“I could have built you a fire and told you this story and hoped you gleaned from it some sort of wisdom. Maybe you would have, or maybe, like most men, you would have ignored your father and gone off to make your own mistakes. ~The character Pieter from Sarah Leipciger’s Coming Up For Air (87)

If only it were that easy, that a child or any person should heed the wisdom and advice of an elder, in doing so avoid most or all mistakes, and lead a near-perfect life. For many of us, such advice, usually based on hard-earned experience, goes in one ear and out the other. We do make our own mistakes, we do learn the hard way, and only in retrospect might we appreciate the warnings.

Why do we do that? Sometimes we don’t trust the source of the advice. It might come from a person whose life we don’t envy or whom we don’t fully respect, so we don’t listen. We might think a situation doesn’t or would never apply to us, so we tune it out. Sometimes the advice runs counter to what we want, which might be a person, an object, or an experience. We might be addicted to drama or driven by fears or desires we don’t fully understand. Maybe the person offering the advice seems so perfect that we feel we can never live up to their standards, so why bother trying?

Mostly, though, it’s because it’s our life and we must live it the way we choose, consciously or unconsciously. Mistakes will be made along the way, some big, some small. It is part of being human, of living a full and authentic life, of taking risks, exploring, leaving our comfort zones. It’s how we learn who we are, what we are capable of, how to trust or not trust ourselves.

I have wondered about people that seem never to make mistakes, whose lives seem too perfect. Are they taking any real risks? Playing it too safe? Living in a carefully constructed bubble? Or have they simply gleaned something that the rest of us haven’t?

How do we treat the people we love when they make mistakes? Do we shame and blame them or love them anyway, try to help them learn and do better? What advice and words of wisdom are we offering? Is it welcome? Is it helping? How do we discern what advice to give, who to give it to, how to give it and when? Will they listen?

Are we listening?

“Because these are the sorts of things that build a life: crossing water to another country and wondering about ghosts and suffering the humiliation of being bested by an animal dumber than you and with more time to lose.” ~Pieter (87)

12 thoughts on “Mistakes

  1. Learning to accept our mistakes is such an important part of life. When we’re afraid to make them, or admit them, we limit ourselves so much. And it’s equally important to learn to forgive others when they make mistakes….that way, they will be more willing to forgive us our own mistakes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make a great point, Ann, that we need to first be able to practice accepting and loving ourselves, mistakes and flaws and all, first. And yes, forgiveness is a key part of it. I always have felt that, for better or worse, we can only treat, love, forgive, etc. people as well as we treat, love, forgive, etc. ourselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s taken me a while to recognize that people NEED (or are entitled) to make their own mistakes. Just like I have. Your blog is a good counterpoint to my occasional frustration at realizing my experiences and advice is rarely useful to someone else.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is frustrating, though, when we know we are offering sound advice, coming from a place of good intentions, and it’s ignored. I guess it’s part of learning to let others go and let them live. The grace comes in being able to love and support others after they’ve ignored the advice and made the mistake, without the need to say “I told you so.”


  3. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t made a mistake, but I do know some who aren’t willing to admit they’ve made a mistake.
    As far as the advice part goes, I try very hard not to give any so I can put the onus of following intuition back on the person.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I know people unwilling to admit mistakes. I am married to someone like that and it’s not easy let me tell you. I don’t know if it’s stubbornness or entitlement or something else, but I cannot stand it. I believe our mistakes contain such opportunities to learn and grow if we let them.

      Liked by 1 person

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