Family Works: Speaking on mistakes
by By ROB COOMBS ID. Min. Ph.D.
Nov 10, 2013 | 1027 views | 0 0 comments | 69 69 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Early in third grade, my daughter Amy received a bright red apple on her lunch tray. While eating her lunch, she began thinking about how nice it would be to give that beautiful red apple to her new teacher. But, then, she also wanted to eat the apple. Finally, after much indecision, she took a bite of the apple.

As soon as she bit it, she knew she had made a mistake and more than ever wanted to take the bite back so she could give a perfect apple to her teacher. Painfully, she swallowed her bite and then began to wonder how she could cover up her mistake. Taking the ketchup from her tray, she covered the bite.

But unfortunately, because of the indentation on the apple, the bite was still visible. In order to solve this problem, she rubbed the ketchup off and used leftover fish stick to fill in the indentation and then covered the fish stick with ketchup. With apple in hand, she made her way back to her classroom.

As she walked down the hall, she came to realize her desire to cover up the mistake had made a mess of her apple. She stopped by the bathroom, rinsed the apple and then went to her classroom and gave it to the teacher, carefully making sure the teacher was presented the best side of her gift.

One of the greatest challenges of life is accepting and dealing with our mistakes. Most of us would like to present a beautiful apple when it comes to how others perceive us. But honesty encourages us to admit that we all make mistakes and like a bitten apple which cannot be returned to look like new, our mistakes do leave impressions that no amount of filler can cover. So what are we to do? If we want to present a beautiful apple to others, how is this possible once a mistake has been made?

First and foremost, it is important to accept the mistake. This acceptance must come from within. No matter how much you feel forgiven by others, forgiveness does not happen until you experience the grace of accepting and forgiving yourself.

Second, have the backbone to deal honestly with the mistake. This demands great courage. Only cowards run and hide.

Third, believe that others will follow your lead if you honestly seek to deal constructively with the mistake. Most people readily want to forgive your mistake (there is a minority that does not). Why? Because most recognize the frailty of the human condition. That even though we might want the best, sometimes by omission we do not act on the best and sometimes we even knowingly and deliberately do what is wrong.

Fourth, be completely honest about the mistake with significant others. Like using fish stick to cover a bite taken from an apple, trying to cover our mistake by lies or other forms of deception only creates a real mess. Over time we usually realize the futility of such efforts anyway and then finally, like my daughter, wash the coverup away and just accept that a mistake has been made.

Please understand that washing away the cover up does not mean broadcasting your mistake, like many sad individuals do on today’s TV talk shows. Be honest by sharing information that it is important for others to know.

Fifth, if there is a pattern of mistakes in your life, consider professional help. Counseling can assist you in understanding why you continue to make the same mistake.

Sixth, and most importantly, let go of your mistake. Notice I did not say to forget your mistakes. Forgetfulness is nearly impossible for humans. This really is good news. Because we do not forget, we can learn, change our patterns of behavior, live a different life. This is genuine hope. What becomes hopeless is allowing our inability to forget to immobilize our lives. Regret over yesterday and fear of tomorrow because of unresolved guilt about one’s mistake robs us of today. Letting go allows us to remember our history, but not to be controlled by it. We let go so we can live today.

It’s time to quit writing and enjoy an apple. The one I have in my hand is blemished. I’m beginning to think it might even taste better with the blemish! Who wants a supposedly perfect apple anyway? It isn’t real.