There is no such thing as a mistake-free human life. All of us make mistakes. Whether in the realm of parenting, work, relationships, or other life arenas our decisions will not always serve us in positive ways. The dictionary defines a mistake as “an action that is misguided or wrong” and when used as a verb, to make a mistake is defined as “to be wrong about”. There are certainly many related definitions of “mistake”, but the essential idea is that we may judge something of someone incorrectly or act based on a wrong or inaccurate judgment about a person or situation.
We seldom realize that we are making a mistake at the time of our decision or initial evaluation of a person or situation. We may realize it shortly afterward or not until months or years after the fact. It is only in retrospect that certain choices appear to be mistakes and choices that turn out to be mistakes some of our “mistakes” were not actually mistakes at the time we made them. Usually, it was the best decision we were able to make at the time with the information we had available to us. And while it may seem counterintuitive, some things we regard as mistakes end up leading to better outcomes than we could have imagined. The mistake itself is not necessarily “good”, but that which emerges from the situation may be interesting, joyful or otherwise beneficial.
It appears to be the common human response to be hard on ourselves for the mistakes we have made, but it is not a helpful way to approach our imperfections. Mistakes are opportunities for learning, personal growth and a deepening of character. While we may be devastated by some of the major errors in judgement we have made in the past, on the other side of self-blame, grief and self-recrimination there may be an important and deeper level of self-understanding, a greater compassion for others and the errors they make, and sometimes even a touch of greater wisdom. Let’s consider these questions.
- As you have become older have you become harder on yourself for making mistakes or more understanding and compassionate toward yourself for mistakes you have made?
- Are there mistakes you have made that have ended up turning out not to be mistakes at all?
- Talk about one mistake you feel you made in the past and the learning or wisdom you gained because of that mistake.
- What decisions have you made that you were most satisfied with? That you were most disappointed about?
- Are there any important decisions you are facing right now? How might you approach making this decision?
- As you have become older and wiser, is it easier than it used to be to recognize actions that may be mistakes and make other, more constructive choices?