As a human being you are guaranteed to make mistakes. I told my teens that it was their job to make mistakes because no-one gets it right the first time, every time. What mattered, was not the mistakes, so much as the lessons learned. When they were babies they learned to walk and they fell…often. They also walked funny, they only walked a few steps, they clung to chairs and walls … and eventually they used all that information from all their efforts, including the falls … to learn to walk.
As teens, the mistakes they were going to make would involve relationships and choices. Not quite as tangible and immediate cause and effect as learning to walk but just like when they fell as toddlers, they were meant to get up and have another go at it. I told them THIS was how we were going to deal with the mistakes. We would learn from them. We would embrace them for their learnings. Nothing to fear here, no need to panic, no condemnation on them as human beings because they made mistakes, and no need to hang their heads in shame and hide the truth from us. It took a whole lot of angst out of being a teenager and being the parent of one.
The kids mattered first and foremost, the situations were secondary. Apart from death, everything else is pretty fixable and everything else had value, as a lesson. Success and Failure were just outcomes to living life and both have value.
In relationships, we make mistakes. In business, we make mistakes. There is no problem in evaluating our circumstances. If we see where we are and realize it is not going to end how we wanted it, we can begin again. It is not starting over because we are always smarter and wiser, armed with information on what NOT to do, after any failure. We are choosing to control the ending and to correct our direction to achieve the final outcome. That should be admirable.
We should support our children to see their mistakes as important tools and not some statement of their personal value. We should support one another as we make these tough decisions. All around us are people, just like us, who are trying to make the best of their lives. We are all on the same journey but we are at different places and stages, with varying tools and understanding. We don’t have to support the decision per se, but we can support the PROCESS. Empowering people to trust their instincts and to do what they feel they need to do, and clearing the way of the debris of judgment, is probably one of the most caring things we can do for people. We may see they are going to completely fail, we may know much better what they should do but THEY need to learn for themselves. That very process of building up one another and not getting caught up in how and when, is the key to all of our success. We don’t want our children to grow up doing the right thing only because they are imitating us, we want them to make good choices because they understand why they should choose them and more importantly they understand HOW to choose them. We want people to own their lives.
It is not always easy to do the right thing. Sometimes we simply do not know what the right thing is, sometimes we simply end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and yes, sometimes we choose something that turns out very different than we ever thought it would. But people grow and change, if we let them. I am not the same person I was even last year, let alone 10 years ago. The only people who do not know that are those who continue to see me and judge me within that past context. How can someone get out of jail and start to live an honest life if we forever tar them with the feathers of their crime?
People become defeated when their every effort to prove they are different is met with the same evaluation from 10 years ago. We do it all the time, particularly to people in our own family. The out of control, trouble causing teenager, is still discounted and dismissed in the family discussion, even though he is now 40, married with children, and getting by just fine. And we always seem to hold onto those labels from the past that are negative. We don’t take single events of success and use those to label someone as perfect.
Even people who have hurt us, who we cannot allow to continue in our life, deserve a chance to change their lives. We assist that by refusing to tell the story anymore – the one that ends with , “so ya . . . that is why this person is a complete asshole.” Let it go. Let them go. Let them find their way to healing. When you can do that, you put the responsibility for their lives solely on their shoulders. If you cannot let go, then you are taking that responsibility. You are letting your words define that person, above their actions, perhaps even contrary to their actions. None of us need the responsibility for other people’s lives on our shoulders. I certainly never want to find out that the blockage to someone becoming the person they were meant to be, and to accomplishing what they were meant to do, was the hate that I carried for them and that I spewed to anyone who would listen.
Why not just start the day by backing off a bit and giving people the room to own their mistakes? We will all be better off because of it …. AND I can promise you , when you put your own foot in it next time, and you will because we all will… you will appreciate that because you first extended that room … someone may very well afford you the same.