When I was a little girl we rarely got new things if it wasn’t Christmas or a Birthday, so on the occasions we did get something unexpectedly it was a really big deal to me. One time I accompanied my mom on her errands and I saw the biggest pink eraser I had ever seen in a clearance bin I was digging through. It was 2 inches wide and 4 inches long. I was so happy when my mom bought it for me. Across the front of the eraser it said, “I NEVER make big mistakes”. I thought that was so hilariously clever because the eraser was big enough to erase the biggest mistake I could possibly make and then some. Remember, I was eight.
It’s funny how when you are a child it is so much easier to admit you make mistakes. It gets harder as you get older. I think in our drive to be independent and self-sufficient we also build up a desire to always be right. We also make it difficult for others to admit when they make mistakes. Of course, public figures and politicians help to drive that - usually the only time their apologies come out are when their errors are revealed. I’m not talking about moral lapses and failures here, I am talking about genuine mistakes people make. Nobody is infallible, we all make mistakes, but when other people do it sometimes we act superior and as if we would never err in our choices, decisions or actions.
I read an article in a magazine one time about a man whose father had died in a hospital as a result of a mistake made by a team of doctors. The author described the meeting he had with the doctors and other hospital officials. In the midst of his grief he heard them apologize for the mistake that had been made. He said he looked around at the table and saw a group of men and women, not a bunch of doctors-on-a-pedestal. He acknowledged they didn’t want his dad to die and that it was a mistake in his care they regretted deeply. The doctors were fully prepared for a lawsuit but the author decided not to sue them because everyone makes mistakes and he believed their sincere apologies. I read a lot of responses to that article - and most people thought the author was an idiot because he had a chance to sue and make all kinds of money and doctors should have to pay for their mistakes and etc...
A lot of people missed the point of the article. People make mistakes. Even the best of them make mistakes. Nobody is infallible, nobody is perfect. It happens. I don’t know anybody who wants to make mistakes and many people won’t admit when they have made one. It took courage for that group of doctors to meet with that man and apologize for their mistake. I refuse to look for an ulterior motive, I think he was right - they were genuinely grieved about the mistake and apologized to him.
We want to punish people when their mistakes affect us and that makes admitting mistakes and apologizing for them intimidating. I have seen instances where a teacher misplaced a students’ work after it was turned in. GASP! I have never known a teacher who didn’t try to have an infallible plan in place for collecting assignments and keeping them together to be graded and returned. But sometimes it is possible one could get misplaced. And I have seen parents try to bring down the school walls because a teacher made a mistake and it adversely affected their students for a time.
I was in a restaurant with Maddy once and there was hair in my food. It wasn’t our hair, either. The owner was present at the time, so I took the food to him and showed him. He apologized so much. The thing is, I wasn’t mad. It shouldn’t have happened, but it did. I clearly knew his employees didn’t intend for hair to get in the food. I told him so he could make sure it was addressed. He offered me free food and he looked absolutely mortified, I felt badly for him. I think he was prepared for me to create a huge scene. For crying out loud it was a mistake - I didn’t want gifts just because I pointed it out. It’s life.
I think as a society we need to get over ourselves. We all make mistakes and none of us wants to. But we are human. Wouldn’t it be a nicer world if we could learn to admit our own mistakes, apologize and go on with life? If we could allow ourselves to be human? And wouldn’t it be beautiful if the people we apologized to accepted our apologies and forgave us for not being perfect and went on with theirs? If they allowed us to be human as well? We need to accept the fact every individual we come in contact with is prone to err and be gracious and forgiving when we deal with them. Heaven knows I make mistakes. In fact, the statement on the eraser I bought proved to be wrong - because I have made some BIG mistakes in my life. One of the hardest lessons I have learned is to admit them - and I still struggle. It's hard for me to allow myself to be human and admit I messed up. It's hard for me to let go of it when I do make a mistake. I am a work in progress.
Incidentally, I never used that eraser to erase one pencil mark because I didn’t want it to get smaller. So my mom bought the eraser and I took it to school, and I continued to borrow erasers from everyone else! I even stole one once so I wouldn’t have to use mine! That was a HUGE mistake.