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Quote of the Day: I Screwed Up
“The avoidance strategies are almost endless. People say, It wasn’t a mistake, or, given the circumstances, it was the best that could have been done. Or it was a small mistake. Or it was unavoidable given what we knew at the time. Or someone else was to blame. We were given the wrong facts. We were faultily advised. So people bluff it out, or engage in denial, or see themselves as victims.” — Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
I hate making mistakes just like anyone else. Even small mistakes are difficult for me to brush off. I grew up with a perfectionist mentality, so I agonized when my mistakes were pointed out to me. One of the most difficult “mistakes” in my life was when a small magazine published an article I wrote on “Writing,” and a disgruntled editor published it with an abundance of typos that he added in. Of course, readers thought I was an idiot, submitting an article with so many errors. It was a humbling lesson in realizing how much control I was giving up when I submitted an article for publication. Although the senior editor posted an apology—one month later—the sting of such a hateful action by someone who didn’t even know me was difficult to accept.
Many of our mistakes are truly ours, yet as Rabbi Sacks suggests, we do everything we can to make excuses for them. My mistakes are embarrassing for me, and embarrassment has always been difficult for me to accept graciously. Over time, however, I realized that I wasn’t looking at my mistakes in a helpful or productive way. First, I realized everyone—yes, everyone—makes mistakes. Second, I found I could survive the humiliation and embarrassment, because the moment would pass. Third, I learned that if my mistake affected another person, a simple apology went a long way to mending the damage or hurt feelings. In fact, I found the person usually was gracious in return and forgave my goof. And then life could go on.
With my newfound realization, I found, however, that I was less tolerant of people who would not own up to their own mistakes. Some of those people believe that admitting their mistakes is a sign of weakness, or at least damages their image. Maintaining their “credibility” becomes more important than the damage that may have been done.
Of course, there are people whose mistakes were catastrophic. Coming to grips with those kinds of mistakes is possible when we claim them and learn from them.
But for your average, everyday mistake, good people are usually forgiving. They care about truth, sincerity, and humility. They care about relationships.
We all make mistakes.
[photo courtesy of unsplash.com]Published in Group Writing
I regularly submitted “letters to the editor” to my state newspaper which were almost always published, always without changes or grammatical corrections. (Yes, despite my fits and starts with Apple Pencil and my cursive, I can write without typos when I write formally.) One similar incident like yours happened and I have refused to submit anything ever since.
My letter was one critical of “cash for clunkers” and contained valid predictions (which later came true). The paper didn’t add in typos or delete words but did far worse. It added a sentence in the first paragraph that weakened my criticism and it didn’t annotate that those weren’t my words. I did go online and responded in the comments section under my letter. I pointed out what they had done and did so in a highly critical hand slap.
Excellent, RH. We can’t let these things go by. Well done!
Your example is also shocking. Per your topic, the paper didn’t apologize to me or issue a correction.
Cough it up, SQ. What did you do now?
Your story remind me of the time in my early professional life when I submitted a draft report by sharing the file over email. I did not convert it to PDF (likely because I didn’t have that capability at the time), and the recipient responded with all sort of criticism over the fact that the draft was an unfinished mess. I still have no idea what file he was using, but the file I had attached to email was a completely different version and a pretty clean draft report. My mistake was not realizing how careful you have to be with your work when you hand it over to someone else. Also, you need to make sure that your colleagues are on your side, or if they’re not, watch out.
This post is part of the Quote of the Day group writing project at Ricochet. Check out the QOTD posts for April here. Or signup here for May!
Okay, okay. I just realized I have not listed a mistake that I made. The other day I corrected information that @arahant added to a post of mine. My correction was incorrect. I apologized. And it wasn’t so hard. And I think he forgave me. So there you are.
You did forgive me, right, Arahant?
I like to make lots of mistakes. That way i qualify for lots and lots of forgiveness.
@susanquinn, the editing story conduct you described was so unethical. Was there any consequence to the wrongdoer? Karma?
Maybe karma. I didn’t follow up; I’d like to think since he was clearly unhappy there, that he left or was fired!
Our local paper (to which I no longer subscribe) once changed a letter to the editor I wrote to capitalize the word “black”. That ticked me off because I’d submitted letters before that had a grammatical error or a typo, and they didn’t bother correcting it. I guess they only make politically correct corrections . . .
My favorite excuse from political leaders is “My mistake was listening to bad advice” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that irresponsible explanation that pretends to absolve the leader from culpability.
Jonathan Sax is one of the best! My wife has probably all the books he ever wrote and we both learn from them.
As far as making mistakes, there was just one time in my life that I thought I had erred. On second thought, I think I am mistaken about that…………[insert laugh track here]
I wonder if we are talking about the same local paper. By local, I am referring to one sold in our state, sold all over the state, but no longer locally owned. You know the one. 🤔😉
Also, double check to be sure you attached the correct document before you click send. One time when I was in the AF, I accidentally sent out my resume instead of the document I needed other offices in my branch to read and supply inputs. They pointed out my error, I sent the right attachment, and all was well … except, my friends, jokers that they were, passed my resume around also, adding hilarious revisions which I never saw.
But did you get any job offers . . .
Actually, yes. I had made the cut for the “commanders list” and was preparing my resume to apply for commands that fit my background. A friend contacted me and asked me to apply for his job because he thought I would be a good fit. I did and was one of the lucky ones on the commanders list who was selected to command. I was a good fit and succeeded and made the list again when I was in HQ 8th Air Force . I retired after my second command, just before the O6 board. I had been in over 20 years and decided that was best for the family, and it was.
You see? Serendipity works!
I figured out many moons ago that I’m just another ijit and make plenty of mistakes. Of course, in some environments, admitting a mistake can be a bigger mistake. Apparently Washington, DC is one of those places.