I don’t imagine anyone wakes up in the morning and recites the daily affirmation — Today I will make as many mistakes as possible.
But we’re all bound to make them.
Making a mistake can feel like death inside.
Death of self-perception. Death of idealized self. Death of ego.
But making mistakes is one of the biggest gifts we can give to others. When we make mistakes, and live, it reminds others that we are all human beings. It reminds them that they can make mistakes, and live, too.
Two years ago, I was speaking at a women’s retreat. I had delivered this dialogue several times before, each time gesturing to a large wooden prop that was positioned slightly behind me to the right.
I motioned toward the prop with my right hand and followed with my head.
Surprise! There was nothing there!
“Where’d it go?” I asked aloud in the middle of my talk.
I turned my head back to face the room and found the prop was on the ground in front of me. Maybe two feet from my feet.
Hmmm. There it was.
I paused for a moment to feel my embarrassment and then kept going.
Thankfully I didn’t feel like the snafu ruined the meaning behind the message, but if I had the option to do it over and choose, I would have preferred to realize the prop was at my feet and not have made the mistake.
I can see that making mistakes is life-giving to others AND that it doesn’t feel great to be the one making the mistake for the benefit of others.
One year later, a friend of mine was giving a talk that involved audience participation. She asked for a volunteer, but when the woman stepped forward, it was clear she wasn’t quite sure what she’d gotten herself into.
About a quarter of the way through what was supposed to be an illustration of a point, my friend halted the illustration, rewound the tape (with an amazing “rewind” sound to boot), and started over.
I thought it was brilliant! Rather than pressing forward with something that clearly wasn’t working, she reined it in and tried again.
What an amazing display of our humanity! What a gift to everyone watching! We aren’t expected to be perfect. It isn't even the goal. We can make mistakes, have things not go according to plan, and stop right in our tracks, in front of a crowd, and shift gears.
Isn’t that what we do in our daily lives all the time?
But often in our daily lives, the people around us are none the wiser.
Having this all happen under the radar robs us of the knowledge that we’re all shifting and changing with each curveball life throws at us. We can get the wrong message that other people have some secret sauce that allows them to glide through life unscathed.
I call BS on that!
While I don’t wake up and aim to make as many public mistakes as possible each day, I do aim to own my mistakes and angle them toward the positive outcome of having grace for myself and reminding others to have grace for themselves.
After all, we’re only human!