We are all human and so we make mistakes. How do you feel and what do you do with yours when they happen? Perhaps, tongue in check you replied, “Me, I do not make mistakes!” Be careful what you say …
I recently made a mistake, a potential costly one, which meant losing £15K!
How mistakes are discovered is interesting and we are talking about genuine mistakes here not deliberate or malicious ones. My (recent) mistake was revealed during a conversation over dinner and once discovered my stomach churned. Why is the stomach affected so much? I felt sick, miserable and unbelievably disappointed in myself. My appetite immediately left, the lovely food tasted like sawdust and sat heavily in my tummy—there was only room for humble pie.
“I can’t believe I did this!” I kept repeating or more accurately kept whimpering, while silently wishing that the situation would just go away and I could return to blissful ignorance of 2 minutes before. The realisation that I had transposed two figures in the account number took a while to sink in.
You can discover mistakes yourself, a sudden awareness triggered by a topic in a casual conversation, or someone else can find the mistake and then bring it to your (and other’s) notice. Either way, shock is an immediate reaction, coupled with defense and fear! In this moment there is nothing anyone can say to make you and me feel any worse at the moment of revelation.
What needs to happen when a mistake is made? As the unsavoury saying goes: you need to ‘cough up’. In other words admit it, and let others know so that it can be rectified, solved or damage limitation begun. All this before you can learn from any lessons so that you do not repeat this particular mistake.
Once a mistake is realised, there is an uncomfortable time ahead for everyone, extra time involved which no one can afford, delays in plans etc until an even keel can be found. Meanwhile the body takes you on a seasick trip and the mind spins in many unhealthy directions.
Other’s reaction to your mistake, also revolve around shock, judgement and fear. Remember heaping coals of blame does not change the situation and cannot make the mistakee feel any worse than they already do.
Excuses come up when a defense stance is taken. There is a saying: when more than three excuses are used the truth is well hidden! Sometimes, it’s best to admit and accept that a mistake has been made. Excuses wastes energy and can be destructive when turning into blame. Energy needs to be expending in moving on and through the fault and deal with its aftermath later.
3 actions to take:
- Begin an open and agreed plan of resolution to make it right again, and
- Learn from the experience
A mistake will always be discovered if not now, then later. It is best to own up and confess as soon as possible. Trying to cover up or hide a mistake is a recipe for disaster please do not go down this road.
Tom told me that he made a mistake and was ashamed but knew he could make it right without anyone knowing. It all went horribly wrong and his bosses were not sympathetic when it all surfaced. Despite his intentions to try and fix it, the mistake got worse and in retrospect Tom says, “I wish I had owned up at the start, it would have save me, and my workmates, a lot of pain”.
Mistake making is a very discouraging experience. My ministry is to help believers who suffer from Disappointment, Disillusionment and Discouragement in the workplace and in their personal lives.
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Mistakes encourage Fear to emerge. It usually appears after shock and before admitting the mistake or after telling others of your misjudgement but before a resolution is agreed. Your stomach welcomes Fear to the dinner party! This is truly a case of fear meaning, False Evidence Appearing True, during this time you may work through worst-case scenarios in your head. It is a time when we may become ‘frozen’ in our attempts to see clearly through the situation.
In my instance, I had imagined the money transferred and spent, with the insurance company refusing to help and there was no hope of it being returned. My self worth went through the floor and I felt a failure for making a simple mistake that would prove costly with dire consequences for my family’s personal and business financial well-being.
Mistakes can make you feel alone and there is a temptation to stand as judge and jury on yourself! However, it is a time to reach out to others for help, comfort and support. You are in pain and need additional guidance.
Recently, my friend posted on Facebook that he was a “broken man”. He had made an unintentional mistake and once realised brought it to the attention of his boss. He felt that the mistake would mean losing the position he held at work. He felt hugely anxious and upset. Facing the next few days at work was hard and uncomfortable.
We do have a place to go when frozen in our mistakes—it is Jesus— who said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”.
To be authentic as a believer it is remembering this in the midst of your mistake and know that God will not portion blame. Time to pray and ask for help can ease the mind enormously when you are at a point when you can do nothing but wait.
You will need to accept that the timing of a mistake is going to come at the worst possible time and it may be time consuming to sort it out. It is a blip in the larger scheme of life and a temporary experience. Learn from it. In my book, Unfrozen you will find strategies to understanding your reaction and help you through difficult times in your working and personal life.
You may be without appetite in the beginning of sorting out your mistake. The healing begins when you can eat again without your stomach churning or your toes curling!
For me, the process was soon cleared up. The insurance company had a backlog so no money had been transferred (whew) so it was corrected easily with the account number corrected and the paperwork updated.
My Facebook friend received a lot of comfort from prayer support, and did not lose his job.
This acronym of Mistake may help you.
M Must confess your mistake as early as possible
I It does not make you a failure merely human
S Striking out to others who attempt to comfort you (using sarcasm or bitter tones) is unfair and
unnecessary. Try and stop yourself: there is no need for punishment yourself or them just the need for
T Time to Learn and Take the consequences, they will not be as bad as you imagine or fear they will be.
The consequences may involve disciplinary procedure, this is an organisational process not a personal
attack against you. Its aim is to find resolution and not be a punishment tool.
A Accept the situation and resolve to be magnanimous and gracious in the future when a member of your
staff or someone in your family makes a mistake.
K Keep to your usual routines even though your brightness may have a dull film coating it.
Keep yourself unfrozen and give the book “Unfrozen” a read for some extra tips.
E Every situation has God protecting you.
As a believer, you can trust in the Lord and know He is looking out for you.
Draw on Psalm 55:22. Be confident—it will all come good in the end.
Be thankful for this time of learning and praise Him even in your misery!
Finally, it is from your mistakes that your successes come.
Hold onto this fact and reach out to others when you encounter this universal problem of make a mistake.
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Meanwhile, Keep Unfrozen—Ladey