Congratulations to those who spotted the error in my last posting! No, it wasn’t Scientology. It was Theosophy. Oh dear. Fancy making such a public mistake .
It set me pondering though, this time on the value of making mistakes.
I recall learning to ride my bike. How ever hard I tried, I could never keep it upright long enough to turn the pedal. Then we moved house and the boy next door invited me to try riding his father’s racer across the field. Every time I wobbled he somehow held the bike, and me, upright. He pointed out what I was doing wrong each time and, being a ten year old boy, he simply did not believe I couldn’t do it. I think it was because he believed in me that I did too. I couldn’t reach the ground so I was in danger of falling off many times but, by the end of the day, I could ride a bike!
Maths lessons were rather similar. I’m not sure I made the same use of my errors there, though there were many of them, since I still have trouble keeping track of numbers. Nevertheless, it is mistakes that help us learn. Mixing the wrong two varieties of red and blue and finding instead of purple, you have brownish grey is a quicker way of learning than memorising colour charts and, as often as Mum says to two year old, ‘Don’t touch, it’s hot’, trying it and feeling the hurt is what really helps him remember.
According to the Bible, we’re supposed to become perfect. So why, you might ask, are we sent here in such a fallible condition? Why can’t we be born knowing everything, understanding everything? It would be so much easier. Wouldn’t it?
Have you ever sat through a lecture on a subject you are already very familiar with and found your eyes glazing over, your mind going into day-dream mode and, before you know it, the session is over and you leave feeling the whole thing was a waste of time? I think life without the opportunity to make mistakes would be a bit like that.
On the other hand, if during that lecture, something wakes you up. You might hear the familiar topic being described in ways you hadn’t thought of before. Life’s failures can be the wake up we need, the means of seeing things with a new perspective. Through them we may learn empathy and gain a sympathetic understanding that enables us to bless the lives of others. Perhaps its not so much the error as its consequence that is the teaching moment.
Each misstep or stumble provides the opportunity to reassess how we place our feet, to determine new directions, find a way of performing better and getting further than we have before. Few mistakes are terminal. Mostly they just show us where we need to learn a bit more or take a bit more care. So next time I cite an historic fact, I’ll check my sources before I publish . Enjoy your mistakes, miscalculations, blunders, wobbles and other aberrations this week and may you learn some truly life-changing things!