Monday, December 11, 2006

To err is human...

It's part of the human condition that we know we make mistakes - our fallibility is around us and within us all the time as we go through life, joining up with its cousin mortality to make us truly human.  As Alexander Pope's quote suggests, making errors is very much human, but it seems that in some senses to me that we do not deal with this very well. 

On the one hand the notion of fallibility (technically the idea that absolute knowledge is impossible) is very rarely encountered in public life. 

Politicians, sports stars, celebrities etc seldom acknowledge in any direct way that they made a mistake, and yet it happens all the time.   A mistake can take many forms, of course, and doesn't necessarily indicate anything other than perhaps a poor judgment in the face of available information or perhaps a misjudgment based on prioritising the importance of an end  result.   It's not often that we hear an acknowledgment of this, even when it is blatant to all concerned.  So much so that it appears that when we do hear it, it stands out precisely because it is not the norm.   Perhaps we should ask why that is?  Is there something in our culture or society that makes it difficult for people to stand up and say "I made an error" and feel comfortable doing so?

On the other hand, how we deal with our own misjudgments is crucial.  Do we acknowledge them, do we move on from them clearly and with learning, do we hang onto them as mistakes we return to?   How we interact within ourselves on these matters is part of how we then reflect back to the outside world and deal with other people's flaws and fallibility.

Admitting "I was wrong" is still a big hurdle for many people.  If you unhook that expression from associated feelings of regret and guilt though, I think there is potential to forgive oneself, and then freely and openly admit to one's misjudgments.  Whether other people can unhook their own feelings in reaction to a mistake, of their hurt or their disappointment,  is another matter.   But, that is outside of one's control and should not undercut the value of admitting one's fallibility, which is ultimately to acknowledge that we are not perfect, but that in recognising imperfection we are more aware.

So, forgive yourself, and own up to a mistake today.  You know it really truly is the most human of things to do.

Posted by Jon at 10:02:04 AM in Musing (23) | Comments (2)


Awesome post, Jon. Thank you for sharing. I love your suggestion to forgive -- that is truly important and part of the growth and learning process, IMHO.

You are right, making a mistake is part of being human. If you can take away something good from the mistake, something you have learned so as to avoid making the mistake again, that is key.

Posted by Pam on 11/12/2006

Pam, thank you for your comment. The Alexander Pope quote in full is "To err is human, to forgive Divine". Forgiveness is an important part of recouping an error but unlike Pope I think and truly hope that the forgiveness comes from within as much as without, and is as human a trait as the error.

Posted by Jon on 12/12/2006

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