“The moment that you feel that just possibly you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself, that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
As a reformed perfectionist, I went to great lengths while raising my children to show them that mistakes are a part of life. It was a fine line to walk, because at some point they all started to think that the excuse, “I forgot,” was a “get out of jail free” card. I had to draw a line between mercy for mistakes and training in behavior. On top of learning that the world wouldn’t fall to pieces if they made a mistake, I had to show them that their mistakes also did not constitute an emergency on my part. Sometimes a mistake could show them the kindness of a friend helping out, or a valuable lesson in responsibility and, I hoped, a way to cope with life’s anxieties.
I think an unintended but positive outcome was the way that they learned that they always have options. When a perceived plan does not go as envisioned, it doesn’t mean the sky is falling or FML needs to be employed.
So, I’m not one of those people who believes that things should go right all the time. And when I say I detest excuses, it’s not from some place of demanding life add up like a math fact. Of course it doesn’t. We don’t. I just like the truth. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the excuse that the “traffic was bad,” for a late arrival. I’d much rather hear, “I didn’t leave early enough.” Plain and simple. The truth. There is a difference between excuses and reality-based imperfection. I know this habit of being honest will also create positive change a thousand times quicker than an excuse. Because you face yourself. After you’ve said “I didn’t leave early enough,” enough times and see the disappointment on your friend’s face, you start to plan better, in my experience.
It may not be true all the time but a lot of times the expression, “I didn’t have a choice,” is just another excuse. The adult version of, “Oh I forgot, Mom.”
Isn’t there always a choice at some level?
Aren’t we sometimes simply choosing. . .
In relationship, self-protection over honesty. After being hurt, vengeance over forgiveness. When the storms of life hit, bitterness over hopefulness. After hurting someone else, defensiveness over humility. In our expectations, fantasy over reality. In our demands for others’ behavior, law over love. In business, corruption over loss. In lifestyle choices, fear over risk. In social settings, style over substance. With our circle of influence, silence over vulnerability. In difficult conversations, reacting over responding. And day-to-day, distraction over pain.
An early child-rearing book I recall quoted that “first-time obedience,” is the only way to go in training children. It was also probably the stupidest thing I ever tried. A mistake that led me to a more graceful parenting style. As I learned to look in the mirror and face my mistakes, how could I possibly ask them for more?
Imperfection is the reality, but truth-telling can mature us out of excuses. Mistakes are the teacher and learning from them is the remedy. I’ll be the first one to admit, I don’t always chose wisely, but I will never believe that there was no other choice to make.
“Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.” Auguste Rodin