Monday, 9 February 2015


We live in terror of making mistakes, yet that is the very way in which homo sapiens learn.

A parent can tell a small child not to touch the electric hob plates on the cooker when they are on until they are blue in the face but it is only when the child touches a burning hot plate for themselves once the parent's back is turned that they accept their parent was right and it is a bad idea.

I know. I was that small child. And I've made a million mistakes since,
The only thing I can say in my favour is that I try to learn from my mistakes so I don't make the same mistake twice.

Trouble is there are so many mistakes to make!

Of course there are ways and means of REDUCING the number of mistakes a human being makes, not least by listening to and taking good advice or asking rather than assuming when unsure of something. Or simply by being determined to learn from mistakes and nip any behavioural patterns in the bud (ie if you are repeatedly attracting the wrong partner in your relationships).

When making a major decision, research and planning, or at the very least a list of pro's and cons can be enormously helpful in weighing up the options. On an emotional level, an unwise temptation can often be resolved, if determined to override natural instincts or alarm bells, by asking oneself; 'Does this fit into the 'good ideas' box or the 'bad ideas' box?' If you can't envisage a thing fitting into the 'good ideas' box, you have your answer.

For some people though it seems they use their mistakes to beat themselves up for the rest of their lives and allow regret or remorse to paralyse them from daring to make mistakes or take risks ever again. But what is that in itself but a big mistake? No one learns or progresses through stagnation.

Whatever the mistake, there are normally apologies or amends that can be made and forgiveness (if required) all too anxiously waiting to grant its' plea.

However the biggest stumbling block is forgiving oneself. for no one is a harsher critic than our own ego, whatever its public front of innocence, denial or self-delusion.

This culture of the frustrated perfectionist who has to appear perfect even though they might be falling apart at the seams or inwardly living lives of quiet desperation through not being true to themselves does no one any favours. At the extreme end of the wedge we see a growing number of mental health issues, suicides and even familicides by those who feel their lives have gone so far wrong, there is no way back, no redemption. Even more tragic, many have not even tested the truth of this personal assumption before they take some irreversible action to end their anguish, passing the baton of suffering on to those left behind.

In New Zealand a hundred and twenty individuals nearing the end of their natural lives were asked what their greatest regret was. Almost universally the answer came; 'I wish I'd spent less time worrying.'


Nota Bene said...

As a grumpy old man observing other parents, can I say many parents biggest mistakes is not to allow their children to make a mistake...either because they molly coddle them, or because they refuse to admit it when they do...

Bobbins said...

When I was younger I used to play chess and there was this book I liked called 'Chess Mistakes And how to avoid them' with the basic premise of the book is every move you make is going to be a mistake but to win what you have to do is make fewer mistakes than your opponent. Now in chess there are a few ways of losing and probably the worst is that if you don't move make a move at all you run time and forfeit. Now getting back to real life, you go through life making decisions and from those decisions you make you try to make the best you can. Some are good, some are bad and some are never made. I don't want to die staring down at the board where I never made a move I want to actually have played the game (and played well).

I'm not sure what you mean by trying to seek forgiveness for a mistake, a mistake is exactly that. While people might seek atonment for some bad actions/decisions they should never try to excuse such by calling them mistakes. The funny thing is there are certains things people don't give a second thought to, other things probably far less important buried deep within the past totally irrelevant cause great angst. Sometimes people dwell too much in the past.

P.S. What a depressing subject wouldn't you rather play a nice game of Global Thermonuclear War. :)

Steve said...

Mistakes are just experience at the end of the day but we seem to have imbued the word "mistake" with so much moral freight the very word seems a terror.

Wisewebwoman said...

Excellent post, Laura and much to reflect on along with the previous comments.


Barry Coidan said...

I've always thought that the Catholic confessional was a great way to de-bug one's conscience. Admitting to mistakes, owning up to deeds we'd rather have not done. Unburdening oneself, putting it out there, verbalising that mistake, objectifying it, having someone else's take on it: important ways of handling your mistakes and getting them and their repercussions into perspective.