Friday, August 28, 2009

Anatomy of a Mistake

“I have heard that an eagle misses 70 percent of its strikes. Why should I expect to do better? And when he misses, does he scold himself, I wonder, for failing at the task?” ~Sophy Burnham

According to the Encarta Dictionary, the word ‘mistake’ has the following meanings:

1. Incorrect act or decision: An incorrect, unwise, or unfortunate act or decision caused by faulty judgment or a lack of information
2. Error: Something in a piece of work that is incorrect.
3. Misunderstanding: A misunderstanding of something
4. By mistake: Accidentally, without wishing or intending to do something.

None of the above definitions state that a mistake is an act we commit intentionally, yet as individuals and as a society we tend to beat ourselves and others for actions that were merely the product of a temporary lack of judgment.

Our first reaction when we slip and make a mistake is to lash out at others, as we attempt to subconsciously justify their dissatisfaction with our conduct - by making our loved ones angry we relieve some of the pressure guilt is imposing on our bruised ego. Our mind tells us that we have done wrong - and that we don’t deserve acceptance - and as we seek to self-punish we further isolate ourselves and increase our vulnerability, thus making it possible for us to self-sabotage and make more mistakes.

Making mistakes is a side-effect of being human, and needs to be accepted as part of our growth. Nobody intentionally wishes to do wrong, and since early childhood, our greatest wish is to please others and connect with them; things happen, sometimes, beyond the sphere of our control, as our mindset can be easily influenced by hidden triggers in our subconscious.

We can’t always stop ourselves from making mistakes, but we can prevent ourselves from believing that hope is lost just because we have stumbled. Mistakes are a great gauge to measure how far we have come, and an irreplaceable tool to determine the stability of the path we are following.

Beating ourselves up for our mistakes will not erase our past actions, nor will it help us rectify our future ones. On the contrary, acceptance that it is okay to slip allows us to take stock of our losses and create a new course of action starting from now. Falling is not synonymous of failure; it just means that we stumbled on an obstacle we didn’t see in the darkness of the moment. Once we turn on the light and acknowledge the fact that no human is perfect, it will be easier to resume our journey without the burden of unnecessary expectations.

Forgiveness and healing can certainly go two-ways, but the door must first be unlocked from within. No one can fully forgive us until we can find the strength to forgive ourselves.

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