My son sat next to me, sadness radiating from him.
“What’s wrong?’ I ask.
“I hate it when people get angry with me.”
‘And when I disappoint people.”
I nodded again.
“If I could just always say and do the right thing and not make mistakes, then no one would be angry at me again.”
My heart tore at his words.
“I know you feel that way, but it is such a lie. I felt the same way growing up. I thought if I could say the right thing, if I could do the right thing, if I could be perfect, then no one would get angry at me. I wouldn’t disappoint anyone. Nothing bad would happen in my life. But you know what? It is not true. It is a lie.”
He perked up a bit. “It is.”
“Yes, and people can get angry at us even when we haven’t made any mistakes or even done anything wrong.”
“None of us can control the actions of another. None of us has that power. We don’t make someone angry, they choose to react in anger. And you know what?”
He looked at me.
“Living like that takes all the joy from life. I know. I don’t want you to grow up believing that lie and feeling its weight bearing down on you, stealing your joy and love. That lie will fill you with fear and dread and you will be placing your hope in the wrong thing. None of us can keep from making mistakes, nor can we please people all the time.”
Can you relate to this conversation? I sure can. As a child, I thought if I could just be perfect and did not make any mistakes, then my life would be perfect. People would always love me, never be disappointed with me, or angry with me. Bad things would not happen. I would never get in trouble. I would never embarrass myself.
But readers, this kind of thinking is a lie. A big fat lie that fills us with dread, shame, and guilt when perfection is not achieved. And as we are only human, and no human has yet achieved perfection, we will always fail. Always.
I am setting myself up for failure if I think that if I do my best work, am on time every day, and don’t make any mistakes, then my boss will always be pleased with me.
I am setting myself up for disappointment if I believe that if I can just be the right wife (whatever that means in your head), my husband will never get upset with me.
I am setting myself up for failure if I think that if I can just be patient and kind and come up with the right answers to my children’s demands and questions, then my children will never yell at me and will instead shower me with praise and love.
I am setting myself up for failure if I think I will not mistakenly say or do the wrong thing some of the time.
This way of thinking is a lie because we are not factoring in that we are human and make mistakes. We are also not factoring in the other person (or people). Remember they are also human and make mistakes.
Nor are we factoring in that there are 903 ways to do something, and my way, which seems best to me, may seem incorrect to the other person.
Actually, there are lots of things we are not factoring in, but we will skip over these for the sake of space and time.
Just remember: It is not only us who will make mistakes and fail, but those around us will also make mistakes and fail.
No matter what we do, people will get angry at us. Disappointed in us. Withhold their love or affection at times. And all because they are not perfect either.
We are talking about a lot of imperfection here and imperfect people.
We all make mistakes. [We are not even throwing in sins, which are very different from mistakes.]
If I am thinking I can do all the right things and say all the right things and then life will flow smoothly, then I am thinking I can control a lot more than I can. Because that means I can control myself (now there is a laugh), others, situations, and basically most everything in life.
You see the lie, don’t you?
Think of someone who was perfect. Part man and God.
Jesus was perfect in that he never sinned. His words were full of truth. He acted in truth. And yet did he have a perfect life? Did things go smoothly for him? Far from it.
People still got angry at him. People cursed him. People in his town didn’t have the kindest things to say about him. People got so angry with him they wanted to kill him. Now that is pretty angry. Especially when he had done nothing wrong.
Now if people got angry at Jesus, hated him, taunted him and wanted to kill him, isn’t it silly to think that if we can quit making mistakes and just do and say what we think are the right things, then no one will be angry with us? We will disappoint no one. Life will proceed smoothly and perfectly.
Of course, it is.
Let’s quit believing this lie. Let’s quit adopting this reality.
Let’s not believe it for our self, or even for our children. Because sometimes we believe if our children don’t make any mistakes their lives will also be smooth and flawless and almost perfect.
Let’s teach our children the truth. Let’s remind each other the truth.
We are not in charge of how others will react. We can only control our self and our own reactions.
Repeat it again. And again, Make it truth. We can only control ourselves and our reactions.
When you go to the store and forget the one item on your shopping list that you needed, remember that you just made a mistake. Don’t let it determine your worth. Don’t let it determine your day. Don’t let others beat you up over your mistake.
And please don’t think that if only you had remembered your item at the store your day would have been about as perfect as a staged Instagram photo.
We are all going to make mistakes. We will succeed and fail. It is all part of living. Don’t be so afraid of what others may say or do that it takes the joy from your life. You can’t control life or what others will say or do. You just can’t.
Remember, making a mistake is not the end of the world? It is an opportunity to learn and grow.
Many of us are afraid of making mistakes because we believe the lie that if we make no mistakes, then life will be practically perfect in every way. But this is not true. It is just a lie. None of us have that much control. None of us.
Join the Discussion: What other myths of mistakes do we believe?
Accompanying this series, Life as it Comes, a story podcast, that takes a humorous look at making mistakes in episode 31, “Have You Pulled a Theresa?”
This post first appeared at TheresaBoedeker.com