Mistakes. We all make them. Yes, even me. I wrote that last sentence with a smile because occasionally someone has a (mistaken!) perception of me that I don’t make mistakes. Perhaps they think that because I write this blog and lead a contemplation group and meditate and so on, that somehow I am always wise. And while I have my wise moments, as we all do, I assure you that I also have my clay feet moments, as we all do.
In fact, I tripped over my clay feet just recently. Someone in a vulnerable state reached out for support. Although I thought I responded appropriately at the time, I can see on further reflection that I missed the mark. I made judgments about the situation based on perceptions that may or may not have been accurate. I didn’t find out if they were accurate because I didn’t pause to really listen. Not helpful.
Once I realized this, I sank into several days of self-flagellation, feeling remorse and embarrassment at my lapse. In a way, I was suffering from my own mistaken perception of myself as a person who doesn’t make mistakes. Also not helpful.
So I sat by the creek at the cabin and asked for deeper understanding of what had happened. Here are some things I learned.
First, I had to get through the layers of excuse. I was caught off guard by the request at a time when I was tired and distracted. Okay, that happens. But could I have handled it differently? Could I have acknowledged, to myself at least, that I was not really able to bring my full self to attend to the moment?
Second, I could see that I was trying to exercise control over the situation. The urge to control is always based in fear, not in trust. What was the underlying fear? (Hint: It is always going to be something within me, within my thoughts. It’s not really about the other person or the situation.) Could I acknowledge that fear with compassion?
Third, I needed to be honest about what happened, apologize, and make whatever amends I could.
Fourth, I needed to forgive myself and move on. Ah, this is a hard one! Still working on that. This in itself is fertile ground for self-inquiry and reflection. And compassion!
Mistakes are part of life. We can learn from our individual mistakes, like the example I offered, and we can learn from a general inquiry into our perception of the nature of mistakes.
What is our concept of “mistake”? What does it mean to label something as a mistake, and what effect does that label have on how we engage with the situation? We bring such judgment to even the idea of a mistake. Can we explore our relationship to our mistakes with curiosity and compassion? Can we accept ourselves as we are, perfect in our imperfection? Can we meet each present moment without the heavy baggage of what we see as past mistakes?
May we give ourselves permission to be who we are, to be kind to ourselves as we wish to be kind to others, to love ourselves in the fullness of our being, to bless ourselves and others with honesty and compassion.
Let all your regrets and mistakes become your sails and your rudders, and not your anchors. ~Sotero M Lopez II