we may feel like we are dying knowing others have seen that (gasp!) we are not perfect. In fact, mistakes are necessary and have great meaning in the process of growth.

If we don’t do anything, we don’t have to risk being imperfect. And, the irony is that we are all imperfect; we are a connected community in that way. Mistakes happen when we are in the process of doing things—routine things as well as unfamiliar things. In art, we welcome “mistakes” as “happy accidents” because we realize how powerful it is to try something, get it “wrong” and then problem-solve when the unexpected arrives—be it a stray line or random splatter of paint.

Mistakes make us aware and make us slow down the next time They keep us humble and remind us that there is no perfection anywhere or in any person. If we can remember this and be OK with it, perhaps it will help us be kinder to others when they make mistakes. Kindness begins with self.

What would happen if we all were more gentle with ourselves and forgave our own mistakes when we made them and looked for the lessons in the particular situation? Would that help us to forgive the mistakes of others more easily if we practiced on ourselves?

It’s worth a try, right. However, I don’t think that “I-want-to-die” feeling when I discover my mistakes will go away any time soon because it has been a natural default for so long. I’ll just consider it a growing pain.

(P.S. If you find a typo here, please forgive.) 🙂

 

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