The Art of Making Mistakes

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We were standing at the lobby counter of the LaQuinta Inn a few miles from the Los Angeles Airport a couple of weeks ago .  It was midnight and the desk clerk was sadly shaking his head at me. “I’m sorry ma’m, you booked a room for March 11th, not February 11th.”

Oops.

I glanced at my daughters who were giving me the look of now what mom? Looking back at the desk clerk I asked, “Can you just book us a room for tonight?”

“We are all full.  And so is the Holiday Inn across the street.”

“Oh. Okay.” I replied turning to pull my heavy suitcase over to the lobby couch to do figure out how to salvage the situation.

My two teenage daughters and I were trying to make our way to a family trip to Maui.  Our husband and son didn’t make our stand-by flight to LAX with us, but would meet us there in the morning to board our next flight to Hawaii.  We had a hotel waiting for us in Los Angeles for the night.

But we apparently didn’t have a hotel waiting, and I as I researched Hotels.com on my phone in the LaQuinta lobby, I soon realized that “last minute” hotel booking near the Los Angeles airport was slim pickings.

To avoid a $300 plus hotel room in downtown L.A. and $100 cab fare round trip, I booked the only available hotel down the street named America’s Best Inn. We called for an Uber and when we pulled up to the new hotel I cringed a little–it was definitely NOT America’s Best Inn.   We hurried into the lobby, paid the lady behind glass (yup) and headed up to our room, locking the door securely.  “Don’t unlock this or go out of our room for any reason until we leave in the morning okay girls?’  Two blond heads nodded back at me.

As we got ready for bed, my oldest daughter pulled back the sheets to find a tiny scorpion-looking bug scurry across the mattress.  Ugh.

“Girls, I’m so sorry.  I must have rushed through the reservation process.”

As I sat on the edge of the gross comforter, I kicked myself for this misstep. After four months of planning our week-long trip to Hawaii, I hoped this was the only bump in the road.

COMMON COPING MECHANISMS WHEN WE MAKE MISTAKES

Mistakes are tough.  This one just affected my sweet daughters, but sometimes our faults are of a larger nature.  Like when we unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings, or physically injure another, or make a blunder at work that affects a large number of people. Sometimes our mistakes are so large they haunt us for years.

When we make mistakes, we tend to go into coping mode to protect our own hurt over the situation.  These are normal but not-so-healthy ways to cope:

 Self-shame  

We are extra critical of ourselves–when we make a mistake we have feelings of hopelessness, desperation, and unworthiness.  We beat ourselves up and hold onto the pain of the situation for a long time, continually playing negative tapes of the circumstance. They sound like, “I’m a failure,” or “I will never get it right.”

Blame

Sometimes our coping mechanism is to deflect our responsibility when we mess up and find someone to blame.  We believe that someone else caused us to create the problem.  A common example of this is when someone loses their temper and then blames the other person involved for “making them mad.”  No one makes us lose our temper–that is our own choice.  The more we try to be perfect, the more we will blame others so we don’t have to accept we are capable of failure.

Denial

Sometimes we deny the mistake altogether.  I could have done this with our hotel situation by not discussing the problem and minimizing my daughter’s disappointment.  Denial feels good in the moment because we bypass any negative feelings.  It is a slippery slope that can lead to long term denial of more serious issues.

Defensive Behavior

This is my personal favorite because I am really good at it, and it tends to be the most common human response.  Often, we seek to justify ourselves by defending the reason for our mistakes.  We struggle to apologize because in doing so we are admitting that we have done something wrong…and that we are not perfect.  If this is one of your favorites too, I encourage you to set aside the need to justify yourself along with trying to prove that you are above mistakes.  Humble apologies speak much larger of our character than defensive responses….much easier said than done–I know!

There are better ways to handle our mistakes.  Mistakes are inevitable, but the outcome can actually be positive if we let it.

MISTAKES ARE LIKE BRUISES

Mistakes remind me of bruises. When we bang our knee on the corner of the table we wince and feel pain and are reminded to be more careful next time.  We get a bruise that visually shows our misstep.  But the bruise heals and goes away in a few days.

Not handling our mistakes in a healthy way reminds me of a bruise that just doesn’t heal. It leaves an emotional wound that sticks around far longer than it should.  Healthy mistakes hurt, but they should heal.

What are healthy mistakes? (Even writing those two words seems strange to a recovering perfectionist like myself.  How can mistakes be healthy? They just seem uncomfortable and insecurity producing).

Healthy mistakes are ones that help us grow in character, spiritual maturity, and relationship.

When we see mistakes as opportunities instead of failures we grow!  The reality is they give us the amazing opportunity to become better people by learning to:

~walk in humility (a posture of deference to others)

~have compassion for others who are not perfect (ahem, everyone)

~encourage us to do better the next time

~involve sorrys and true remorse to repair relationships

~most importantly lead us to the feet of Jesus as we seek repentance and healing.   God uses our mistakes to draw us closer to him.

Healthy mistakes nudge us on to maturity.  They teach us something but they don’t shake our identity.  We are able to speak kind words to ourselves that spur us on to learning from our behavior, but allow us to have grace for our imperfections.

HOW GOD SEES OUR MISTAKES

It also helps to understand how God sees our mistakes.

While Jesus’s life was perfect, he demonstrated great grace and love for the most “mistaken” people of his time.  The adulteress who was to be stoned, the woman at the well with many husbands, the despised tax collector–Jesus treated them all with grace and love–and with truth about how to move forward, “Go and sin no more,” he said.

When my children make mistakes I correct them, but my love for them does not change.  I am still crazy about each of them, would walk to the ends of the earth for them, would even sacrifice my life for them.  It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they totally mess up all the time.  They are small growing humans with rough edges and beautiful hearts.

We are grown up humans with rough edges and beautiful hearts, and God loves us in kind.

God’s love for us is so great that he gave up his beloved son to a terrible death to pay for our mistakes, so we could be holy and blameless before him.

He gets the whole mistake thing.

Part of living life to the full is accepting our imperfect selves with grace and hope.  Healthy mistakes are ones that evoke a positive response in our hearts alongside the pain.  We live in the reality of our faults–without denial, shame, defensiveness or blame.  And we see our mistakes as an opportunity to grow.

I am learning the art of making mistakes, will you learn them with me?

Oh, and I forgot to add one little detail.  As we boarded the plane that Thursday night of the LaQuinta Inn fiasco, my husband (who didn’t get on the flight) asked for the keys to the car so he and our son could head back home from the airport.  “Ummm”, I said, the situation dawning on me, “They are in my purse which is in my checked bag that just got loaded onto the plane.”

I get a lot of practice at this.

Next week I will be posting about focusing on our strengths.  I will share some great tools that will help you identify your talents and possibly help direct you toward discovering your purpose in life.

~Amy

PS: If you are reading this on email and want to read it on the blog (which is more colorful and entertaining :), click here!

Perpetual Disclaimer: The musings on this blog are born out of my own experience (usually ones with a high learning curve), and the continual digesting of information from books, sermons and classes I am taking.  My hope is that some part of each post resonates with you and encourages you in your life journey.  Feel free to toss all the rest out the door.  I in no way claim to be an expert on anything you will find here.

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xoxo,

Amy

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