Monday, July 30, 2007

Making Mistakes: Part 1

"The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything." - William Connor Magee

I read this quote recently and was encouraged by it. Why is it that people (myself included sometimes) are so scared to make mistakes? Mistakes are a sign that one has taken action on something, that one has taken a risk, and that one is unhappy with the status quo and has done something about it. Sure, mistakes are to be avoided as much as possible, but I know some people who are absolutely paralyzed by their fear of messing up. When I was a camp director I was often amazed at how receiving some negative feedback (information about one's mistakes) could empower some staff to new heights and cripple others. Why is this?

One of my theories is that people develop unhelpful beliefs about mistakes. For instance, some people believe things like "If I make a mistake . . .

I am a loser.
I will fail everyone.
I won't be able to recover.

I'm worthless.

People won't respect me.

God won't love me.

I am a bad leader/mother/friend/co-worker/Christian/etc.

Any of these strike a chord? Notice how many of these move from a specific action (making one mistake) to a universal judgment ("I'm worthless.") This is a mental stretch that almost all of us do occasionally. The problem is that these universal judgments just aren't accurate. And when we start believing them we are essentially deceiving ourselves and the results aren't pretty. Whether it's self-condemnation or decisional paralysis, believing that one mustn't make mistakes is crippling to ourselves and to those around us.

Besides being renowned businessmen, what do Donald Trump and Sam Walton (founder of Walmart) have in common? They both had to declare bankruptcy! Yet either of these men allowed their mistakes to destroy them, rather they lived & learned and became incredible successes. I have been tempted to be destroyed by my mistakes many times before. When one of my staff got injured at camp a few years ago, I was initially despondent and started believing things about myself that were not accurate: "I'm a bad leader. I shouldn't be running this camp. I don't deserve to be in command." Thankfully, after a few hours I could see things more clearly. Yes, I had made a poor judgment call and made a mistake that had bad consequences. But the stuff I was telling myself was simply not true. I reminded myself of all the times I had made good judgment calls and reminded myself that my mistake was specific and did not equal who I am. I reminded myself of my fallen nature and the grace given to me in Christ. Lastly I embraced the grace given to me by others. We all will make mistakes. The question is what are you going to do and think when it happens? Contrary to what you may believe, the decision is up to you.

May Light increase!


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The Paper Child said...

dude, am i glad i found your blog ... thanks to's recently updated blog list and my boredom :) .. i loved your post on mistakes ... and the power of team! ... not to mention the honeymoon posts! ... with all those tips, i am gonna ace it! LOL ... your blog has joined my morning reading list!

Mark said...

Paper Child: Hey thanks for stopping by. I checked out some of your blogs, very interesting writing. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement and have a great day!

The Paper Child said...

thank you for your kind words, mark! :)