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My mother would often tell me, when comforting me
about some terrible mistake I had made, like wearing
my t-shirt inside out or telling a fib and getting caught,
that mistakes are important because they remind us
that we are just like everybody else.
I think she was saying something that was a little
more complex than my young brain could process. I
just thought she wanted me to not be so hard on myself
but the older I get, I tend to think she was also saying
that I should remember my mistakes when confronted
with the mistakes of others. Perhaps she was pointing
out that mistakes help put other mistakes into perspective
so that we can move past them.
We have all heard the standard responses to mistakes
– learn from them so you don’t do it again; if you
aren’t making mistakes, chances are you aren’t doing
anything; the mistake isn’t the important thing…what
you do about it is what matters…”the true measure of
a man…” and so on and so forth. These are mostly
inward-looking truisms and I think my mother’s message
was more outward looking. Mistakes allow us to
look at how we impact the world around us as well as
how we gauge our experiences. There is a feeling we
get when we see somebody mess up; depending on the
circumstance, it might be concern and it just as easily
might be glee. It is almost instantaneous and the reaction
is quite different from that feeling we get when it is
us. We tend to be harder on ourselves and we tend to
mull over the mistake until we can get to a place where
we are either accepting, forgiving or correcting the mistake
so that we can move on. And then there are the
mistakes we can not let go of and those are the ones
that drag on us and keep us from letting go of other
people’s mistakes.
Once while on vacation, I saw an elderly homeless
man sleeping on the stairway of a government building.
For some reason, I had the idea to pose with him. I did.
We moved on and I don’t even know what happened to
the picture or if I ever even saw it. But the fact that I did
that lingers. It was a cruel thing to do. It did not harm
that poor man but it harmed me because I think back
on it and it shames me. But it also reminds me of how
callous I am capable of being and serves to keep me
working toward my better self.
So when I came to work and saw our Sunday issue
with the headline MY FAVORIT…
I was able to replace my horror with humor and set
about adding the letter”E” to
the stack of newspapers I was
taking to an event that morning.
It was a startling reminder
to say the least and in our
current climate of name calling
and blame, accusations
and recriminations, maybe it
is a timely reminder that we
all make mistakes. We all do
things that upon reflection, do
not reflect our better selves
and most of us could stand to
be a little less accusatory and
a little more focused on what
is right with this world and
what each of us contributes
to it. Perhaps we can even, in
light of our own mistakes, feel
compassion for others who
stumble. And perhaps in light
of having survived our own
mistakes and stumbles, be less fearful of the possibility
of being harmed by the mistakes of others.
I attended Kingdom Awakenings Tour this last
Saturday along with an exquisitely diverse group of
people – young, old, black, brown, white, tattooed, uniformed,
dressed up and not, prayerful and not – all bobbing
to the music, all joining in prayer, heads bowed,
hands lifted – listening to their peers stand up and tell
their stories about how they found forgiveness and purpose;
celebrating in song and spoken word, their truth.
And as I handed them my little newspapers with the
Sharpie “E”s written on them, I thought what a wonderful
gathering of glorious mistakes put right.

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