Mistakes get a bum rap. People are terrified of them. They will do anything to avoid them. They will feel that they cannot make, and are not allowed to make, any kind of mistake. And they juxtapose mistakes with perfection. Being perfect is not making a mistake, they feel. That is where they aim to be. That is how they have to be. And yet they never reach their idea of perfect; they unwittingly always fall short of the mark and make a mistake.
If we do not think it is permissible to make a mistake, we will then deny that we’ve made one. When we do this, we make ourselves incapable of learning anything—and incapable of ever doing anything flawlessly, because we have missed the truth about the mistake. The mistake was a gift for us to learn from.
Where do people get this abstract idea of “perfect”? They believe it is a universal principle that everyone shares. So no one asks, “What is your idea of ‘perfect’?” We each have an idea of “perfect” that no one else shares. So if I am going to be honest, I must then conclude that my idea of “perfect” is not universal, and therefore not perfect. It is not the standard against which I should be judging myself or anyone else.
|Willing to learn||Know-it-all|
If my idea of “perfect” is off, then I need to reassess my idea of “mistake”. Did I take a wrong step, or ultimately was it perfect? The truth is, embedded in the mistake is the solution. So maybe it was not a misstep in the first place. “Mistake” only exists in relative reality, as does “perfect”.
In the Joseph story, Joseph’s brothers make a terrible mistake in resenting him and selling him into slavery. After Joseph has grown up and saved both Egypt and the Hebrews from famine, he says to his brothers, “You meant it for ill, God meant it for good.” If Joseph had not been sold into slavery, he would not have been in a position to counsel the Pharaoh and save many people from starvation. Every mistake is God helping us forward and our being the instrument for God.
If this is the Truth, then people determined to do ill for their selfish motives—the people we deem to be wrong, bad, the enemy, immoral, amoral—are all pawns in God’s play. They may believe they are independent and in charge of their destinies, but they are just being played by God for the greater good.
If this is True, then, again, we need to reassess our definitions of “mistake” and “perfect” and not be afraid to make a mistake or to admit we made one. Mistakes are ultimately perfect, though we are unable to see that because of our limited understanding.
Great scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, inventors, and artists are always making mistakes. In many instances, they gradually uncover the answers to their questions because of their “mistakes”. It is not for us to judge the ultimate meaning of our mistakes; it is for us to accept that whatever God does, He does for good, and our task is to learn whatever we need to learn from whatever happens. When we do that, our mistakes turn into perfection.
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