What is a Mistake?
A mistake is something we do unintentionally or without thinking it through.
It’s not the same as doing something knowing it is wrong.
When a person makes a mistake, it’s because they didn’t know any better due to poor judgment, lack of information, incorrect information, misunderstanding, or miscalculation. This can be caused by various things including carelessness or by simply not having the resources to know better.
How People Handle Mistakes
We all know that everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes are generally thought of as bad things that we try to avoid. People beat each other up over their mistakes and we beat ourselves up over our own mistakes.
Mistakes are things we do not intentionally do. They happen in the course of daily life. Some mistakes are devastating, but most mistakes are no big deal. Unfortunately people often make unimportant mistakes into a much bigger deal than they would be if we didn’t give them so much negative attention.
Refocus Your Attention
What if we stopped trying so hard to avoid mistakes by instead focusing on:
- Developing and using good judgment
- Gathering information before making a decision
- Taking enough time to make an informed, thoughtfully considered decision
- Making sure our information is from a reliable source
- Developing self-discipline and tolerance for delayed gratification
Learning these skills will naturally result in better decision making. The focus is on learning and growing in life and it eventually becomes second nature – a part of a person’s character. The focus isn’t on avoiding mistakes, which is fear based. It is on personal growth, which is empowering.
The types of mistakes that are made by not using good judgment and good information can be greatly reduced when a person lives a thoughtful, conscientious life.
This should be a joy, not a chore.
What to Do with Mistakes
Even a person who has developed excellent judgment and self-discipline will make mistakes. It is part of being human. Good judgment and self-discipline will reduce a significant amount of serious mistakes, but it is impossible to entirely eliminate mistakes.
It’s not necessary or even beneficial to avoid all mistakes. Most mistakes can be used as stepping stones in our growth and lead to wisdom when these lessons are incorporated into daily life.
Living in fear of making mistakes can hold people back from many good things. For some it becomes paralyzing. It is far better to focus on the here and now and doing our best. Then when mistakes come along, we can own them, process through them, and move forward.
It is okay to make mistakes. Holding mistakes against yourself is letting your mistakes own you. Instead own your mistakes rather than letting them own you.
Mistakes can be used like a sling shot to shoot forward and fly, rather than letting your mistakes own you and hold you back from the joy of life.
Fear of Mistakes
There are several reasons why people are so afraid of the inevitable mistake.
The number one reason is that mistakes are thought of as bad things. The good news is that not all mistakes are bad. Most mistakes have no negative consequence at all. Some mistakes are in our favor and make things better. Other mistakes create problems, but they help us gain understanding and wisdom for tomorrow. Most mistakes can help us as stepping stones to a stronger, wiser future.
Since childhood, most people were punished for their mistakes. This is due to a general belief that mistakes are bad things and the way to stop people from making them is through punishment. This is silly. Children should not be punished for their mistakes. If it’s a big mistake, they should be taught how to examine the mistake and move forward having learned a lesson. If it is a small mistake, they should be taught to let it go and move on.
Some people are afraid of making mistakes due to having made mistakes with big consequences. When a person makes a mistake that results in something terrible happening, it can tend to result in fear. Everyone makes mistakes and most people make some big mistakes in their lives. If we all let mistakes hold us back in fear, how would we grow and move forward? Letting mistakes hold you in fear does not resolve anything. It only makes matters worse.
Is it Really a Mistake?
There is a different between making a mistake and in purposefully doing something bad. It is important to recognize the difference. The first is doing something unknowingly. The second is making a choice to do something we know we ought not do, which is not a mistake at all.
Knowing the difference helps us to know how to respond to someone when we need to know whether what they did was a mistake or if they purposefully did something hurtful.
Often times people will purposefully make bad choices, not thinking about the consequences or simply not caring about how it may impact other people, then when things don’t turn out well or they get caught, they call it a mistake to avoid being held responsible for their actions.
This situation should be dealt with in an entirely different manner than how a mistake is dealt with. It should be addressed directly and the person held accountable for what they did, rather than letting them hide behind the guise of a mistake.
Sometimes the Mistake is Not the Problem
There are mistakes caused by an underlying issue such as carelessness, thoughtlessness, self-centeredness, lack of self-control, and countless other things that should be corrected. When we recognize what the real issues is, we can deal with appropriately.
