I distinctly remember the point in my life when I was no longer forgiven for making mistakes as a child. I was 10 years old and no longer cute. That was it. It wasn’t that my peers had changed towards me. We behaved in the same way towards each other. But members of my extended family no longer wanted to indulge me or view me as a child who might get things wrong from time to time.
If I didn’t grasp things immediately, I was met with sighs or groans of exasperation or impatience. If I broke something accidentally, or had made a mess and not cleared up on time – that was met with the type of reaction that would have been the same, I imagine, if I had committed the heinous crime of murdering someone.
And what happens if that is the reaction that you get if you make mistakes? You become more nervous, more accident prone, more clumsy – and even more vilified because you just can’t do anything right.
I see it quite often. With babies, or children who are smaller, people see them and want to protect them. Look after them. They seem so vulnerable. So cute. But with children who happen to be quite tall for their age, or who have lost their puppy fat, or who speak well and appear to be quite intelligent – they are all treated as if they are emotionally a lot older than their ‘cuter’ looking counterparts. People are more impatient with them. Less forgiving. Older siblings get that type of treatment quite frequently. The pressure of being ‘the role model’, means that you are at times blamed for things that your younger siblings did wrong. Or, you are punished for actions that your younger siblings get away with because you paved the way for them.
We actually live in a society where making mistakes is fatal. People lose their jobs, or are sued, or are trolled on the internet – sometimes all three if they’re unlucky. I’m obviously not referring to people who commit crimes. Crimes are not mistakes. Crimes involve intent to break the law. I’m not discussing this. I’m talking about doing or saying the right thing – even when your intentions were good – but it backfires. You handle a situation incorrectly. You realise that was wrong. You realise that you should have said or done something different. We’ve all experienced this – but isn’t that what makes us grow? How else would we learn if we didn’t make mistakes. When we were first learning to walk, to talk, to eat – we got things wrong. Can you imagine if people discouraged us from walking, or talking or eating independently because we didn’t get the knack of it the first time around?
I have to say a huge thank you to everyone who continued to believe in me, who continued to give me chances, even when I’d messed up. Often, when I get things wrong, I am my own biggest critic – no one can make me feel any worse than how I make myself feel when I have made a mistake. Fortunately, I am surrounded by people who remind me not to be so hard on myself. Mistakes happen. We support each other. We learn from our mistakes and move on.
We have to afford that same magnanimous attitude towards children too. The children who are smart. The ones who are tall. The ones who look older than they are. The ones ‘who should know better’. Yes. We all should know better. But we all continue to make mistakes all the same. To err is human….
To forgive…is divine….
Let’s have a bit more patience towards those who make mistakes. Let them know, it doesn’t matter, it’s not the end of the world. Help them; give them the confidence to try again. You never know what a difference you might make to that individual!