Responding to mistakes often occurs on autopilot.
Okay! Your day is going pretty good. You’re cruising from one thing to another. Ticking off the boxes and lo and behold accomplishing some stuff. You’ve even had your first cup of coffee or tea. You are dressed. I mean, dressed in something you would not be embarrassed to answer the door in. Clothes you could leave the house wearing without wondering how much the car door really covers you and how much other commuters can see of you.
You are going along fine and then bam!!! You make a mistake.
Nothing earth shattering, but an honest to goodness mistake.
Maybe you spill coffee on the couch as you are trying to have an intentional moment. Maybe you misread the calendar and now the dentist is calling to ask where little Johnny’s mouth is. Maybe you are eating some of that banana bread you made late last night and you realize after your first bite that you left out the bananas. Maybe the sugar. Oh no, tastes like both. Maybe you realize with a sinking feeling that you forgot to let the cat in last night and that is why it is now howling like its caught in a bear trap.
Use your imagination. Come up with a mistake. I am sure you can.
Maybe twenty past mistakes are flooding your mind. Stop! That is enough!
Now let me ask, “What do you do when you discover you have made a mistake?”
What do you do when you discover your children, your friends, your mate, your dog, the grocery checker or your pet turtle has made a mistake?
Do you say, “Yeah for mistakes?”
Okay, let’s be honest. If you are the one who made the mistake what do you do?
7 unhealthy ways of responding to mistakes:
1. Call yourself names? (stupid, idiot, etc.)
2. Beat yourself up? (I can’t believe you forgot to add the flour to the pancakes. How many times have you made those exact pancakes?) [notice I used second person as many of us talk to our self in second person.]
3. Feel guilty? (Time to do penance, make a long face, deny yourself all happiness and pleasure for a time period. Maybe even don’t eat anything for a while.)
4. Let the mistake ruin your day? (Oh no. Now I’ve really ruined things for everyone. All the joy you have been feeling before your mistake now deflates from your soul.)
5. Lecture yourself? (Maybe in your mother’s voice, or someone else’s.)
6. Blame someone else? (It’s so and so’s fault that I got distracted.)
7. Equate the mistake with the same seriousness as a sin? (Two totally different things, as we will soon see.)
Why do we try so hard to not make mistakes?
Growing up I wanted to please others and do my best. I was on a quest for perfection. I felt if I could order my life and environment and responses to perfection, then life would flow smoothly. No one would get upset with me. Things would be perfect.
Somewhere along the way I equated mistakes with the same seriousness as sin. Both were to be avoided at all costs.
Every try to be perfect? It takes so much energy. Thinking. Calculating. And it takes all the fun from life and instead throws into your heart full of fear and stress. It also promotes lies about life and yourself.
I don’t know about you, but trying to get through life without making mistakes is impossible. And yet many of us try day after day to not make mistakes. I
have learned, I can’t even get through one day without making a mistake. Usually more.
I bet you can’t either. Unless you are sleeping all day, in a comma, or in the cold room of the mortuary. (If you are in the last category, your days of making mistakes are over. You can stop reading now.)
As for how I handle mistakes, I have done all the above 7 different responses at different times and for different circumstances. But now I am on a quest to yell, okay, maybe not always yell, “Yeah for mistakes.”
Humans make mistakes and in case you haven’t lately noticed, you and I are humans, which means we will make mistakes. Lots of mistakes. This means, life is full of mistakes. Yours and others.
We can count on mistakes being a part of our lives, as much as we can rely on the sun and moon.
So why do we dread making mistakes so much? Might it be our perception of mistakes and the level of seriousness we attribute to mistakes?
The definition of mistake (and sin)
Let’s look at the difference between a mistake and a sin, according to our friend Webster.
Mistake means, 1. a misunderstanding; a wrong judgement, 2. a wrong action or statement proceeding from faulty judgment, inadequate knowledge, or inattention.
Synonyms include: error, blunder, slip, miscalculation, misjudgment, misstep.
Sin means, 1. a: an offense against religious or moral law, b: an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible, c: an often-serious shortcoming. 2. a: transgression of the law of God, b: a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God.
Synonyms include: offense, vice, crime, scandal
One is an error or blunder, the other is breaking a religious law. One is not serious, the other is.
A sin and a mistake are not opposites, but they are also not similar to each other.
Examples of mistakes
I can make a mistake, such as forget to put the wash in the dryer and therefore the clothes start to mold, but that mistake is due to inattention. It is a mistake, plain and simple. It is not a sin or a scandal, or even a crime.
There are lots of ways to make mistakes.
I can add up a list of numbers and come up with the wrong answer because I don’t know how to add, I forgot to carry some numbers, I misread some numbers, or maybe I don’t know how to add lists of numbers.
I can be learning to shoot baskets and fail 90 times out of 100 to make a basket. This can be due to not understanding how to shoot and use the back board, miscalculation of how hard to toss the ball, the placement of my hands on the ball, or lots of other reasons.
I can fail to pay the telephone bill because I did not get a statement, I forgot to read my calendar and see it was due, or I was on the beach in the Caribbean trying to get warm.
I can make all sorts of mistakes without meaning to.
I can back out of the garage before the garage door is fully open and dent the garage door.
I can say something stupid and hurt someone’s feelings without even trying or knowing I did.
I can write a text message and close the window before I send the text, thinking the text is sent.
I can go to the grocery store with the express purpose of buying ginger, and then get home with 35 other items and no ginger ale, ginger root, ginger cookies, or ginger spice.
I can back over and crush my kids tricycle because I didn’t know it was there.
All the things I mentioned are mistakes. None are deliberate. None are breaking a religious or moral code. None were pre-planned. None were intentional.
Mistakes happen all the time. They are a part of life. So let’s quit beating ourselves up and instead yell, “Yeah, for mistakes.”
Okay, whisper, “Yeah, for mistakes.”
Give yourself the freedom to make mistakes and then use them to your advantage. (Learn how in the next post in this series on mistakes)
This post is part 1 of a series about mistakes. Other posts explore:
How to Respond to Mistakes – yours and others
Why Mistakes Are Necessary and how we can learn from them and use them to our advantage
Dispelling the Lies of Mistakes that Steal Our Joy
How We Let Our Mistakes Determine Our Worth
Teaching our children about mistakes and Responding to Their Mistakes in a Healthy Manner
How to Let our Children Make Mistakes and Fail
How Mistakes Can Be Blessings in Disguise
Looking at how to Deal With Large Mistakes with Big Consequences
Letting Others Make Mistakes and not trying to fix everything
Dealing With Critical Words from Others when we make mistakes
Bonus: Life as is Comes will be exploring a funny episode on mistakes. Episode 31; Have You Pulled a Theresa?
Join the Discussion: What do you tend to do when you make a mistake?