Sunday, October 22, 2006


Mistakes. Some people blow them off with a flippant or devil-may-care attitude while others live in horror of actually making one. And yet mistakes are inevitable.

Surely some mistakes are serious. Running a red light might endanger the lives of self and others. A surgeon’s mistake could permanently maim or even kill a patient. A lawyer’s mistake could cost a client his freedom.

Thankfully, most mistakes are far less troublesome. In fact, mistakes are to be expected when a person is learning something new. However, fear of mistakes can be paralyzing to perfectionistic souls.

None of us started out that way. Babies, for instance, have no fear of mistakes. All of life is a learning experience to them, and they know no shame or embarrassment. Witness a baby struggling to turn over. So many tries. So many failures. Yet eventually they get it right and can turn over at will.

I remember my own children’s struggles to learn to stand. Oh, how much effort they expended to pull themselves up by table or chair, only to fall again and sometimes injure themselves in the process. But try, try again, they did until they mastered standing on their own. Similarly, there were great efforts in learning to walk. Sometimes bruised in their pursuits, they were never embarrassed or discouraged by their failures along the way.

So why do some of us put so much pressure on ourselves to be “perfect”? And perfect in whose eyes? For whom are we performing? Is our self-worth so wrapped up in our performance that we forget our intrinsic worth as a creation in the image of God?

On the other extreme are those souls who seem to have no desire to master anything and have no sense of guilt when their mistakes cost others time, inconvenience, or stress. Do these people have no conscience? No concern for anyone but themselves?

I know people in both categories. One will hang back from doing things she really wants to do for fear of looking foolish if she doesn’t perform up to expectation or as well as those already skilled in the task. Really, this is silly. She needs to be more like a little child, un-self-conscious, unafraid of others opinions of her and uncritical of herself.

The other could use an infusion of—what –conscience? She rails against the incompetence of others when their failures inconvenience her. Yet if she breaks or damages something, she shrugs it off with a “Oh, I guess you’ll just have to fix that.” No remorse. Totally maddening.

There must be a happy medium between these two extremes. How can one achieve a loving, accepting nature toward self and others without becoming irresponsible and inconsiderate in the process?

Unfortunately, I don’t know. For those of you who have come today with expectations of deep insights, I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you. Consider this a baby step on my part to accept that I will not always perform up to expectation and that it really is okay for me not to excel at everything. And then, feel free to go out and be less than perfect yourself. After all, we’re only human.

Check out the Blogging Chicks Carnival over at Dreaming What Ifs..


At 10/22/2006 10:25 AM, Blogger Karmyn R said...

At some point in childhood development there has to be a trigger that turns them the direction they go toward dealing with mistakes. And does a parent's attitudes toward their children's mistakes help trigger this?

I wonder if there is some Study about it (I'm sure there is). It would be an interesting read.

Thanks for posting in the Carnival! I'm glad Blogger decided to cooperate. I was having issues earlier too - and was freaking out - worried that I wouldn't get the carnival up in time.

At 10/22/2006 11:52 AM, Blogger Gattina said...

You are absolutely right ! Without mistakes we all would be robots.

By the way we "female" mistakes I found in Wikipedia ! Probably written by a father with 5 girls ???

At 10/22/2006 12:15 PM, Blogger Cathy said...

A nice comparison- I am on the end of the spectrum where I will beat myself up--- as I have grown older, I have found myself trying to work through that and on a daily basis work on discerning issues that truly matter- a perfect example is my blog... typos and grammatical errors no longer are corrected if I find them at a later long as the emotion or point has been made... that is what matters. I can tell you that the pressure on oneself can be/is maddening. Using the same example, I will tell you that I have turned red with embarrassment in seeing a spelling error... And you are absolutely right- if I don't believe I can do an outstanding job-- something outside my spectrum of "exptertise" I will not step up... I will create all kinds of "work arounds"....

Good post and a good reminder.

At 10/22/2006 2:34 PM, Anonymous Polly said...

I love your statement about babies have no fear of making mistakes. That is so true. As adults our fear of making a mistake keeps us from trying new things or taking a risk. We would operate with that child-like faith the Bible talks about we could accomplish so much more in life. Mistakes are forgiveable, not taking the risk can be regrettable.

At 10/22/2006 3:12 PM, Anonymous Julie said...

You are so, so right! I have a friend that has a son with Downs Syndrome and sometimes I find myself just watching him wishing I could be more like him. He is a child trapped in a big kid body. He doesn't have the fear of making mistakes. I used him as an example because when we are babies we learn the fear. Taylor never will. He lives each moment for that moment, and has no fear of making a mistake. He will try things and if they don't work he goes and does something else.

At 10/22/2006 6:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

popping in from the BCC...
I've always wanted to be perfect.
Just too lazy to even try.

I'm a WYSIWYG person.

At 10/22/2006 7:25 PM, Blogger CyberCelt said...

I think this is just human nature. We are either trying to achieve perfection or we do not care. As I grow older, I still care, but do not have the energy for perfection any longer.

At 10/22/2006 8:37 PM, Anonymous Beth said...

I believe having the feeling one has to achieve perfection is born into you. My parents certainly didn't teach me that I had to do everything right- in fact as I look back, they allowed me to make every mistake a kid could make. However, I have always been one who was afraid of making a mistake-because in my mind a mistake can mean failure.

At 10/22/2006 11:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe we are made to make the mistakes. . .We all know the saying, "We learn from out mistakes." That's what makes each and every one of us who we are. . .


At 10/23/2006 12:55 PM, Blogger Robin said...

For so much of my life I was such a poser, a pleaser, and although I think there's some good in that (wanting to please others), for me it was more about self preservation, almost an idol of "nice". The Lord found a way to break me of that, by humbling me, by me making a series of "mistakes"...and I'd have to say I've learned some of life's sweetest lessons in the process, but not without pain.

No wonder Jesus invites us as a child...we'd do well to observe that type of undivided affection and pursuit.

For now, I perform (strive to, anyway) for an Audience of One. And that's enough.


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