I made a mistake the other day in planning my schedule, a mistake that inconvenienced several others.
I was to pick up a friend so we could go together to a birthday party dinner in a town about 45 minutes away. For some inexplicable reason, I planned to pick her up a full hour later than I needed to for us to arrive on time. To make matters worse, I was 15 minutes late in picking her up.
Fortunately, I realized my mistake and called the hostess and informed her of my error. She graciously accepted my explanation and my apology and held dinner for us. We hurried as best we could. Outwardly, things were fine. Inwardly, it could have been another story.
It’s not the kind of mistake I usually make. In fact, quite the opposite. I’m usually pretty good at planning and allowing for contingencies. I have logged many hours at airport gates happily working on a project or reading, all because I factored in time for delays that did not materialize.
My little slip-up could have sent me tumbling down an emotional slope. I could have berated myself for making such a mistake. It was important to me to be at this party and I was delighted to have been invited. I had a responsibility to deliver another guest on time as well.
But I didn’t beat myself up. You may recall that for the month of January I have promised to be honest, open and true in my conversations. This naturally includes conversations with myself. Instead of berating myself, I treated myself with acceptance, a decision that requires both openness and courage.
It takes courage and respect for the self to be willing to be honest, first with ourselves and then with others, in talking about what has really happened. In this case, I simply told the hostess that I had really goofed, and then I apologized. No excuses. No lies about traffic delays or a last minute project at work.
How we respond to our mistakes makes a big difference in how we feel about ourselves. The key is acceptance. Acceptance of the fact that what had happened cannot be changed. By the time I realized my mistake, the outcome of being late to the party was inevitable. Acceptance of the fact that I made a mistake. The only logical answer was that therefore, I was (and am) humanly imperfect! Acceptance of the fact that the responsibility for the mistake was mine alone. No blame game, no deflection, no lies.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
By expressing what happened in an honest, open and truthful manner, I provided myself a safety valve for my feelings. The safety value on a pressure cooker is designed to pop off and allow the pressure to escape before the whole lid blows off and the hot contents spews over anyone who happens to be near. Expressing the truth diffused the pressure I felt and kept my emotional content safely contained.
My acceptance – my choice to accept these facts – opened my heart to forgive myself and to treat myself with love. My acceptance of reality, of what is, put my life back into emotional balance.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: We don’t have to live our lives mistake-free in order to be happy. We can be happy with ourselves even when we make a mistake by accepting our imperfect humanness. By accepting what is, and having a little laugh at our short-comings, a little slip-up doesn’t have to throw our whole lives out of balance. With acceptance, we can pick ourselves up and keep moving.
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