If there are ongoing issues that cause relationship trouble, these issues can be addressed directly at the source rather than trying to constantly deal with mistakes that do not really address what is going on underneath. Once the root cause is addressed, it can create healthier, happier relationships.
In other words, if a person makes mistake, but you can see that the real problem is that the person does not care about your feelings, you may consider not associating with that person anymore. Or maybe the person uses poor judgment and tends to make mistakes that impact others negatively. You can point that out and express that you are upset with them not thinking about what they are doing, rather than being upset about the actual mistake. If that person is dangerous, you can alter your interaction with that person to not be involved with them when they could do something that would cause harm.
Know what you are dealing with and approach the situation from that perspective.
Excusing Hurtful Behavior
Sometimes people will claim they made a mistake when it was not a mistake at all. They knew what they were doing was wrong. If someone knows he is doing something wrong and still does it; that is not a mistake. It is on purpose.
When someone states that they made a mistake, even a terrible mistake, but it is obvious they knew exactly what they were doing, the healthy approach is to deal with the reality of what is happening, rather than buying into the “it was a mistake” excuse.
People call all sorts of terrible things mistakes in order to minimize the hurt they have caused and to avoid responsibility for their actions. If someone does something terrible, there is nothing wrong with holding that person accountable. It does them no good to enable their bad behavior by chalking it up to being a mistake and sweeping it and all the consequences under the rug.
When You Make a Mistake that Creates a Problem
Own it and do what is necessary to resolve the problem. Do not let it define you or hold you back.
If you hurt someone, go to that person and apologize. Don’t make a long, dramatic event out of it. Say you are sorry, that you didn’t mean to cause hurt or difficulty and do whatever is necessary to correct your mistake. Then let it go and move forward.
If the person you created a problem for won’t forgive you, don’t let it hold you back from moving away from the mistake and living well.
When Someone Makes a Mistake that Creates a Problem for You
Rather than making a big deal out of a mistake, it is healthier to address it simply, then let it go. If someone does something silly, rather than holding it against them, forgive and move forward. We all need grace. Think of how you would want someone to treat you if you did something dumb by mistake. Would you want them to make a big deal out of it and cause your further embarrassment or would you rather they pat you on the back, tell you it’s no big deal and no harm is done?
If the mistake needs to be resolved, talk to the person about how he can resolve the problem. Work through it together.
If the person refuses to acknowledge their need to make things right, that is an entirely different issue and should be dealt with according the rules of justice. Do not seek revenge and do not hold it against them in bitterness, but seeking resolution is appropriate for something that creates a major problem.
Even with a big problem, if the person is unable to make amends, it is may be a good choice to extend mercy and let it go.
When we consider how we would want someone to respond to us in a similar situation, it puts things in perspective and helps us to treat others with love and grace. It builds our relationships and helps everyone move forward in a healthy manner.
Grace and Mercy
There is no reason to feel badly for holding someone accountable and working to receive justice. This is not the same as being hateful or vindictive. It is about being reasonable and dealing with bad situations appropriately so that people can heal and move on, however, sometimes it is good to extend mercy or grace towards that person and not require them to make amends.
Extending grace when mistakes are made, rather than hanging onto to them and making them into something bigger than they are brings healing and helps us to move on. It’s all about that saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” We don’t have to make the small stuff into a big deal. That can even be applied in more serious situations where we understand that the person is unable to resolve the problem he has caused and could use some mercy. Again, think back to what you would hope someone would do for you in a similar situation.
This reduces anxiety and builds relationships. Acting in love and grace accepts that we all make mistakes and that they don’t have to define us or our relationships.
When a big mistake causes all sorts of unforeseen repercussions, we can work to find out what went wrong, resolve it and move on. It can help us to avoid making similar mistakes in the future if we deal with it graciously in the first place. Getting all upset over something that cannot be helped can bring new issues into the situation and make things worse, rather than simply dealing with the issue at hand and moving through it in a healthy way.
Grace and peace to you!
By Cynthia DeWitte
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Description: Everyone makes mistakes, but how we see them and what we do about them can change the situation from a negative into a positive. Learn skills to stop letting the mistakes that you and others make bring you down. Photo credit: Copyright: design56 / 123RF Stock Photo and Copyright: vasabii / 123RF Stock Photo