Learning to Live with Mistakes
I was plugging away at my receptionist job when I got a call from one of my managers. Could I book a meeting room for the next day? "Sure," I said confidently. I entered in the information on the computer, but for some reason felt prompted to check on myself later on. I had made a mistake.
The room had already been booked by someone else. I had filled in the wrong date. Frantically, I sent the manager an E-mail and left a voice message. I had a nervous knot in my stomach when she did not respond that morning. I had images of her and her guests showing up at a boardroom already full of people the next day and was mortified. Eventually I did get a hold of her. She shrugged it off and was OK with booking another room.
I have a hard time dealing with mistakes like this. I start to hear the negative voices from my past telling me that I am stupid - the mocking laughter of school bullies and the cold voice of my father asking, "Can't you do anything right?" Because of emotional wounds of the past, mistakes seem to confirm my old self image as a girl who deserved criticism, put downs and punishment.
How the world sees mistakes
In today's world, people don't tolerate what mistakes well. When people err on TV by saying or doing the wrong thing, there is criticism on the web and in the media. Bosses come down hard on employees who mess up. Parents and family members can be very harsh with on kids who do dumb stuff.
While I was watching media coverage of an Olympic games a few years ago, I could see that there was a lot of pressure on athletes to perform as perfectly as possible and there was a lot negative commentary on the news and on social media if they flopped.
I was saddened when one female athlete of whom Canada had gold medal hopes made an error that put her out of medal standings. When she was interviewed on TV, she apologized to Canada in the midst of sobs and tears for failing her country. I shook my head over the cruelty of a world that treats athletes so badly if they fail to meet expectations. When the athlete was interviewed again a few hours later, she was calm and composed.
She said that many of her fans had overwhelmed her with encouraging, emails, expressing praise for her past victories and their support. In contrast, other athletes were shown on TV having hissy fits and temper trantrums when they or their coaches made mistakes that cost them a shot at a medal.
Reacting to mistakes
When I do make a mistake, I do try to rectify it by trying to fix it. If my mistake is something simple, like typing error, I can rectify it on my own. In most situations, I tell the person or people affected by my error and work to resolve the situation as a team. It is tempting to try to deny or cover up my actions, but in my experience, that just makes the problem worse.
Having to endure punishment for my mistakes is bad enough, but punishment for covering up on top of everything else is too much for me to handle. When I cover up, I feel guilty and ashamed of it.
Handling mistakes in a Christian way
Mistakes can be human weaknesses, or poor choices and decisions. Bad decisions such as giving up a good job to pursue a dubious dream can have negative repercussions not only on us, but on our friends and families. So, as a Christian, how am I supposed to handle my mistakes?
The Bible tells me in 1 John 4:16-18 that God is love, a perfect love that drives out fear that is associated with punishment. If I am fearful, I am not living in the state of perfect love where God wants me to be. Instead, I have to accept that I am a fallible human being.
God is not hoovering over me with lightening bolts and criticism because of my mistakes. When I do turn to God in prayer, He comforts me. He gives me the strength to face the possible outcome of my errors. I believe that I can be forgiven for my mistakes, so I am not going to beat myself up about the things I do wrong.
The worst case scenario
A wise friend of mine told me that one way to overcome fear was to imagine the worst case scenario and figure out how I would deal with it. What if I did get fired?I had good skills and references and could find something else.What if someone did bawl me out for my stupidity? It may hurt and be uncomfortable, but I would survive. It may benefit me to be reminded to be more careful in my work.
The problem with pride
Pride can get in the way of us admitting and dealing with our mistakes. We want to think of ourselves as near perfect and want others to see us that way too. Pride leads to disgrace but humility leads to wisdom (Proverbs 11:12).
Our reactions to mistakes
The way we react to our errors says a lot about our relationship with God. On a human level, we will feel anger at ourselves, guilt, shame and fear of retribution.
We need to ask ourselves:
- Do we move out of the fleshly state to cry out to God to fix it?
- Can we admit what we have done wrong and face the consequences of our mistakes?
- If God answers our prayer, are we willing to use the solutions that He shows us as the way out of our situation?
- Are we willing to trust God with our circumstances and not worry about the consequences of our mistakes?
- Can we forgive ourselves for what we have done instead of flogging our consciences?
We have to humble ourselves and admit our wrongs. Sometimes we need to accept a scolding from a coach or a boss and try to learn from it. The best way to handle our mistakes is to give God the control and follow His lead out of trouble.
We may feel that we should beat ourselves up for what we have done, but doing so is not good for us. The repercussions of our mistakes are enough to endure. We need to forgive ourselves and put our mistakes behind us.
Accepting our human nature
The Bible is full of stories of human beings who made mistakes. No one is perfect, especially me! We can try to avoid errors, but they do happen. Once we accept the fact that we will do or say the wrong thing from time to time, we can prepare ourselves to deal with it.
Making a mistake does not mean that we are bad or incompetent people. God extends His mercy to those who seek Him and are in relationship with Him. We often react to our mistakes with anger, shame and guilt. God wants us to bring those negative emotions to Him for healing.
He always views us as His special creation and as his beloved children.
The aftermath of my mistake
As far as this particular mistake at work was concerned, the manager just shrugged and said, "that's OK" when she came into the office later that afternoon. If I had totally given in to fear and worry, I would have had an awful morning. In a state of anxiety and I might have made other errors that have had more dire results than this one. Other bosses might have a more negative reaction. Whatever happens, we must face the consequences of our actions.
We can be OK with our mistakes if we accept our human natures and deal with them.
© 2014 Carola Finch