mistakes. Mistakes are how I learn the best, and I've made plenty of
them in my lifetime, so I naturally consider myself to be a well-learned
person. It makes sense, at least to me. When I've studied
languages, the easiest way for me to internalize something--vocabulary or
verb conjugation or declensions--was when someone corrected me after I
made a mistake. If I'm learning a new sport, I learn the most when I
make a mistake and I see the right way to do something through the error,
or I see why someone told me to do something a certain way, for I've
learned the consequences of not doing it that way.
could be made, though--and I'll make it--that this type of thing could be
more effectively classified as error rather than mistake. In my
life, the mistakes are actions that affect me strongly in a very negative
way--I think about them for days, I regret them tremendously, and
sometimes I beat myself up emotionally over them, wishing I hadn't done
what I had done. I've been fortunate--I haven't made all that many
of this type of mistake, but they've been there.
thing for me to keep in mind about this type of mistake is that it
invariably affects other people very strongly. My actions have hurt
or offended others, and have taken away, if only a little bit, from the
positiveness of their lives. Their happiness or peace of mind is
diminished because of something I've done.
I've said something rude
or ignorant that was better left unsaid, or I've done something that hurts
someone else, or I've not taken someone's feelings into consideration
before taking an action. I've left someone out, or I've misjudged
someone or their actions.
A small example
of what I mean, from years ago when I was very young: We were on a
school bus, taking a field trip down to Chicago. I was sitting in
the front seat, and two girls were sitting behind me--one was Debbie, but
I don't remember who the other one was. Debbie started teasing me
mildly, and I tried teasing back, but it just didn't work. She kept
it up, nothing vicious and nothing mean, until I had just had
enough. I turned around and said something to the effect of
"Shut up, bitch." I was about 12, and I still hadn't
learned the strength of words.
The look on her
face taught me about that strength. She was crushed, and I could see
the shock and the hurt in her eyes and in her face. I shut her up,
definitely, but had it been worth it? Of course not.
I keep that
thought with me even today, a few decades later. I can't forget it
and I don't want to forget it, and here's why: I see two ways of
dealing with that memory. First of all, I can continue to be angry
with myself for having said what I said. I can call myself names
such as insensitive and rude and uncaring, and I can continue to feel bad,
diminishing my own enjoyment of my life and current situations. But
what does that accomplish? Does it help me? Not a bit.
The other option
is the one I choose to take with all of my mistakes--I learn from
it. I carry the look on Debbie's face with me, and I carry my own
reaction, the "what have I done?" feeling, and I use them to
help me determine future actions. Whenever I'm tempted to say
something rather harsh to someone else, no matter how deserving that
person may seem to be of my harshness, I think of the possible
consequences first, and I think of how Debbie felt that day, and how I
felt. I can't take back my words, but I can change the way I deal
with people in order to prevent such a thing from happening again. I
can try to be constructive and helpful and caring towards others rather
than vindictive and hateful and destructive.
example? Sort of, but as an illustration of how I go about trying to
learn from my mistakes, a perfect example. Too often, though, I see
others adding more mistakes to their original one--they get angry with
themselves, and they're unable to forgive themselves, and they make
themselves miserable, even sick, over things they've done that they can't
take back. It's not worth it, though. Learn from your mistakes
and move on, and don't make them again. Consider your avoidance of
such mistakes in the future as a tribute to the person or people you've
hurt, and I'm sure they'll be more than forgiving of you. If not,
then that becomes their problem, doesn't it?
Also worth note,
though, is the fact that I love to learn from the mistakes of
others. Growing up with an alcoholic father, I learned very early of
the pain and anguish that drinking can cause, and I'm very proud to say
that I've never been drunk in my life, and I've never caused another
person any pain because of addictive actions on my part. I was
fortunate, in a way, to learn this early, and move to the other side of
the spectrum. My brother and sister, on the other hand, both got
into alcohol and drugs rather extensively, and they're still battling
their addictions. They didn't see the results of my father's
actions, even though they lived with him, too, and they adopted the same
types of behavior. If you see a person making such a mistake in your
life, learn from that person, and don't make yourselves and others
miserable by adopting behavior that you have seen hurts others.
You're going to
make mistakes. You're human. Learn from them. Carry with
you the lessons from them, not the regret or the actions themselves.